30 Money And Life Lessons I’ve Learned In The First 30 Years Of My Life

Next week, I turn 30. Wow! While some of you will still think of me as a youngin’, turning 30 is… uh… interesting. When I was really young, I frequently remember adults telling me that their 30s were the best years of their life. Even with that, I thought they were crazy. When writing this…

Michelle Schroeder-Gardner

Last Updated: January 4, 2024

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Thoughts On Turning 30 - Money And Life Lessons I've Learned

Next week, I turn 30.


While some of you will still think of me as a youngin’, turning 30 is… uh… interesting.

When I was really young, I frequently remember adults telling me that their 30s were the best years of their life.

Even with that, I thought they were crazy.

When writing this article, I stopped and started reading articles about turning 30. Some interesting things I found from 11 Points and Buzzfeed include:

  • At age 30, you’re older than 42% of Americans.
  • The most common way to die at age 30 is by accident.
  • The average person has had 7.5 jobs by age 30, and you’ll have 2.4 more by age 35.
  • 30 is the average age of retirement for NFL players.
  • At the age of 30, you are six years older than Monica and Rachel were at the start of Friends.

I thought those were entertaining to read, haha!

Despite some initial fears about turning 30, I do think that my 30s will be the best time of my life.

I’ve learned a lot about myself over the years, and I have grown a lot too. Thinking back to what I was like a decade ago makes me cringe, haha!

10 years ago, I wasn’t great with my money, I bought way too many clothes, I never believed I would be traveling full-time, and I would have laughed if you told me I could retire whenever I wanted.

Because of that, I think birthdays are a good time to reflect on any life and money lessons you’ve learned throughout the years. For me, it helps me see what mistakes I have made, it also reminds me that I’ve made good decisions too. Whether they have been good or bad, I’ve learned a lot of valuable life lessons.

I published the first of these posts three years ago, 27 Money And Life Lessons I’ve Learned. I have been adding a new lesson for every year, and now I have one more. I plan on doing this for each new year ahead of me.

I really think self-reflection is a good idea because we can learn so much from the past, both the good choices and the mistakes we’ve made.

Trust me, I’ve made mistakes, but I’ve also made some great choices. All of those choices have led me to where I am today, and now I am happier than ever.

While I am not perfect, life is good, and I am very fortunate. I have great friends, a great family, a happy marriage, wonderful dogs, a business that I love, a life of travel, and more.

So, in honor of my birthday, here are 30 life and money lessons I’ve learned in the first 30 years of my life.

While some may seem obvious, others may not, but everything below is what makes me who I am today. Plus, you may learn something new or something may just click after reading my list. Enjoy!


1. Value your time.

When I was younger, a year seemed like an extremely long time. Now, it seems like years go by very quickly.

Time is important, and you should value it. Instead of spending your time doing something you dislike, make a goal to eliminate any negativity and focus your time on what you enjoy doing. Don’t wait decades to start living a life you love.

Related: Reclaim Your Day With These 12 Time Saving Tips


2. Never compare your beginning to someone else’s middle.

Comparing yourself to others can sometimes give you motivation to work harder, but you also don’t want to be unrealistic or get frustrated with where you’re at.

You should always give yourself time with a new task, and don’t think of yourself as a complete failure because you’re not at the same point as someone else, especially if they’ve been doing it for longer than you have.

Everything takes time, and practice makes perfect.

“One of the great temptations for us as leaders and dreamers is to compare the start of our new adventures to the middle of someone else’s. You work on your first book and pick up Max Lucado’s 14th book and say, ‘Mine isn’t as good.’ You post your first blog post and look at Michael Hyatt’s 100th and think, ‘Mine is nowhere near as great as that.’ You give your first speech and watch Ken Robinson’s 1,000th at TED and think, ‘I’m not great like that.’” – Jon Acuff

Related: Don’t Compare Your Beginning to Someone Else’s Middle


3. Create a plan to reach your dreams and goals.

You aren’t going to magically reach your dreams and goals unless you create a plan to do so.

What do you often dream of? Maybe you want a certain career, you want to travel, or something else.

Whatever you want to do, why not create a plan so you can reach your goal? You might live in regret until that happens! You only live once, so a good first step is creating a plan to achieve your dream.


4. Be positive.

I say this in many of my posts because I truly believe in it. It’s also something that I think more people need to work on.

Being positive can completely change your life. This means you should laugh more, smile more, be happy with yourself (this is very important!), quit being jealous, complain less, have a better outlook on life, and more.

The power of positive thinking may help you:

  • Find another option or route.
  • Feel motivated so you can keep pushing forward.
  • Move on from your past mistakes.
  • Convince yourself that you can improve your situation (career, financial, family, etc.).
  • Reach for your goals.
  • Be happier.

Related article: Why I Believe Being Positive Can Change Your Financial Situation And Your Life.


5. Learn something new as often as you can.

Back when I was in school, I hated learning new things. Yes, that’s how most children and students are. However, when I was a college freshmen there was a man in his 60’s in one of my philosophy classes who told me something I didn’t fully realize until years later. We all asked him why he was there, because, as young 18 year olds, we all thought school was such a drag. He proceeded to tell us how learning and school were the best things in life and that one day, while maybe not right now, we would realize that same thing.

Well, now I get it.

I now enjoy learning more than ever. I’m constantly reading and learning about new things, and I want to know even more.

There is so much to learn in the world, and it is so easy to do. There are classes, articles, great books, and many more things that are so easily accessible in this day and age.

Related: 15 Of The Best Money Books For Young Adults


6. Stop living in regret.

You can’t change the past, so there is no point in dwelling on regret and letting it negatively impact you. Instead, you should learn from your mistakes and move on.

That can be hard for many people to understand, but once you do, you can move forward with your life.


7. Don’t care about what anyone else thinks.

This is one that took me awhile to realize, but thankfully I’ve now learned to live my life this way. You should do things for you and not let other people’s opinions rule your life.

Do what is right for you!


8. Live life to the fullest.

No matter who you are, what you are currently doing, how much money you have in the bank, and so on, you can start living your life to the fullest.

You just never know what may happen in the future, so taking advantage of the time you have now is very important. No one ever wants their life to flash before their eyes and wonder whether their life was meaningful, if they had a good time, or if they regret past decisions.

And, yes, you can live a great life on a realistic budget.


9. Cherish moments with loved ones.

Now that we are full-time travelers, we don’t see family and friends as often as we used to. In fact, we haven’t been “home” in over a year.

I’ve always cherished the time I have with those I love, but now I make sure to make each trip even more special.

You should never take a moment for granted with those that you love. This will sound very doom and gloom, but you just never know what may happen to you or them. Plus, spending time with your loved ones is always a great time, so why not just do it more?!


10. Make time for fun.

All work and no play makes for dull life.

You should always make time for the things that you love, even if it’s just a few hours each week. This can help lift your mood, increase your motivation, and more.


11. Excuses are just that – excuses.

Many people make excuses for why things aren’t going their way. Yes, sometimes you may find yourself in a bad situation, but you are still in control of your own destiny.

Don’t let excuses hold you back. Instead, take action in your life and overcome the obstacles in your path.


12. Do what YOU want to do.

What makes you happy, excited, joyful, and motivated? That’s what you should be doing with your life, as long as it’s legal, haha!

If you want to live a life of adventure – Go for it.

If you want to start a family – Start planning one.

If you want a better job – Get one.

If you want to change the world – Do it.


13. Less is more.

The idea that less is more is something I think about nearly every day.

After having to get rid of the majority of our belongings to move into our RV and now boat, I truly realize how less is more. We had so much junk that we had never touched, and it wasn’t improving our lives in any way.

Having less stuff is great for many reasons:

  • Less clutter.
  • We can give more attention to what truly matters.
  • Less money spent on things that don’t matter.

Related: 8 Lessons I’ve Learned From Living With Less Stuff


14. Laughter is the best form of medicine.

Laughter and happiness can pretty much cure anything. Next time you’re feeling down, try to find a way to laugh. It will help!


15. Help others as much as you can.

Helping others can change more than just your life. Whether you do something big or small, do something! The smallest gesture can make someone’s day and completely change how they feel.

Here are a few ways to help others:

  • Smile and say hello to everyone you cross paths with.
  • Donate items from your home.
  • Donate blood.
  • Encourage someone who is struggling.
  • Foster an animal.
  • Become a Big Brother or a Big Sister.
  • Volunteer.

Read more at 58 Random Acts Of Kindness.


16. Sometimes you just have to go for it.

Without trying something new, you’ll never know all of the amazing things you are capable of doing. Instead of constantly thinking “what if?” you may need to take the leap and finally try it out.


17. Dogs are awesome.

Here’s proof.

27 Money And Life Lessons I've Learned


18. Gain control of your financial situation.

Money isn’t everything, but being in a good financial situation may make your life easier.

You should pay off your debt, earn more money than you spend, stop keeping up with the Joneses, save for retirement, and so on. These are very important money lessons to learn.

Gaining control of your financial situation is important because you won’t feel as stuck when it comes to money. You will probably be able to do more with your life because you won’t be held back by monetary problems.

This can help you reach your dreams, such as traveling more, following your passion, be less stressed, and more.


19. You can say no.

You don’t have to say yes to every single request. Saying yes can be great if you have the time, but saying yes to everything can also cause a lot of stress and leads to people taking advantage of you.

Sometimes you have to evaluate your options and possibly say no.


20. Gossip stinks.

Gossipping doesn’t help anyone.

If you don’t like someone or what they’re doing, why should you spend your time thinking about them or talking about them to others? That is just a waste of time!


21. Don’t let life pass you by.

It can be really easy to let life pass you by. Before you know it, years or even decades may be gone.

Too many people have the mindset of “Oh, in ten years life will be so much better because of this and that.” And then they just let their lives go by without ever thinking about the present.

Well, what about now?! Ten years is a long time! Reaching a goal is great, but during the present, you should try to fit in some happiness as well (on a budget, of course).


22. See the beauty in everything.

There are beautiful things all around us. Instead of seeing the bad in things, try to see the good.


23. Kill them with kindness.

Being kind to others is always important, even when a person is being negative, hurtful, or difficult.

Whenever someone is being difficult in my life, I almost always attempt to kill them with kindness.

And, I’ve found that it works 99% of the time.


24. Be open to new things and tackle your fears.

When was the last time you did something new? So many people live inside their comfort zone when they actually need to branch out every now and then.

Yes, stepping outside of your box can be tough, but what if it completely opens your eyes and changes your whole outlook on life? Wouldn’t that be amazing?

Related: 10 Daily Challenges To Improve Your Life


25. Balance is important.

You can’t do everything 24/7. You need some sort of balance to stay sane.


26. Be confident.

Being confident can help you succeed in life. If you don’t believe in yourself, then who will?


27. Money is just money.

Too many people let money take over their lives in ways that don’t bring them any joy. Yes, you need money to pay your bills and to survive, but it is just money.

This can be one of the hardest money lessons to learn because earning more money can positively impact your life. But, don’t let money take over your life or think that it will make you a better person. You should use it as a tool to help improve your life.

Instead of thinking about money in a negative way, think about it in a positive way and take actions to improve your financial situation.


28. Traveling full-time is amazing.

Traveling full-time is absolutely amazing. While I know that not everyone wants to travel full-time like I do, I know that I love it.

I love being able to live by the beach, mountains, desert, and anywhere else we choose to go. I love that I am spending more time outside and hiking nearly every single day. I love how beautiful the outdoors are. I love meeting new people and trying new things.

And, I’m so glad that I gave this untraditional lifestyle a chance.

Related: 11 Reasons to Choose RV Life


29. It’s okay to be afraid. (written in May 2018)

So many people are afraid to try new things. They’re afraid of what may happen, the unknown, making a mistake, failure, and more.

However, you won’t know what may happen unless you put yourself out there.

Not everything in life is easy, and in order to reach your goals and live your dream life, there are going to be some scary things that you may have to do.

Making changes in your life can scare you, but it can also be great. Changing your life for the better will most likely mean that you have to step outside of your box and try new things.

One of the scariest things I have done was starting to sail full-time. I nearly talked myself out of it just as we were buying our boat. I felt very comfortable traveling in our RV, we had been doing it for a couple of years, and I had found my comfort zone.

I had to remember that RVing scared me when we first talked about it. Just like sailing, I made all sorts of excuses for why it wouldn’t work.

Sometimes you have to remind yourself that it’s okay to be scared and that many of the things you’re doing now scared you before you started them. Fear is normal human behavior, but don’t let it hold you back from living your dream life.

Related: Welcome To Paradise – We’re Living On A Sailboat!

30. There’s a lot to see and do in this world (written in April 2019)

I know that most of you will laugh at me – but turning 30 is something that I was dreading for a little while.

No, it wasn’t keeping me up at night, but it made me think about all of the things that I still haven’t done, and how there is still so much to do and see.

But, the world is an amazing place and I’m glad that I get to experience a little bit of it.

I know that my 30s will be amazing, and I have big plans to explore even more and reach some travel/outdoors goals of mine!

What life and money lessons do you think are important?

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Michelle Schroeder-Gardner

Author: Michelle Schroeder-Gardner

Hey! I’m Michelle Schroeder-Gardner and I am the founder of Making Sense of Cents. I’m passionate about all things personal finance, side hustles, making extra money, and online businesses. I have been featured in major publications such as Forbes, CNBC, Time, and Business Insider. Learn more here.

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  1. While we never intend on making mistakes early in life, it’s those experiences that make us stronger spiritually and entrepreneurially.

  2. Karrie

    Wow this was very inspiring and something that I really needed to hear today. I worry about many of the things you talked about but I am going to try and follow this and read when I am feeling discouraged or angry at someone. Thanks Michelle.

  3. Cindy

    Great article! have a lot of same thoughts towards life!

  4. Julie

    Really good info and well written! Such incredible wisdom for someone so young. Yes, 30’s and 40’s were my most fav time of life. Now I’m 56 almost 57 and I feel an urgency to do the things i want to in life. Thanks Michelle you are such an inspiration!

  5. #17 is clearly the most important one here. And as your elder *ahem* by a solid year and a half, I can say that my thirties have been pretty darn good so far. That said, I was stoked to turn 30, which I saw as the age of a “real” adult haha

  6. You are so old now! Crazy.

  7. Awww at 30 you are almost a spring chicken (says the woman who will turn 44 in November 😀 ) Anyway, I have to agree that life improves when you are in your 30s and 40s. This post is very inspiring, and so very true. I’d just add that as you get older, the guessing games in regards to yourself sort of go away. Yes, you can and will still surprise yourself with how you handle certain things, but you will know yourself so much better, and that can only lead to better things for your life. Happy 30th birthday!

  8. Loving the blog posts and hearing about your experiences. I think the two biggest points that resonate with me are that DOGS ARE AWESOME–obviously–and that IT IS OK TO SAY NO. That second one I’m still learning and trying to enforce, when necessary, without feeling bad. Thanks for your words.

  9. Wayne

    Excellent article Michelle, at my age of 73 I can see your 30 years of life have given you much wisdom. Thanks for sharing.