lifestyle

6 things you can do now to improve your life later.

La Trobe University
Thanks to our brand partner, La Trobe University

Your future self will thank you.

“Live every day like it’s your last.”

That oft-quoted motto sounds great on a bumper sticker. But if we all followed that advice, we’d be perpetually eating tubs of Ben and Jerry’s while watching Friends reruns – until we realise at age 60 that we forgot to actually advance our career and family goals.

That’s why I’m firmly in the “10-year-plan” school of thought, forever looking for pearls of wisdom that’ll help me get where I want to go in years to come.

Here are a few tips that are easy enough to implement in your 20s and 30s– but my research tells me they’ll make your life a whole lot smoother and more successful in the long run.

1. Get healthy.

Author Mark Manson asked 600 people aged 37 and above what advice they’d give to their younger selves – and the mantra “keep physically healthy” cropped up time and time again.

I don’t mean to sound like your grandma, but good health is a vital foundation to a long and successful future. So stop putting off that jog, start wearing sunscreen and schedule that overdue dentist appointment… you get the idea.

“Author Mark Manson asked 600 people aged 37 and above what advice they’d give to their younger selves – and the mantra “keep physically healthy” cropped up time and time again.”

2. Focus on people and activities that add value.

Remember how easy it was to while away hours after school with classmates as a teenager, despite having nothing in common with them beyond a vague dislike of your oddball teacher?

Chances are, you have more demands on your time now, making every hour outside work/kids/gym precious. That’s why now’s the time to let go of old acquaintances who take without giving, and start saying “no” to obligations that don’t bring you value.

Same goes for dead-end romantic relationships: If your partner isn’t emotionally available, consider moving on to someone who shares the same vision for the future. The last thing you want is to be going through a painful breakup years down the track, then wondering why you wasted your time.

3. Take control of your finances.

Living hand-to-mouth may have been the norm as a teenager – but these days, living off Ramen noodles while you await your next pay cheque isn’t going to cut it.

Set aside a portion of every month’s wages into an ‘emergency fund’, prioritise paying off debt, and start planning for your retirement early — for example, by rolling your super accounts into one or ensuring that your super contributions continue while you’re on maternity leave.

Superannuation’s a big deal for women in particular; as La Trobe expert Amalia Di Iorio has found decisions around super are heavily influenced by factors like the gender pay gap and an imbalance in family care responsibilities. As a result, one-third of Australian women have no super at all – so start dealing with this now to ensure you can actually enjoy your later years, rather than retiring broke.

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“Living hand-to-mouth may have been the norm as a teenager – but these days, living off Ramen noodles while you await your next pay cheque isn’t going to cut it.”

4. Upskill.

As the responsibilities keep rolling in – mortgages and kids, to name a couple – you can assume it won’t become easier to find the time to study or train in years to come. That’s why now’s the time to follow your passion – whether that’s taking after-work Spanish classes, signing up for netball, or going back to grad school to become an expert in a whole new industry.

An added bonus of taking the latter path: statistics suggest that people with master’s degrees are more likely to find work than those with undergraduate degrees – and are likely to earn a higher salary, too.

5. Learn how to negotiate your salary.

Mastering the art of asking for the title and pay you want is key to future career success – but as Lean In taught us, women are significantly less confident when it comes to career negotiations.

Women Don’t Ask authors Linda Babcock and Sara Lashever advise women to stop being “grateful” for any salary offered; rather, they suggest you try assuming a salary offered is negotiable, then determining what you’re worth by researching similar companies close to where you’re interviewing, before entering into negotiations.

Another tip? Frame your negotiation around mutual interests rather than yours alone; your employer is most likely to agree if you outline how your proposed solution is ‘win-win’, according to Panorama Software founder Rony Ross.

“If you talk instead about how ‘we need to reach a solution,’ it’s a very different approach. It doesn’t gratify your ego requirements, but it reaches a much better deal,” Mr Ross explains.

““If you talk instead about how ‘we need to reach a solution,’ it’s a very different approach. It doesn’t gratify your ego requirements, but it reaches a much better deal,” Mr Ross explains.”

6. Get adventurous.

Planning ahead isn’t all business, though: You’ll never be quite as fit or free as you are right now – so make sure you embrace all the fun, spontaneous, wonderful things you’ll otherwise regret missing out on.

If you’ve always wanted to skydive? Book in a session while you’re all carefree and nimble. If you’ve been raring to volunteer in Tanzania since your teenage years? Make a budget and pack your bags.

So, there you have it. Six tips to get your future sorted, starting today. You’re welcome, future self.

What do you think is the most important thing when it comes to preparing for the future?

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