How should 30-somethings measure their success? By the corner office they occupy? How big their house is? The kind of vacations they go on? Nope — none of the above. Because true success isn't determined by the quantity or even quality of material possessions you have, but rather the well-roundedness and satisfaction of your personal and professional life. So what, then, do truly successful 30-somethings do? Find out here.
1. Read Real News Content Every Day
I hate to break it to you, but just because you're consuming a lot of content every day doesn't mean you're doing yourself a favor. Because while BuzzFeed and Cracked articles are endlessly entertaining, generally they're not helping you be better at anything other than bar trivia. Instead — or rather, in addition to — you really ought to be reading relevant news content that updates you on what's happening in the United States and around the world, especially in areas of politics, business, and money.
2. Stay Wary of Lifestyle Inflation
In your 30s, if you've followed the same career path from the beginning, you're mid-career and qualified (or at least approaching qualification) for senior-level positions. In that case, you're climbing the ladder, everything is going according to plan, and you're finally making enough money to feel comfortable and enjoy some of the finer things in life. That status doesn't come without complications, however. "Mo' money, mo' problems," as they say, and that's exactly what you'll have if you start spending like a boss. Stay aware of your financial situation, don't get ahead of yourself, and actively limit your lifestyle inflation versus your salary. You want to get ahead, and you can't do that with a breakeven budget every month.
3. Get Ahead of Debt — And Stay That Way
One of the best things anybody can do for themselves at any age is to get out of debt. Debt not only affects your financial well being, but it can also be hazardous to your overall health, according to a study published by Social Science and Medicine. Perhaps this feat wasn't feasible in your 20s, which is perfectly understandable — but it should be one of your primary focuses in your 30s, lest you want to live an entire lifetime under the burden of owing somebody money.
Personal finance educator and podcaster Talaat McNeely agrees. She regularly coaches 30-somethings on how to attack their debt problems head on, and she offers some advice.
"The best thing that they can do for their future is to line up their debts from smallest balance to largest balance and begin to attack them in that order. Those small victories they get in the beginning of the process will give them the boost of confidence that they need to become completely debt free. Doing this while they are still young and in their 30s will give them the financial freedom that they need to make life decisions based on their passions instead of it being based on their payments."
4. Recognize the Importance of Being Present
Now that our lives are filled up with devices — and our faces subsequently buried in them for what seems like every waking hour of the day — it's hard to remember that there are more important things… like real-life people. So as a rule in your 30s, recognize the importance of being in the moment, and try to get there more often.
5. Wake Up by 7:00 A.M. Every Day
The world starts moving way before 7:00 a.m., and if you're just getting out of bed, you're already behind. Which is okay — 7:00 a.m. is a respectable time to rise and start your day — but anything after that is pushing into lazy territory, and successful 30-somethings don't have time Monday to Friday to lie around and be lazy. Also, while we're on the subject, you should be out of bed by 9:00 a.m. on weekends. We're not in college anymore, and there are plenty of things to do Saturday and Sunday that require more than your underwear, TV, and a bowl of cereal.
6. Pursue a Path of Entrepreneurship
This is always one of my top tips to people who ask my thoughts on how they can change their career for the better when they're unhappy in a current job or profession: Become your own boss. Granted, entrepreneurship isn't for everybody — I've met former entrepreneurs who hated it — but by and large, entrepreneurs are satisfied with their lot in life because they're in control of it. The psychological effects alone (not having to answer to a "boss" or be chained to a desk) are worth the pursuit, in my opinion.
Family psychiatrist Jared Heathman thinks similarly. "Your 30s are an opportune time to start a business because you are old enough to have experience and identify opportunities while young enough to handle risk and put in extra hours to make it work," he says. "It may start as a part-time opportunity while working full-time elsewhere, but owning your own business can be more rewarding and provide tax breaks. I started my own business in my 30s and couldn't be happier."
7. Make a Point to Belong — Personally and Professionally
You don't become a successful 30-something on your own. We all receive helping hands along the way in some form or another. Those are important to continued success, as is networking throughout your career. But it's not just career-specific networking on which you should be focused; personal networking outside of work is an essential part of the puzzle as well. Personally I prefer sports and recreational teams — like kickball, dodgeball, and bar trivia — but you should join whatever groups strike your fancy.
Relationship expert April Mancini explains the importance of getting out there and staying socially, physically, and intellectually active in your 30s.
"Successful 30-somethings belong," she says. "They belong to gyms, they belong to alumni associations, and they belong to community and political organizations. Joining up religious, social, and/or pet or environmental or automotive clubs that are interesting to you is a great way to build a life, and to never be bored — or boring. Relationships ebb and flow, come and go — but when you have a rich life with things that you belong to, you're less likely to feel devastated by a relationship drama."
8. Take Better Care of Their Overall Health
All through my 20s — and for a couple years of my 30s — I lived a fairly sedentary lifestyle. I mean, I would play social sports here and there and go to the gym every now and then, but I can't honestly say that I was particularly dedicated to my health. I smoked, I drank, I ate poorly — until one day a little over a year ago I said enough is enough.
Since then I've completely revamped my entire lifestyle to accommodate my dedication to health and fitness. I eat super healthy now (save a whole pizza every couple weeks; a boy's gotta look forward to something, right?), I'm in the gym at least four days a week (most of the time more), and I kicked the smoking habit, and as a result I feel and look better than I ever have in my life.
It's also had an effect on my productivity since I'm no longer tired, sluggish, or plagued with headaches caused by poor eating and other vices. Putting an emphasis on your health shouldn't be a matter of debate as much as it should be a mandatory ruling. Do the best you can by yourself, and you'll see that positivity materialize in your life in other ways, guaranteed.
9. Focus More on Building an Investment Portfolio Than a Slush Fund
I talk a lot about saving in my posts, but I don't want you to get my stance on hoarding cash confused. I don't advocate saving money just to build a slush fund that will sit in an account and accrue interest at a snail's pace. While I do recommend having active emergency and retirement funds, I also suggest having an investment fund — money that you're saving to invest in any number of ways, like the stock market, a startup company, or real estate (the latter of which is always my top recommendation, by the way).
There's an old saying that it "takes money to make money," and that's what you should be doing in your 30s — making money. I recognize too, of course, that not everyone is in a position to build an investment, and if you're not, it should be your new goal. You want to be financially stable with room to breathe later in life — and maybe retire early — and this is pretty much the only way to do it unless you were born a Pitt-Jolie kid or otherwise win some kind of lottery. And if that's the case, forget everything I just said and let's get married.