20 Things to do Before You Turn 40

3 min read

Anthony O'neal
20 Things to do Before You Turn 40

If you’re in your 20s and 30s, listen up! By now you’ve realized that there are a bunch of things about being an adult that we never learned in school. But we can fix that. There’s no better time for us to work on ourselves, our finances and our futures than right now. So, here it is—my list of 20 things you should do before you turn 40.


1. Write Your Personal Vision Statement.

Picture a GPS: It gives you clear directions so you know exactly what roads to avoid and which ones will take you to your destination the fastest. That’s what a personal vision statement does. It’s the GPS for your life to keep you focused and help you make better choices. A personal vision statement defines your long-term values, goals and strengths. Many successful people have vision statements that they review regularly. Take some time to write your personal vision statement. It’ll make your life so much more purposeful and intentional. 

2. Create a Budget and Stick to It.

A monthly zero-based budget gives you the freedom to spend your money without fear of overspending. A budget also keeps you organized so all of your bills and expenses get paid. 

Listen, if you’re trying to keep everything straight in your head, you’re bound to make mistakes. A written, zero-based budget takes all the guess-work out, so you always know what needs to be paid and whether you can afford it or not. And by giving every dollar a job, you can really make your money work for you. 

4. Take Care of Your Mental Health.

I’m a huge advocate for therapy and counseling. It’s helped me work through some of my most difficult seasons, like a very difficult breakup that I went through years ago. Even if you haven’t been through a tough season recently, I still suggest therapy to maintain your mental health. Prayer, meditation, hobbies and simply taking breaks throughout the day are also effective ways to protect your mental health in your 20s and 30s.  

5. Save Your Emergency Fund.

Look, stuff happens. No one planned for a whole pandemic to shut down the entire world for two years. That’s why you need an emergency fund to protect your finances during those unexpected emergencies. If you’ve got debt that you’re paying off, I suggest saving $1,000 in a money market account, separate from your regular checking account (so you’re not tempted to spend it). 

After you’ve paid off your debt, it’s time to build up that emergency fund to 3-6 months of your expenses (not your paycheck). If you’re single, like me, I suggest you lean towards saving for six months for extra protection. Now, you’re covered for a while if you lose your job, something breaks in your apartment or your car breaks down. Your future self will thank you!

6. Invest in Good Relationships.

Your network impacts your net worth. Keep people around who align with you, while challenging you to be better. These relationships should be nourishing, not draining. And it’s 100 percent okay to drop anyone in your life who isn’t helping you. Period.

I also believe that every person needs to have mentors who can pour into them and at least one person that they can mentor. Look around you: Who’s got the job or the family or the marriage you want? Ask them to coffee once a month and pick their brain. And who’s coming up behind you who needs guidance? Start mentoring them. It’ll make your life so much richer and more meaningful.

7. Pay Off All of Your Debt (Student Loans Too).

Ladies and gentlemen, if you have debt—I’m talking credit cards, car payments, student loans, cash advance loans, etc.—now is the time to pay that stuff off. Forreal, debt is not your friend. It’s actually holding you back. Every month that you don’t pay off your debt, you are overpaying on whatever you borrowed that money for. With a car payment, that $50,000 whip is now $75,000. With a credit card, that $50 shirt is now $90. Stop overpaying! Pay off your debt and be truly free.  

If you have student loans, don’t wait for the government to forgive them. Pay them off yourself! During COVID-19, a lot of people took advantage of the delayed student loan repayment (and I totally get it), but instead of not paying your loans, why not take advantage of there being no interest and pay them off early? My point is that you have what it takes to be debt-free, and I want that for you too.

8. Rent Your First Apartment.

Getting your own place forces you to grow up in the best way possible. You’ll learn to hold a steady job, clean and cook for yourself, pay bills on time and ultimately be able to take care of yourself. It’s a powerful sign of adulthood. Trust me, you don’t want to be 40 years old, figuring out how to pay a water bill on time. And you definitely don’t want to bring your lady or your man back to your parents’ house because you don’t have a place. It’s not a good look. So step up, move out and start gaining your independence. 

9. Invest In Your Education.

We’re all busy with school, work, side hustles and maybe even kids, if you have them. But you need to make time for reading. Why? Reading expands your mind and increases your knowledge. In fact, some of the wealthiest people in the world spend most of their days reading. Just picking one book per month, or even one book every two months, will make such a big difference.

10. Date With Intentionality.

If you’re single (and desire marriage) you should be dating intentionally. That means you should go on dates with people you share values with and could be a good partner in marriage. Don’t just date because you’re bored or lonely or the waiter wrote his number on your receipt. Being intentional with who you date will get you a lot closer to a happy, satisfying marriage.


11. Learn a New Skill.

Whether you want to learn Chinese, play piano, or take up a new sport—now’s the time to do it. Use your 20s and 30s to pursue the things that you’re passionate about. You don’t want to enter your 40s with regrets, so take advantage of this time to make incredible memories and learn new skills.

12. Visit Your Family.

It’s easy to lose touch with your family when you’re an adult. We get so busy with work, friends, dating, etc. that our parents, siblings and grandparents get put on the backburner. But try not to do that. Make an effort to see your family as often as you can—even if it’s just on FaceTime. It’ll strengthen your relationship and grow your support group, so people are there for you when you need them most. 

Now I know some family dynamics are complicated. And if your family is toxic, then don’t put yourself in a position to get hurt. Instead, find a group that’ll become like family. You’re in a position in life, where you can choose who your family will be—whether that’s your friends, church family or small group.

13. Invest Your Money.

No matter what you do in your 20s and 30s, you have to do this: Invest. Investing in your retirement is super important, and the earlier you start, the better. Take advantage of your job’s 401K or IRA options to start investing for your future. And if you’ve got extra money leftover at the end of the month, I’d rather you invest it in something like cryptocurrency, stocks or NFTs instead of a Gucci bag you’ll only wear a few times. 

14. Fail at Something.

I’m not saying you need to be out here failing on purpose, but you should be taking risks in your 20s and 30s. Maybe you’ve been wanting to switch careers or open a small business. I want to encourage you to take that risk and put your all into it. Sure, you might fail if you try. But ask yourself this: What if I succeed? 

15. Understand Basic Taxes.

This might be the difference between saving thousands of dollars each year… or jail. Nahhh, I’m just playing! But forreal, you need to understand the basics of taxes, so you make sure you’re paying your fair share—no more, no less. It’s also a good idea to learn about some basic tax deductions, so you can save more money on your taxes (legally and ethically). Because none of us would look good in an orange jumpsuit (LOL). 

16. Travel Somewhere New.

A lot of people don’t travel because they think it’s too expensive. While I totally get it, and I think you should pay cash for your trips, I still believe it’s worth it. Why? Because travel exposes you to new cultures, foods and experiences. You develop flexibility, empathy, knowledge and compassion. A different country, state or city might expose you to a new way of living that you didn’t consider before. You might even want to move there! 

If you’re tight on money, start small. Visit a new city and book your flight and hotel during off-season for lower prices. Also, comparison shop online for the best hotel and flight prices. 

17. Eat Healthy.

Take care of your body while you’re in your 20s and 30s. Avoid processed foods, and invest in a healthy diet. If you don’t know how to cook, I recommend signing up for a meal delivery service. You can also learn to cook new meals with services like HelloFresh and Blue Apron. Whatever you decide, just remember that you only have one body, so take good care of it.  

18. Make Exercise a Priority.

Exercise has so many benefits, like improved sleep, better mental health and of course a bangin’ body (LOL)! You don’t have to be in the gym all day everyday for good results, but try to get at least 150 minutes of aerobic exercise every week. This can be walking, running, pilates or whatever you like to do. It’ll help you feel good and prevent heart disease, high blood pressure and a whole bunch of other illnesses. That alone is worth it.

19. Start Giving Now.

You don’t have to wait until you’re a 40-year-old millionaire to give. You can start giving right now with the time and resources you have. Volunteer with an organization that’s doing great work in your community or start a monthly donation to a cause you feel passionate about. Giving is one of my favorite parts of building wealth. Start now and experience the joy and fulfillment of helping others.

20. Develop a Personal Relationship With Jesus Christ.

Your faith is the foundation of your life. Our morals, standards, even choices like who we marry and how we raise our children are built upon our faith. Most of us grew up believing whatever our parents believed, but I want you to use your 20s and 30s to develop your own faith in Jesus Christ. Start with dedicating time in your day to read your Bible and pray. Then, start practicing discerning God’s voice in your life. It’ll transform your life, just like it transformed mine. 

Your 20s and 30s are a special time in your life. Use these tips to make the most of it, so you can look back with no regrets.

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