10 Life Norms You Actually Don’t Have to Follow


1. Get married and have kids by 30

The fact that so many 20-somethings treat this as a goal is silly. Most of us are just figuring out how the world works in our 20’s, we’re hardly qualified to teach another human being how it works. Instead, you’re better off trying different jobs, learning new skills, figuring out how to earn good money, having experiences, and gaining some hard-earned knowledge and grit. If you reach 30 and find yourself unmarried with no children, but a bucket full of experiences and a beautiful sum of cash in the bank with no debt, who’s the real winner? The next 60 years can be used for marriage and child raising, if that’s even what you want.

2. Have the “college experience”

For most young people, having the “college experience” – living away from home for 4 to 5 years and supposedly having the time of your life – comes with a hefty price tag. The “college experience” has become synonymous with racking up a lifetime of debt. You’re better off hacking college through receiving grants and scholarships. Or live at home, still meet great people, and graduate with a positive net worth and no student loan debt. Or skip college altogether. With freelancers taking over the world, a college degree is becoming less and less of a requirement to find good work. You’re better off starting your own website where you can showcase real projects you have worked on. In my freshman year of college I built an educational site to teach students statistics. Placing that on my resume has caught the eye of employers just as much as my degree.

3. Buy a house

If you plan on staying in one location long term, I have nothing against buying a house. But getting a mortgage because it’s the trendy thing to do is simply ignorant. A house is not a financial investment. It comes with maintenance, repairs, updates, property taxes, and unforeseen costs. It’s a money drain. Instead, learn to hack housing or rent if you want more freedom to travel and be location independent. James Altucher lives in AirBnB homes. Michelle Schroeder lives in an RV full time with her husband and two dogs. Tiny houses are bucking the norm of traditional living. Yurts are making waves in Montana. People are realizing that the traditional American Dream we have been sold is not as dreamy as it seems.

4. Work your way up the corporate ladder

Pardon me while I laugh. The idea of dedicating 40-50 years to a company who couldn’t care less about me as an individual is comical. The thought of settling into a routine of buying $4 coffees each morning, $15 lunches that I get to enjoy at my cubicle, and enduring 45 minute commutes home each evening makes me want to vomit. Instead, I’ll collect my paychecks, save like my life depends on it, learn new skills, hopefully meet some great coworkers, and exit the rat race decades before my peers to actually go live life.

5. Patiently wait for a pay increase from your employer

If you don’t make as much as you’d like at your day job, you needn’t sit around and patiently wait for the annual bonus or a pay increase. Snag a side hustle. There has never been a better time to earn money outside of a day job. If you have a unique skill set, jump on Fiverr, Craigslist, Facebook, Upwork, AirBnB, Rover, or any of the other thousands of sites filled with people looking for products and services. Identify what unique skills you have and find ways to use them to earn money. Lacking the right skills? Learn them. Check out Code Academy, Khan Academy, Coursera, Udemy, Youtube. The resources are out there. If you’re not developing new skills, it’s your own fault. Get hungry. Start learning. Embrace failure. Get out there and hustle. The days of waiting for pay raises from your 9-5 are long gone.

6. Take 5-figure annual vacations

This kills me. Why on earth do we opt to work for 6 months straight, then take a one week vacation that doesn’t even allow us enough time away from the office to truly relax? It’s like we’re stuck in a box for so many weeks at a time that our first taste of freedom means seeing how much we can spend as fast as possible. Forget that. Instead, learn to travel hack and take cheaper, longer trips. Or build up a freedom fund and take a year off entirely. Or take free weekend trips so you don’t need a $20,000 one-week vacation to keep your sanity.

7. Pay for cable television

With YouTube, Netflix, Hulu, and a plethora of ways to watch any show you could possibly imagine, why still pay for cable? Or deal with annoying cable providers? Or even own TV’s at all? Instead, get a Netflix account with your friends (one account allows for 5 unique users) and split the cost of $8 bucks per month. That’s $1.60 per person. Just saying.

8. Use major phone providers

Sorry Verizon, your $60 monthly phone bill just wasn’t cutting it. Thanks to Ting, my monthly phone bill is now $18. There are so many cheap alternatives for cell phone plans now that nobody should be opting for nonsense 3 year contracts with major providers. You also shouldn’t be paying for monthly data plans. Free WiFi is nearly everywhere now. I turned off the option to even use 4G on my phone because I never need it. I just use public WiFi wherever I go. If I can’t connect to Wifi, I just don’t use my phone. Simple. The days of expensive cell phone plans are over.

9. Regularly update social media

Nobody cares about your social media profile as much as you think. The picture you just posted 20 minutes ago will fall into the abyss once it’s drowned out by hundreds of other photos on your feed by the end of the day. No one cares about your new job you just accepted or the new place you’re living. The only people who genuinely care and are happy for you are your immediate family and close friends. And for those people, you can just text, call, or talk to in person. Let’s admit it: social media is just a place to garner attention from people we don’t actually care about. The anxiety of tracking followers, likes, and favorites is ridiculous. It’s pointless, time consuming, and completely unproductive.

10. Live with debt

Debt should be viewed for what it is: Shackles. Chains. Constraints. It prevents you from living life to the fullest. Screw that. Student loan debt, credit card debt, car loans, and every other debt that’s stealing from your wallet monthly needs to be eradicated as fast as possible. Living with debt is actually an option. Taking on debt to pay for college, new furniture, new appliances, and cars is all optional. If you can’t afford to pay cash for it, you probably shouldn’t buy it. There are exceptions, but let’s get real. Debt will screw you over. Instead, only buy things that add real value to your life. Save and invest. You can make the conscious choice not to live with debt.

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5 Replies to “10 Life Norms You Actually Don’t Have to Follow”

  1. Great post! The first two points are awesome and I totally agree!

    A portion of my friends and classmates are obsessed with getting married and having kids ASAP. Some haven’t even had a job or finished school, yet they always talk about marriage and commit an immense amount of time to relationships.

    Their isn’t anything wrong with this if the person they are with is truly the love of their life however, when said individual is basically the person’s entire reason for living, that’s when things get dangerous. Mainly because these people have few hobbies or passions they pursue outside of getting married and having kids. Which can result in scary situations if a breakup occurs and they spiral downward.

    People need to have more interests to allow them to grow and have a creative outlet so they can have a balanced life!

    1. Steve, great points. I personally don’t have anything against marriage or having kids, it just seems a little backwards to me to set it as a goal and rush into it as fast as possible. I’ve noticed something similar – many of my peers are getting married and even having kids while they’re still in college, which is fine if that’s what they want, but it seems to make more sense to establish some sort of financial footing first.

  2. Zach,
    Are you sure you are 23? Ha ha. You seem wise beyond your years. I am almost 50 and have the same mindset in teaching these things to my two teens. In my workplace, I found very very few 20-35 yo who are even interested in financials. They are concerned about social media and where to spend their money. They are like the “kitten” in your latest post. Don’t know if it is a generation thing or just young…

    1. Thanks for the kind words, I appreciate it! Not many people my age are concerned about finances right now, but I have come across a few young people in the personal finance community who are crushing it. I’d like to think that the issue of 20-35 yo ignoring finances is with youth and not with the generation itself. I think my generation specifically (millennials) has more tools and resources than ever before to become incredibly financially savvy, so there’s really no excuses for not learning the basics of personal finance. It’s up to us to choose to be a monkey and not a kitten…Thanks for the feedback 🙂

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