Life gets better as you get older, at least for me, because of gaining more wisdom, life experience, better place in career. But I do have a great fondness for my 20's, they were in some ways the best years of my life, I had so much fun. Not as much responsibility, more carefree, health, vitality, life is full of possibility. It reminds me of that quote from The Office: "I wish there was a way to know you're in the good old days before you've actually left them".
The most difficult thing about being young is that you need to make decisions, and you have no idea what you are going to want later in life.
It depends on the decisions you make. If you're having babies and getting into debt when you're 21, might be a rough ride ahead. I'm sure, at 29, however, that the older I get the better things get. Every year gets better, in fact.
For men, this has alot to do with hypergamy (wikipedia link). Men tend to look for partners based on attraction alone. Women tend to balance attraction and "marrying up." So when you're in high school, you have some girls dating college guys, and in college, some girls dating working guys, and some 20-year-olds dating 50-year-old men. The reverse is NOT true. Survey of medical students showed 90% of women thought their number of potential marriage partners WENT DOWN as their income went up. 90% of men thought their number of potential marriage partners WENT UP as their income went up.
It's pretty obvious that for women, the more successful they are the harder it is to marry up. For men, the older we get and the more established we get in our career, the more girls are interested in us. It amazes me how easy it is to get dates and girlfriends now that I have a nice apartment, a nice car, a good income, and a stable career track. I once was a landlord of sorts, renting rooms out of a 4-bedroom house and had a female renter in a house of all guys. She told me, "Girls don't need to bring guys to their house. We can always go to his house." Meaning: I'm not dating a guy without his own, unshared apartment/home. No money? He'll pay. This is just the world we live in.
That's why we see so many threads of 20-year-olds on here moaning about how they've found "the one" as a freshman in college. It's damn hard to get and keep girlfriends when you're young. So men get overly attached when they do get into a promising relationship so young. But if those guys would just hang in there, they would see that getting maturity and success = having a large dating pool.
It has astounded me how unfriendly girls were to me and my guy friends in college vs. how many take interest in us now, and I'm only 29. I'm in an established relationship now, but regardless of what happens with that, it's all up from here, boys!
On finances: I never took out student loans, I never bought a wedding ring, or had a baby. At the end of 2 years in my current career, I've purchased: 3 surfboards, a new high-end desktop PC, 42" flat screen, a car, a new wardrobe, some Filson bags, and round-trip tickets to Bali, Indonesia. Assuming I stay in this job, the future looks bright, as I won't be buying surfboards and Filson bags and TVs and PCs every year (unless I break them). In fact, as time goes on, there are fewer things I need/want to buy, so I'm getting started with investing.
I was somewhat serious into breakdancing and rock climbing when younger, however. I've pretty much given up both of them. I'm not as flexible, not as pain-tolerant, and less inclined to expose myself to injury. I still like hiking though, but I prefer to be home for bedtime. Even if I camp, my idea of camping is much more luxurious than it used to be. I much prefer car camping now. I used to laugh at people with big RVs calling it "camping" as they toured around the country, but I get it now. So there is this want for comfort that keeps increasing with age vs. a want for extreme hardcore daredevilism/roughin' it/anything. I have to think that's biological as well.
Some girls preferring guys in their 30s to guys in their 20s might have less to do with the older guys' economic resources, career status and potential for being a provider and more to do with the younger guys acting like a bunch of douche bros. I'm generalizing of course and economics are surely a factor in most relationships but the fact is that when girls leave highschool, they don't want to date highshool boys yet a lot of guys in their 20s still act like highschool boys.
I enjoyed both decades very much. The first decade (20s) I was in the Navy so I got to travel a lot and see a lot of different countries and things. The second decade (30s) I was in college having a blast, learning a lot of new things, doing different things, and having fun. I was unmarried for both my 20s and 30s so I'm not sure how things would have turned out (far, far different I'm sure) if I had been married.
Given the choice, I'd take the 30s. I was an idiot in my 20s. Marginally less so now that I'm half-way through my 30s. Digging your way out of prior stupidity is enlightening.
I've been with my now-wife since I was 19, was married for most of my 20s (married at 23), and had kid(s) for almost half of my 20s (daughter born when I was 26). So, the family situation ain't that much different between my 20s and 30s. Had a good enough time in college, I guess ... but I was plenty ready to get out. Always hated parties. Spent too much time and too much money on school. Too much spending, not enough earning. Priorities were out-of-whack. Common stupidity.
Now that I'm in my 30s ... I've been married over a decade, have three kids, make more than I spend, and am on my way to digging out of the hole I buried myself in during my 20s. By 40, I'll be done with that (or reasonably close). The wife and I are looking forward to that.
As children and teenagers we worry a lot about what is or isn't cool. In you 20's you are not far removed from that way of thinking; many still focus solely on being cool in their 20's. It is difficult to spend over a decade thinking a certain way and then change all of a sudden. You have new independence and you think everything is going to work out.
By the time you get to your 30's you have more experience. You also are further removed from worrying about what is cool and have moved on to living in the real world. You acknowledge that you have flaws, your spouse has flaws and your friends have flaws but it's okay because you are also more accepting of those flaws. Basically you have stopped worrying about cool and now see things in a more realistic light; it is what it is and you live with it.
I've never really spent a lot of time focusing on being cool at all. I suppose this is to do with the fact I knew I was uncool anyway. I'm 22 and the idea of being cool or trendy has never crossed my mind. Or perhaps it has and I've just not been thinking it in terms of cool or uncool, heh.
You hit the nail on the head Art. School of hard knocks is tough but if I had to do it over again I would't change any decisions.
No payments? There's always payments of one sort or another.
This is tough, 30's because of all the lessons learned in my 20's. However if i could have all of the energy from my 20's with the decision making from the 30's this would be awesome......I WOULD BE UNSTOPPABLE!!!
30's for sure, you know what really is important in life, you have more patience, and you have a larger picture view of things. and you make more money.