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25 Things You Should Be Doing At 25

Your mid-twenties are a confusing time. You still feel young and free, but you also know you need to get your life together, since you’re a quarter of a century old. Well, you don’t have to have it all figured out at 25, and you certainly aren’t required to be at a specific stage of life at any age.

There are, however, a few things that everyone should be thinking about by the time their 25th birthday rolls around. Carpe diem, baby.

1. Paying for Your Phone Bill

If you can pay for utilities and find money to go out on the weekends, you can absolutely pay for your own phone bill. Even if you’re still on your parents’ plan for contractual/data reasons, you need to be giving them money for your portion every month.

2. Saving for Retirement

The golden years will be here before you know it. Do yourself a favor by putting away a little bit in your 401k, ROTH IRA, or a regular old savings account every pay check. You’ll be so glad you did when you walk out of your job for the very last time.

3. Cooking

At 25, you should have at least a basic familiarity with the kitchen. You can’t live off of frozen dinners and take-out forever (and boy will your weight suffer from it). Learn some basic recipes, like casseroles and spaghetti, and don’t be afraid to try new stuff when the mood strikes. If you need some guidance, sign up for a cooking class — or even call your parents.

4. Watching the News

Yes, it can be depressing to see all of the bad stuff going on, but you need to be aware of the state of the world if you have a chance of changing it and even simply surviving it. You’ll also seem immature and ambivalent if you can’t discuss the news with other people, which is not the persona you want to portray. If you’d really just rather watch anything other than the news, sign up for newsletters like The Betches’ SUP. It’s basically the news in a way you’ll actually want to read (and maybe even care about).

5. Sleeping Enough

You can hustle all you want, but if you don’t get enough rest, that hustle will turn into a fiery downward spiral. Your body needs to sleep if it’s going to function properly and stay healthy. The to-do list won’t run away while you sleep.

6. Exercising Regularly

At 25 you’re still young enough to feel strong and lithe, but if you put off exercise you’ll have a 30-year-old body that doesn’t feel so great. Regular exercise now is the best way to make active living a life-long habit and prevent a plethora of health issues later.

7. Taking Care of Your Skin

Sunscreen, daily moisturizer, not picking at pimples — all of these are important at this age. Face it, you don’t have the same amount of collagen you did in high school. If you want to avoid wrinkles, age spots, and skin cancer later, you need to take care of your skin now.

8. Going to Yearly Checkups

You need to schedule and attend the dermatologist, gynecologist, and general health and wellness doctor on a yearly basis. Checkups are the best way to prevent serious issues, stop any problems before they escalate, and learn what is and isn’t right in terms of your body. Short and easy checkups now are way more affordable and enjoyable than long tests and treatments later in life.

9. Budgeting

Unfortunately, there’s no getting around the need to budget in life. Start learning what a realistic budget is for you now while you’re still relatively free of financial obligations. Budgeting isn’t a skill you want to have a crash course in after you have a mortgage, kids, car payments, and other adult stuff on your hands.

10. Calling Your Parents

You don’t have to tell them all the details of your life if you don’t want to, but you do need to call them at least once a week to check in. Your parents are aging. They aren’t always going to be around, and you’ll regret not talking to them more when that heartbreaking day comes. So call them, ask about their day, how they’re feeling, and share a little bit about your life so they don’t feel like they’ve lost you.

11. Reading and Listening to Audiobooks or Podcasts Every Now and Then

It’s good for you, so stop thinking of it as a school assignment. If you don’t like the act of physically reading, then pick up an ebook or subscribe to some podcasts. It’s important to be a well-rounded individual and to continue educating yourself on the topics you’re interested in. This is how you do that.

12. Voting

It takes maybe 30 minutes of your day to register and maybe an hour to vote for the leaders of the country. There’s no excuse for not voting in local, state, and national elections. If you want to protect your rights and support your beliefs, then you need to be voting.

13. Actually Getting Ready Every Day

You’re an adult, and you should look and smell like one.

14. Contemplating Your Future, at Least a Little Bit

The future is scary, but you need to think about it. Where do you want to live? What do you want to do long-term? How are you going to make that happen? If the big picture freaks you out too much, start small. What are you going to do next month to make your dreams happen? Do you want to live in a different apartment or house when your lease is up? Those smaller questions will eventually make it easier to ask yourself where you want to be in 10 years.

15. Saying No to the Things and People That Don’t Make You Happy

If something or someone just sucks energy and joy from your life, then say hasta la vista. When you’re 25 you should be able to identify the things that make you happy and the things that don’t. Pay close attention to your happiness level, and make the necessary cuts.

16. Having Insurance on Yourself and Your Car

It’s expensive, but it’s the responsible thing to do. You need health and auto insurance to give yourself peace of mind and provide a safety net for when disaster strikes. Don’t go through your twenties without any form of insurance. That’s just asking for trouble.

17. Working Toward Your Goals

No matter what your goals are, you should be doing something every single day to move closer toward realizing them. Save the money for a trip, run a little further to lose that last five pounds, and do that one extra thing to stand out at work. The small steps all add up.

18. Staying Up on Politics

Before you head down to the polls, you need to know who you’re voting for and what they stand for. The only way to do that is to stay up on politics through the months leading up to elections (meaning, all months). Bonus: Watching the news helps.

19. Paying Your Bills on Time

An occasional, accidental missed bill is not a big deal. Late payments every single month are though. You should be paying every single bill on time when you’re 25 because there’s really no excuse for not managing your life and money properly when there are automatic payment options.

20. Taking Vitamins

It doesn’t matter if you still want to take the tasty, chew-able gummy kind, as long as you’re taking your vitamins. Don’t take a ton — a daily multivitamin is all you need. It’s just another way you should be thinking about your health in the long term.

21. Building Credit

This comes from paying your bills on time. Credit takes time to build, but can be lost in a matter of months. Start paying attention to your credit score and paying your bills and loans on time to keep it at a healthy number. You’ll be glad you did when you want to buy a house or car.

22. Finding a Mentor

Mentors are important for guiding you through your career and sometimes even life. Find a good mentor and take time to foster a close relationship with them. Good mentors aren’t easy to find, so start looking for one while your career is still relatively new.

23. Building Your Personal Brand

You might not think you need a personal brand, and hey, you might be right, but many twenty-somethings do. Think about what you want your brand to be at the very least and make sure it aligns with who you are as a person. Then take steps to incorporate that into your work every single day.

24. Broadening Your Horizons

You don’t want to be in a rut in your mid-twenties. Expose yourself to the unfamiliar, learn about other cultures, pick up some new hobbies, try new things, travel if you can, watch documentaries. Do things that teach you and challenge you.

25. Networking

Everyone needs to network in some way. Make an effort to meet people in your field so you have connections for the future, and cultivate working friendships with these people. You won’t regret creating a web of people in your profession or interests.

Image via Unsplash

  • Rebecca Ann

    As a 30 year old, I definitely agree with this list! And am willing to admit that there are some things that I was doing at 25, and a few I only just recently started. Overall though, having a grip on at least most of these things will help with that “I’m a real adult with my life together” feeling, and it’s so great!

  • Emily

    I agree with everything on here except number one. The cavalier “pay your own phone bill” line is not the single most important way to adult, and honestly is getting boring. I’m over people telling me I need to pay every single one of my bills to be an adult. My parents pay my phone bill because they want to. They know I’m young, that I’m on my own, and they like feeling like they can help take pressure off me. I get that plenty of parents need their kid to take over the phone bill at some point, but if that’s not the case, why wouldn’t I use that money towards my savings goals or paying off debt? I’m not going to pass up on financial resources just because “adulting means refusing help and paying for everything yourself.”

    Love the list, but want other people (like me) who have the privilege of enthusiastic parental help to not feel like less of an adult because of it!

    • Mj D’Arco

      Agreed 100% and oh mom also gets me grocery stores gift cards because she wants to treat me.. am I less of an adult because of it? ~eyeroll

      • Anni

        I always try not to sweat the small stuff like this – let’s face it, it’s highly likely that when your parents become older you will have to financially support them in a multitude of ways. They could get really sick and require medical assistance, they could gain disabilities that make their lives difficult to a point where they come to live with you or they could come to live with you following the death of your other parent…I definitely don’t think your parents should be bailing you out of debt on the regular or paying your rent, but if they want to treat you once in a while because they have the money there’s really no shame in it, especially because as they get older you will have plenty of opportunities to help them out.

        • GBee

          Plus, you never know the whole story. My parents paid for college but I am 100% financially independent now (no doubt due to their generosity with college). Whereas my boyfriend paid for college on his own, but his mom paid his car insurance for a few years after college and still picks up household items for him regularly (honestly she forces that upon him, she is ALWAYS asking me if I want her to pick me up shampoo/soap, etc).

          I 100% got the better end of the deal and anyone who would think I’m more of an adult because his mom pays for tiny purchases throughout the year would be wrong.

  • Mia

    #15- you cannot base your life on what makes you happy ALL THE TIME. Sometimes your work is a struggle, sometimes your partner is having a difficult time and your relationship is rocky. When you have kids you find yourself being incredibly angry and helpless countless times. But you don’t drop things just on the basis of how you feel. You won’t be able to maintain anything valuable if you act like that.

  • Bijou x EclecticSass

    Great post!

  • alissa m

    Listening to audiobooks/podcasts and building your personal brand? Really? This piece had some great points, but these lists always lose me the second they toss in these super subjective/totally arbitrary ideas about what it means to be a functioning adult. Some people prefer reading to podcasts/audiobooks, and there are tons of 25 year olds who work in industries where a ‘personal brand’ could not be less relevant.

  • Erin

    Great article but the average person doesn’t actually need to take vitamins. Even if you eat a pretty crappy diet you probably are getting enough of what you need. There’s not too much harm in taking them so it’s just expensive pee most of the time (unless of course your doctor tells you to take them). I still take them because 10 bucks for just in case seems reasonable to me but if you’re super frugal then this is something that isn’t really necessary. Healthcare triage did a great episode on it with citations and what not.

    • T

      Agreed. Unless you have a medical condition that predisposes you to deficiencies, the average person doesn’t need a multivitamin. You’re paying for expensive urine.

      • Mj D’Arco

        unless it’s fiber.. everyone would be happier with a bit more pooping

        • T

          It’s better to get your fiber from real food rather than supplements.

  • kate

    One big thing I think is missing in this article is moving out of your parents’ house. It is SO much more a universal part of being an adult than “listening to podcasts” or “building your personal brand.” (Also, what if you prefer books to podcasts? Or reading to listening? Nothing wrong with that.)

    If you’re going to say that you shouldn’t be relying on your parents to pay your cell phone bill, then you definitely shouldn’t be relying on them to put a roof over your head. A phone bill is an extra $80 (give or take) dollars a month, but having a home of your own, whether it’s a rental or one you own (and dealing with all that comes with it) is one of the most tangible signs of adulthood there is.

    I don’t think living at home for a year or two after school is bad — quite the opposite, in fact! I think it’s responsible if it’s something you can swing (your parents live near your desired city, etc.). But by 25, you’re on your third year out of college, and you need to move out — barring any special circumstances, like a personal or parental health issue.

    In the end, children live with their parents. Adults don’t.*

    (*Of course, sometimes parents move in with their adult children later on in life, but that is obviously a different scenario.)

    • Living arrangements are often determined by financial realities, not some arbitrary idea about adulthood. Lots of cultures find it strange to move out if you’re unmarried. It’s not an objective necessity.

  • TJ

    for #12, if you don’t want to wait in line (and depending on your state/city laws) you can also register absentee and mail in your ballot. Voting is so important!

  • Ali

    #26 make sure you NEVER have fun or play.

  • Interesting discussions! Some parents help out, some don’t, some people don’t have parents, some people have four parents. There’s no need to get angry at our peers because they don’t have to pay their own phone bill or they still go on family holidays fully paid for. It doesn’t make them less of an adult. I personally don’t have any financial help from my family, except if I’m in serious need (as in, I have no food), and mum will lend me a bit on the understanding I pay it back the following month, which I do. I live and work abroad so I’m used to being independent. While I enjoyed the idea of the article, I still think that ‘you should’s are destructive. We are all different, and we all grow at different paces.

  • Maggie

    As an alternative to watching cable news (which IMO is most of the time just people being paid to talk over each other and break the same news over and over again), pick up a reputable newspaper (left-leaning, right-leaning, centre, whatever) on a Saturday or Sunday when it’s nice a big and read it cover to cover. Or subscribe to a weekly news magazine like the Economist. I did that a few weeks ago and I felt more informed than I had in months of scrolling through twitter or the big news websites.

  • AN

    21/25 ain’t bad at 24. I think financial independence should be well on its way by 25, but things happen. More school and student loans.