The Truth About Life In Your 20s Vs. Your 40s

three woman holding hands white walking
Katy Belcher / Unsplash

Age is such a funny thing to me. When we’re young, we wish we were older. When we’re older, we wish we were younger. And our definition of “older” changes every year. At least mine has. When I was in my 20s, 40 seemed SO OLD. Now I’m 41 and (spoiler alert) I feel just as youthful and even better than I did in my 20s.

Think of me like the big sister you never knew you needed. So here’s my short list of pro’s and con’s of my 20s and 40s, a few things I would do differently and a few things you can look forward to.

I loved the ease of my 20s. I wasn’t thinking about things like having enough money for retirement, breast cancer risks or caring for my aging parents. I was thinking about going to the mall with my friends (every single weekend), going to the bars with my boyfriend and having enough money in the bank to pay the minimum on my credit card bills. My apartment had a nice pool and I would spend entire weekends laying at the pool (in the shade, because skincare), drinking buckets of Diet Dr. Pepper and reading celebrity magazines. Life felt slow, eternal and easy. Bonus: I could pretty much eat whatever I wanted and my stomach stayed flat. But…

In my 20s, I was always sick. Always. I swear I spent a decade chronically ill. The flu, colds, sinus infections, ear infections, my immune system was constantly beaten up with a rotating door of random stuff. Like one time in my late 20s, my hip hurt for about 6 months – so bad I could barely walk. Straight up inflammation. Today, I’m never sick. I pretty much always feel great and never feel bad. This has to be credited to my diet. In my 20s I mostly ate bagel sandwiches and frozen meals. I drank about 6 Diet Cokes a day. I would boil pasta and pour watered-down, sugary pasta sauce on it for dinner. It was cheap and I was broke. Today I do my best to eat a diet of vegetables, high-quality proteins and fats and some fruits. I limit dairy, processed food, alcohol, and sugar. My diet isn’t perfect by any means, but so much better than it used to be. I can’t imagine how good I would have felt in my 20s, and how much time I would have gotten back that I spent feeling sick, if I’d eaten like I do now in my 40s.

That was a bit about my 20s. Now I’m in my 40s. Let’s talk about what’s different and what’s the same.

Health: See above. I’m so much healthier now and I know it’s due to my diet. If you’re reading this in your 20s (or any age) and you feel like you’re sick too often or live in a state of constantly low energy, give your diet a look. If you do nothing else, start by cutting out processed foods, fried foods, candy/sugar, and breads/crackers/pastas. Food is the fastest healer and the slowest killer. A diet of processed and fried foods and carbs causes inflammation in your body, which contributes to everything about how you feel including contributing to future dementia. The downside of being in my 40s is that my body doesn’t bounce back like it used to. A week of excessive eating, drinking and skipping the gym shows up on my body through a puffy stomach and wrinkles on my face. It sucks. Maintaining a body composition (women should be 25-30% body fat) takes daily work. I actually have to work out more and eat healthier in my 40s to maintain the same(ish) body type as my 20s and 30s. Your body changes how it processes food and responds to fitness as you age. So when you think about your 40s and envision yourself looking as smokin’ hot as you do in your 20s and 30s, plan on an increased commitment to health and fitness.

Confidence: I’ve always been pretty confident, but there’s this thing that happens in your 40s that’s so liberating. You really just don’t care about so many things that used to bother you. A random comment from someone? Water off a duck’s back. A night at home on a weekend? Cool. You GUYS, yesterday I got a blowout and it was raining, so I walked home from the blow-dry bar with a shower cap on. People looked at me. Didn’t care a bit. Other people’s opinions of me mean so little anymore. My opinion of me (and the opinions of a few of my very closest friends) are what matter. And my hair looked bomb when I got home.

Money: Your 40s is where you’ll start to see the fruits of your labor if you started investing in your 20s. You’ll finally have what feels like “real money” and honestly, it feels good. You can afford things you couldn’t afford before, you’re not living paycheck to paycheck and you’re making your money work for you through the magic of compound interest. In addition to doing several things right, I crushed debt before I turned 30 and haven’t had debt since. My advice in your 20s and 30s (and any age): get out of debt and don’t go back. Debt is the one thing that seems like no big deal in your 20s, everyone has it. In your 40s, debt turns from something everyone has to a source of shame and can feel like something you’ll never get out from under. It’s a problem that only gets worse with time. It causes stress and also just literally costs you a ton of money in interest payments. While you’ll probably have more money in your 40s, there’s also added financial stress – when things do cost money, you’re usually dealing with bigger dollars. You’re also spending more money on more things – families, homes, healthcare. That’s another reason to be healthy. Medical care is expensive and don’t even get me started the opportunity cost (the opportunities you miss in life) of not feeling good. Want more money in your 40s and for the rest of your life? Prioritize your health and fitness.

The beauty of life is that it’s ALL GOOD – your 20s, 30s, 40s and beyond. There’s magic in every decade. TC mark

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