How the Typical American Spends Their Life, In One Fascinating Chart

The news: Well, this is fascinating. The folks over at Wait But Why put together this amazing chart demonstrating how the average U.S. citizen spends most of his or her life, separated by weeks, and the results are eye-opening. Americans spend a lot of time attending educational institutions and working on their careers, with just a little chunk left over for retirement.

Here's the chart, which includes specific notations for various milestones in a person's life. 


Whoah. Yeah, it's pretty cool. According to WaitButWhy's Tim Urban, the takeaway is that whether life is short or long, it's finite, and people should make the absolute best of it as they can. He suggests that people try to find a balance between enjoyable things that cost you later in life (like drinking and drug use, perhaps) and working towards future improvement in ways that aren't particularly fun right now (building a career, for example).

It's a little depressing to see life's limits charted out so aggressively, but it may offer some much needed perspective on how to manage your life while you still can. After all, you don't want to get three-quarters of the way down and find out you haven't done anything at all.

While most Americans stay at their current jobs for an average of 4.4 years, Millennials are rapidly changing that with increased workforce fluidity (or perhaps less solid opportunities). 

Seeing your life in one carefully assembled chart may feel a bit weird and make you think your just another part of The Matrix, but at the same time, knowing where you stand can be truly reassuring. Just don't worry too much if you're "on schedule," that's bound to make you go crazy. 

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Tom McKay

Tom is a staff writer at Mic, covering national politics, media, policing and the war on drugs. He is based in New York and can be reached at tmckay@mic.com.

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