Wise Adults Reveal The Big Mistakes People Make In Their 20s

Mathew Burke

Many people would give just about anything to be young again. There is no other time in one’s life where so much freedom, opportunity, and time are available. While people in their 20s don’t always realize what they have, they also don’t understand that their decisions will impact them for decades to come. As the era that sets the stage for the rest of adulthood, the potential for both good and bad results is at its all time high.

To avoid falling into some of the dangerous traps that lead to lasting regrets, try reading and heeding the wise words of these mature individuals. They have volunteered their insights on the biggest mistakes people in their 20s make all too often.

1. Old Habits Die Hard

Not getting into the routine of a healthy lifestyle. When older people say “it gets a lot harder when you’re older,” they mean it.


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2. Find the Things That Matter

Don’t waste time being self conscious, don’t waste time on negative people/relationships/interpersonal drama. Use this time for personal development. Get good at things you enjoy. Be friends with people who make you happy. Do interesting stuff.

Literally no one, ever, has looked back and been pleased that they spent six months embroiled in roommate drama. Hopefully, you’re not going to be regaling the bar with how that stupid Cheryl bleached your towels in six years. It really doesn’t matter.


3. Mistakes on Wheels

Buying vehicles they can barely afford. Not realizing that the really nice cars also usually have really high insurance rates. I saw this happen to some friends in my late teens/early 20s. You’ll be paying for years.


4. Money Talks

Living a lifestyle you can’t afford. Along with this, not saving money. Everyone should have an emergency fund, retirement fund, etc. Even just a little bit is better than nothing. Saving big chunks like tax returns instead of “treating yo’ self” is hella smart.



5. Almost There…

Believing that there’s some big life defining moment that’s just over the horizon.

Who you’re going to be in life is the accumulation of small choices and built up habits rather than something that happens in a big jump when you graduate college or get your first “real” job or whatever.


6. Precious Freedom

Not taking advantage of the freedoms you have now. Most people in their 20s aren’t married and don’t have kids. Enjoy it. Travel. Volunteer. Figure out who you are and what kind of person you want to be as you finish growing up.

Don’t saddle yourself down with a ton of responsibilities now because you will never be this young, this free, this full of energy, and have this many opportunities to grab life by the horns and enjoy yourself again.


7. Parental Guidance

Having children before you’re ready emotionally, mentally and financially. It’s a big deal, people!


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8. Be Proactive

Just coasting through life waiting for something to happen. Nobody is gonna walk up to you and hand you a meaning to your life or a fulfilling career.


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9. Appearance Versus Reality

No one has ever been super jazzed that they nitpicked their own appearance for seven years and consequently couldn’t enjoy themselves because they were pulling at their clothing.

I’m not talking about self improvement, I’m talking about being really unhappy with yourself for the sake of being really unhappy with yourself, stop doing that—you’re fine.


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10. Bad Boys

Do NOT get arrested, including for a DUI—it will seriously mess up your life. Using Uber and taxis for years are cheaper than just one DUI charge.


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11. Are You Having Any Fun?

Giving up their hobbies, oftentimes without realizing it.

This applies doubly for creative/athletic hobbies.

It’s hard to get back in the habit, even when it comes to something you enjoy, once you get a little older and time becomes more scarce. Often you can’t just “pick up” where you left off, and you’ll have to spend a little bit of time getting back into the groove of it—which keeps a lot of people from ever coming back.


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12. Drugs Are Bad

For the majority of my friends in high school, the big mistake was trying heroin after experimenting with pills. Since then, six have died and the rest are either struggling with their addiction or have completely ruined their lives.


13. Dollars and Sense

Don’t confuse being able to make a minimum payment on something with being able to actually afford it. Understanding money is crucial.


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14. Your Mouth is a Temple

Take care of your hygiene upkeep—especially brushing your teeth.

When my father passed away, I slept away each night without taking care of myself. I’ve had so much endless root canal, removals, and pain because of it—not to mention how it hurts what little self-image I have of myself.

When your teeth go, you smile less and hate yourself a little more every day. It just takes so much away from you.

Please, please take care of those chompers.


15. Fit for Life

Not exercising is a huge mistake!!! Never stop. Keep an active lifestyle at all times if you can. It only gets harder and harder to get back into it.


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16. Think Outside the Box

Not being interesting.

Really. It takes time to be interesting, it takes time to grow a personality and an identity that isn’t based off the things you like—or worse, the things you hate—or some preconceived labels.

People say, go out, live life, have an adventure! And yeah, that’s a way to be interesting. But reading books, writing, painting, cultivating a knowledge base either very specific or very broad—those are also ways to be interesting.

And what’s so important about being interesting? Well, the obvious way is that it’s a way to meet people, and make them stay. And while you may not need people, it’s still nice to have them.

But I’d probably say even more important than that, is that it gives you a sense of who you are and what you want to do with your life, and thus ways to relate to people.

Because you can’t be interesting without interests. And goals beyond just living to tomorrow and avoiding suffering are worthwhile, because life isn’t just about that—or at least, we all should hope it isn’t.

And when tragedy inevitably comes, or you find yourself suddenly in a strange new place or alone… in the end, you’ll find yourself interesting. Too interesting to give up on, too interesting to throw away.

So do something unique. Dare to disagree. Explore an inclination, scratch an itch. Because in this cynical world, it’s dangerous to just be a collection of likes and dislikes, easily moved and swayed because you don’t have a place you want to be.

So be interesting.


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17. Know When to Walk Away

If your relationship involves screaming, drunken screaming, the silent treatment, weird subterfuge, or general nastiness—and I could make an endless list of this kind of bad behavior—LEAVE that relationship. You’ll be happier in the long run.


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18. You Don’t Know What You’ve Got Until You Lose It

Forgetting about calling and visiting your parents. Seriously. It may sound weird but when I was in my 20s I was so happy to be out of the house that I made the mistake of disconnecting with my mom and dad.

I wish I would have done more when I had the chance…


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19. Specific, But Fair

Choosing a job in the military that has no equivalent job in the civilian world. Shooting at sniper level is a great skill, but not always the most transferable one in the business world…


20. Game Plan

Many young people feel that they already know what they want to achieve in life but don’t know how. My suggestion, rather than falling into the trap of doing nothing like many people unfortunately do, is to create a schedule/plan of approach.

In order to reach your main goal, you’ve to break it down into smaller steps. What do you need to reach your main goal? Do research and work towards it step by step. And of course, stay motivated!


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21. Count Your Blessings

Taking your loved ones and your health for granted.

Taking the availability of money for granted and spending too much.

Being too afraid to take chances.

Not thinking about what truly matters to you—temporary/instant gratification vs long-term gratification.

Focusing on what you would have wanted to experience/achieve if your life expectancy were suddenly cut short.


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22. Smile!



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23. Food for Thought

Eat better, sleep better. I know how important it is.


24. A Status Worth Liking

The “being popular” mentality. You need to get a new car that costs $300 a month because a bunch of your friends have newer cars, even though you will barely be able to afford it and your 2000 Toyota Corolla still runs fine.

Other friends go out every weekend, so you drop $80 out at the bar in one night and act like it’s not a big deal even though you’ll be eating ramen & rice for the next week to make up for it.

Steve and Jenny are getting married? Damn, that’ll be the sixth wedding I go to in the last two years. Maybe I should propose to this girl I’ve been dating for 10 months. Or at least we should move in together, I don’t want people to think I’m some loser whose life isn’t moving forward…

Social media has probably made everything worse too because we’re constantly bombarded with highlight reels of people we barely know flaunting their successes. X bought a house, Y adopted a puppy, Z went on a vacation to Mexico, and it makes you feel like you’re not successful if you’re not also doing those things.

And then you wind up in serious debt just for a new car you didn’t really need, some pictures for your Instagram account, and a bigger apartment that you’re now paying for by yourself because you & your girlfriend broke up two months after you moved in together.


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25. Go Big or Go Home

Coasting on your potential. It’s easy to put off actually doing anything while you’re still basking in the glory of being the smart kid at school or university, but then all of a sudden you’re 29 and there are celebrities younger than you and you find yourself wondering where to even get started.

If you want something, the time to start working towards it is while you’re young and hungry.


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36. You Can’t Change the Past

Dwelling too much on past mistakes. We all screw up at times. It’s part of life.


27. That Old Gang of Mine

You are going to outgrow friendships. Other people are going to outgrow your friendship. This is normal. It’s not an indictment of you as a person. It can be painful, handle it with grace.


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28. Credit Isn’t Free Money

Getting loans and credit cards that they can’t fully pay off.

Spending more money then you truly have or make as well.

I did all that. Now I’m punished by my own poor mistakes of trying to spend money like people who make way more.


Biggest Mistakes factsKristina Dimovska | Factinate

29. And Baby Makes Three

Don’t get the wrong person pregnant. There’s no good solution to that situation that won’t have ramifications on your life for years to come.


Biggest Mistakes factsKristina Dimovska | Factinate

30. I Want Everything NOW!!

My son is about to graduate high school, and then he’s off to basic training with the USAF.

He’s already talking about getting a brand new sports car by the end of this year. He’s on my insurance right now, and I have to explain to him that my insurance went up by $200 per month just for having him on it, and with a lousy car, too.

He has no idea what he’s in for, but he won’t listen to me, so I think this is just gonna be one of those hard lessons he has to learn for himself.


Biggest Mistakes factsKristina Dimovska | Factinate

31. Tomorrow Quickly Becomes Yesterday

“I’ll do it tomorrow.”

It always results in an endless cycle up until the due date, when it’s too late to fix your habit.


Biggest Mistakes factsKristina Dimovska | Factinate

32. Emulate The Good, Eliminate the Bad

People inadvertently pick up their parents’ or other loved ones’ bad habits and follow the same pattern. Kids witness their parents opening up credit cards at major retail stores, for example, not understanding what it means—and sometimes see them go into debt. Since most teens are inadequately prepared for handling finances fresh out of high school, opening credit cards is just what mom and dad always did!


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33. Indecision, Indecision, Indecision

Just because you don’t know what to do with your life, doesn’t mean you should do nothing.

If you don’t know what to do, either stick with something that may support your desired lifestyle or perhaps take the time to try new things; get a hobby, play a sport and meet new people. And be true to yourself about your qualities.


34. Always Give Future You a Vote

Take care of yourself. Your habits now will follow you for a long time. I’m 27 and starting to realize this so I’m trying to turn things around. Less drinking, more salads, less carbs, etc.

Also, don’t waste money on stupid useless things. If you’re about to buy something stupid, just ask yourself “Will I get annoyed at having this in two years?”


Biggest Mistakes factsKristina Dimovska | Factinate

35. Where There’s Smoke, There’s Fire


If you learn one thing from this, let it be this!! It’s a slippery slope to go “Ok, this is my last one I swear” over and over again.


Biggest Mistakes factsKristina Dimovska | Factinate

36. Equal and Opposite Reaction

Always think before you react. Always be your own devil’s advocate. Think about others, think about how you sound when dealing with conflict.

Being a stable person is partially an acquired skill. Learn it.


Biggest Mistakes factsKristina Dimovska | Factinate

37. All About Mindset

People need to just realize that their 20s are a minefield and that everything you do determines a large chunk of your future.

I’d say be the most careful with drugs and relationships, in my 33 years, those two things have been the most damaging and life/dream-threatening.


Biggest Mistakes factsKristina Dimovska | Factinate

38. Tomorrow is Closer Than You Think

Don’t think that there is plenty of time to save for retirement. If it is possible for you to put something away on a regular basis, do it.

The best time to start is when you get a job that offers you more pay than what you were getting before. Take a percentage of the increase and start saving that right from the beginning. That helps make it such that you never miss it.


Biggest Mistakes factsKristina Dimovska | Factinate

39. Make Yourself Happy Above All

Never try and keep up with the Joneses. What other people think of you really doesn’t matter in the long run.


Biggest Mistakes factsKristina Dimovska | Factinate

40. Even Superman Has Kryptonite

Think before you act! I’ve known some unfortunate youngsters who drove drunk and accidentally killed someone. They now have to live with the guilt for their entire life.

This happened to one of my best friends. He had a full ride to college. Now he’s in prison for vehicular manslaughter while intoxicated. No matter how good you think you are at driving drunk or how invincible you think you are, YOU ARE NOT!


Biggest Mistakes factsKristina Dimovska | Factinate

41. It Gets Better

Staying in a “meh” relationship because they think that’s as good as relationships get. There truly are a lot of fish in the sea if you are willing to seek them out.


42. Time On Your Hands

The biggest mistake is not taking advantage of your greatest asset, time. When I was talking with an older friend who was very well off, millionaire, I jokingly said, “I’ll trade you my age for your money.”

His reply has always stuck with me. He said, “I can do more with your time than you can do with my money.” I didn’t take it as an insult, but as motivation to make the most of my time and not waste it.


Biggest Mistakes factsKristina Dimovska | Factinate

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