In a world that revolves around social media, it can be tough staying out of the never-ending “show the world how sweet your life is” competition. Especially as a 23 year old. Anytime I log on Facebook, Twitter, Snapchat, or Instagram I’m bombarded with photos and status updates about some new trip, or car, or house, or concert that someone my age just spent money on. And while I think it’s fine to post about new life events and keep your friends in the loop about your life, social media has become so much more than this.
Social media has quietly been breeding a culture, especially for 20-somethings, of competitive adventure. To stay relevant online you must do something that appears adventurous on a regular basis. And you must post about it. Frequently.
This is a dangerous competition to take part in. No matter what exotic trip or foreign car you spend money on, there will always be someone else on social media who takes a slightly cooler trip or buys a slightly more expensive car. I have seen this personally in my social media network.
A 25 year old coworker of mine recently bought a new Jeep Wrangler and posted about it on Facebook. Less than a week later I saw another mutual friend of ours post a photo of a new Range Rover he bought. Facebook practically begs us 20-somethings to go out and blow money on big ticket purchases so we can have our 10 minutes of social media fame.
Not only is this culture of social media competition a horrible recipe for happiness, but it’s a perfect storm for destroying any financial foundation us 20-somethings might hope to build at an early age. It encourages young people to spend now to prove we’re successful now and living a good life now. It promotes a toxic love affair with short-term gratification.
Why save up for something you want when you can finance it now? Don’t worry about saving money while you’re young, you have the rest of your life for that. Live it up now!
But what most of us don’t realize is that by completely ignoring our finances in our 20’s and spending like there’s no tomorrow, we’re setting ourselves up for years of repaying student loans and credit card debt. We’re setting ourselves up for a life in a cubicle for the next 40 years. We’re robbing ourselves of future freedom.
I’m not being pessimistic, I’m being realistic. I work with plenty of 30 and 40 year olds who are still paying off their student loans and plan to do so for many years. I know enough late 20-somethings who are working two jobs just to make the minimum payments on their credit card debt. That scares the hell out of me.
I think most of us 20-somethings need a wake up call financially. It’s not worth taking on massive amounts of debt to create a 5 year highlight reel if it prevents us from creating a 50 year highlight reel. It’s not worth drowning in student loan and credit card debt to live it up for a few short years only to spend the following decades paying for our financial stupidity.
It’s completely possible to enjoy your 20’s without shooting yourself in the foot financially. I think adventures, trips, and experiences are all great. I personally have had the wonderful opportunity to travel to all 50 states with my family and go on study abroad trips to Japan and Costa Rica all before I graduated college. I love adventure as much as the next person, but I wouldn’t be willing to go deep into debt to finance it.
It’s 100% possible to make a memorable 5 year highlight reel during your early 20’s while still setting yourself up financially to create a 50 year highlight reel to follow. It’s possible to have a memorable 20’s as well as an unbelievable 30’s to 80’s.
But most 20-somethings will struggle to build the financial foundation that will give them the freedom to have a 50 year highlight reel simply because they’re too impatient to look beyond the next 5 years. They’re too focused with proving to their peer group that they’re successful.
It’s easy to take on debt and live well now. It’s much harder to be patient and quietly build up a money mountain without bragging about it on social media. It’s easy to wait until you’re older to save any money. It’s much harder to grab slice of humble pie and save money now.
But for any 20-something who is looking to craft a noteworthy life, and not just a noteworthy decade, it’s entirely possible by making a few smart financial choices. Avoid debt like the plague. Start saving as soon as possible. Invest wisely. Practice being humble. Do the uncomfortable work. Focus on the long-term. Forego the constant desire to blow through money just to be recognized on social media.
Let go of the obsession with the short term to embrace the freedom of the long term. Anyone can have a 5 year highlight reel with the help of debt, but not everyone is capable of creating a 50 year highlight reel with the help of saving and investing.
Personally I’m not sure what my future holds, but I know one thing for certain: I’m far more concerned with what the next 50 years will look like than the next 5 years. I care too much about financial freedom and the ability to do whatever I want each day to blow through cash trying to show the world I’m “successful”.
Sorry, but I’ll have to pass on that new Range Rover. Thanks but no thanks to student loans. I’m gonna skip out on that credit card debt. I’m trying to create a 50 year highlight reel.
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