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I'm going to be undergoing a massive shift in lifestyle in about half a year; the cause: college graduation. The last 3.5 years have been a lovely roller coaster of papers, exams, drinking, and chasing tail. As I look forward, I realize that I'm going to actually have to adjust to being an "adult."

In my mind, that means a lot of things, most bad: gone are the days where I could procrastinate and do literally nothing for weeks at a time on a project and still land an awesome grade. I'll also stop being financially dependent on my parents, and will actually have to pay attention to lovely things like taxes and bills. And of course, I probably need to rethink my priorities-- heading out to a club to find a cute chick at 2 in the morning won't fare well with my performance at work the next day.

With that said, one major decision I have made is to focus as much as I can on my career in my 20's. Whereas many of my friends are thinking about dating and starting families in just a few short years, I'm putting all of that on the back burner. That's not to say that I won't be enjoying life at all, but rather my number one priority in life will be career advancement. I know that's probably the mindset of many on WSO already, but let me remind that the average American "goes with the flow" and simply follows the natural order of: entry level job, get married, kids, retire, look back and go "WTF, how'd I get here?"

A couple of reasons why focusing on your career in your 20's is the right way to go:

  • Your youth is the best time to attack the demanding learning curves of most professions. I know for sure I can put in the 12-16 hour work days required to reach a high level of success at my current age, but who knows what shape mentally or physically I might be in if I'm 35 and trying to advance up the corporate ladder?
  • Once you reach the upper levels of the corporate hierarchy, things 20-something year olds always say they want to do become possible and even easy. I'm talking about things like travel, eat at nice restaurants, attend lavish parties, date up, etc.
  • The earlier you start putting money in your 401k, the higher the return. Same goes for any other kinds of investments you may undertake.

Of course, the argument against mine is always that your 20's are the best years of your life and should be spent making memories. It really comes down to a personal value decision, but at the end of the day, I'd rather invest my time now and ensure future security than worry when I'm older and not as capable/sharp. Thoughts?

Comments (23)

  • iRX's picture

    Focus on your career. There is no reason to be in a relationship in your early twenties unless you are living in the midwest or mormon. my theory is this, working hard = good salary + bonus = prostitutes whenever i want. really is the formula for champions.

  • newfirstyear's picture

    Focusing on your career is the smartest move anyone can make. I know smart people who got married and now live an entirely medicore life. Had they postponed for 5 years, they'd be producing a more comfortable future for themselves and family.

    I've been heavily focused on my career for 3 years now, and I don't regret a single second of it. I know in 5 years I'll have enough money to buy a very nice house in cash, and really start looking at a family.

    In addition, being single right now is great, I have large amounts of disposable income that I am free to spend how I see fit, I buy $500 shoes, drive nice cars and live in a nice place. If i was married with kids, none of this stuff would happen, and I'd end up being a 50 year old man pissed that I had to drive a minivan my whole life.

  • snakeplissken's picture

    i don't think the two need to be mutually exclusive, unless you're in IBD, but otherwise, you can work many hours a week and still have relationships. definitely not kids, and i don't see why you'd wanna get married in your early 20s anyway, but it's not as if it's a complete either/or situation.

    but to newfirstyear's point, you probably would have to spend at least $250 from your nice shoes fund on your girlfriend's nice shoes fund. if not more. so there's that...

    Remember, once you're inside you're on your own.
    Oh, you mean I can't count on you?
    No.
    Good!

  • AcquireThis's picture

    Really the only thing you'll be forgoing is starting a family until you're past 30; something that many people are happy with. You'll still be able to have a damn good time every once in a while - even with your career being the focus. You're making a good call!

  • In reply to iRX
    TDSWIM's picture

    iRX wrote:
    Focus on your career. There is no reason to be in a relationship in your early twenties unless you are living in the midwest or mormon. my theory is this, working hard = good salary + bonus = prostitutes whenever i want. really is the formula for champions.

    I agree with op, and the people I know that get too early of a start on having kids and getting married could very well end up miserable with their choices later on. I'm sure Eddie would agree.

    Why would living in the midwest be a good reason to be in a relationship in your early twenties? I hope this is a joke about weight gain or something...

  • SureThing's picture

    Marriage will affect your career minimally. You can be married and still be serious about your career, given your wife is serious about hers. Kids are the proverbial stick the spokes.

    When a plumber from Hoboken tells you he has a good feeling about a reverse iron condor spread on the Japanese Yen, you really have no choice. If you don’t do it to him, somebody else surely will. -Eddie B.

  • YourAss's picture

    If you have THE girl that you really love and want to spend your life with, then go for it.
    Otherwise FBG$ man!

    - MVP

  • Powa23's picture

    Doesn't mean you won't have a good family if you have kids when you're in your 30s. I mean I have a great time growing up and both my parents are professionals. I remember that sometimes had to work late but its still better than what it was like during their 20s, now they are higher up the corporate hierarchy and yes hours do get better.

  • IlliniProgrammer's picture

    Your early twenties are a time for pushing yourself and pushing your boundaries.

    Take up a sport your parents wouldn't let you or you couldn't as a kid.

    I have a lot of friends that have taken up kitesurfing, backcountry skiing, mountain climbing (IE: solo attempts on Aconcagua). Oh, don't forget hang gliding.

  • In reply to iRX
    she_monkey's picture

    iRX wrote:
    Focus on your career. There is no reason to be in a relationship in your early twenties unless you are living in the midwest or mormon. my theory is this, working hard = good salary + bonus = prostitutes whenever i want. really is the formula for champions.

    agree .. maybe not 100% on the prostitutes part but this was good!

  • droking7's picture

    Allow me to quote (abridged) the famed scholar (rapper), Birdman: "You will never lose women chasing money, but you will always lose money chasing women."

  • In reply to SureThing
    SirTradesaLot's picture

    SureThing wrote:
    Marriage will affect your career minimally. You can be married and still be serious about your career, given your wife is serious about hers. Kids are the proverbial stick the spokes.

    Totally true.

    adapt or die wrote:
    What would P.T. Barnum say about you?

    MY BLOG

  • In reply to she_monkey
    calikid3820's picture

    she_monkey wrote:
    iRX wrote:
    Focus on your career. There is no reason to be in a relationship in your early twenties unless you are living in the midwest or mormon. my theory is this, working hard = good salary + bonus = prostitutes whenever i want. really is the formula for champions.

    agree .. maybe not 100% on the prostitutes part but this was good!

    Ya... that can get expensive real quick.. Pamela Handerson and Rosie Palm FTW!

  • In reply to SureThing
    stvr2013's picture

    SureThing wrote:
    Marriage will affect your career minimally. You can be married and still be serious about your career, given your wife is serious about hers. Kids are the proverbial stick the spokes.

    This makes a lot of sense to me. I can't imagine being an associate or young VP with a kid or two.

  • markhobbus's picture

    good plan assuming you live past 30

  • runaway squirrel's picture

    You will look back and say what the f* am I doing here if you focus your 20's on 'only' work. Remember that 20% of your time will produce 80% of your successes, which holds true somewhat, thus you need to focus on the larger picture things such as making sure you have sales skills, analysis skills, general management skills, or whatever else you see fit. The only way to reach the upper echelons quickly is with an innovative entrepreneurial type idea or a sales skill that beats out other peers; most of the time it is a slow baking process. Most of the time if you join the workforce and don't start your own business, you won't have the I truly love my job feeling because you are working for somebody else, thus making it hard to work those long hours. Which leads to the fact that those long hours are damn boring, especially with other mind numbing colleagues, thus being important that you have family, other kick-ass hobbies to do with people you like, and a place to drink a beer! Its great you have a 'go get em' attitude, but I can't convince you; only you will figure that out.

  • West Coast rainmaker's picture

    Probably should not have kids in your early 20s...but I don't see any reason why you couldn't be in a committed relationship, provided the girl is mature enough to understand your need to work long hours. A girl with a degree in nursing can find work anywhere...and, let's face it, you will be the breadwinner if your girlfriend has a degree in English/Sociology/Art/Theater.

    This assumes you are not in IB. Just forget anything exists outside your office for two years if you are in IB.

  • mountainvalley's picture

    The two aren't mutually exclusive at all, my 02: I have a couple close analyst/associate friends whose relationships keep them grounded and their lives in perspective. Know of a vp in particular who is married and has been with the same girl since college.

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