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One thing that young adults often complain about is how unprepared they feel for tackling real-world responsibilities.
Since we don’t teach these skills in school, and many parents fail to include them as chores, many young adults never learn some of the basic skills needed in life.
Adulting 101 teaches young adults the basic life skills they need to lead successful lives.
These include basic financial skills, caring for your home, maintaining your health, and advancing your career.
When put together, you can thrive as you age, living the life of your dreams.
In this post, I share a step-by-step guide on Adulting 101.
By the end, you will know how to get your life in order and learn the basic skills you need to get you down the right path.
Table of Contents
The Ultimate Guide On Adulting 101
The Basics Of Adulting 101
Whether you know what you’re doing or you think you’ve only made it this far by the skin of your teeth, you deserve the opportunity to a meaningful adulthood.
Adulting 101 gets you there sooner rather than later, taking advantage of and growing the emotional and cultural intelligence you already have.
You may already understand the basics of navigating adulthood.
Still, there’s a difference between seeing other people do them and being able to apply them to your situation.
Furthermore, these are not timeless principles.
The soft skills you need as a young adult change constantly to fit various degrees of social awareness and technology advancement.
Let’s look at the main categories where you need to learn these skills.
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Your career is an important part of your life.
In addition to spending at least 8 hours there multiple days a week, you also spend time commuting, getting ready, and having interpersonal relationships.
Here is how to navigate your career as a young person to help you live a successful life.
Job vs. Career
Firstly, don’t put much pressure on yourself regarding your first job out of college.
Many people pivot from job to job and even industry to find out what they enjoy.
Just because you enjoy something at age 18 doesn’t mean you will enjoy it forever.
As a result, don’t make a lot of important life decisions immediately.
See if you enjoy the job first and then go from there.
If you don’t like it, now is the time to explore.
With very few obligations, like not having a mortgage payment or kids, you have more freedom in life than if you had kids.
Don’t think you need to stay in an industry because you went to college for a specific major.
The sooner you course correct, the better you will be.
Networking is a valuable tool you need to develop as soon as possible.
The more people you meet and build connections with, the easier life will be.
You never know when you need a new job, have a question about a specific topic, or simply need a favor.
Having more people in your circle is never a bad thing.
Attend networking events and meet people as much as you can.
Make it a point to invite those you have a connection with to lunch regularly if possible.
Otherwise, keep in touch through email or phone calls.
Many people overlook the importance of their resumes.
More and more employers are using software to screen applicants first.
So if your resume doesn’t include the required words and phrases, your chances of getting called in for an interview are slim.
An excellent option for college students is to visit your career center, as they will help you with crafting a good resume.
For those college students who have already graduated, you might still be able to reach out to your school’s career center for assistance.
In some cases, they might refer you to the alumni office instead.
A final option is to find a resume writer online.
Make sure you ask for references to ensure they are skilled at their service.
Did you know that less than 40% of people negotiated their last job offer?
Many people don’t think to negotiate, but you leave money on the table when you don’t.
In fact, 85% of people who negotiate successfully get a higher starting salary.
Here is what this looks like for a young person just out of college.
If you are offered a $35,000 starting salary and earn a 3% raise annually for 25 years, you make just over $71,000 a year.
Over your first 25 years of working, you make $1,276,074 in total earnings.
Let’s say you negotiated and start earning $40,000 instead and make 3% annual increases for 25 years.
You earn just over $81,000 a year and $1,458,371 over this period.
By taking a few minutes and negotiating your pay, you earn close to $200,000 more.
And you are only 46 years old!
If we take this scenario to age 65, the difference is close to $450,000.
If you save and invest this money, you will have over a million dollars more.
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The bottom line is that you must learn how to negotiate a higher starting salary.
Reconsider Grad School
You might think you should go to graduate school to further your career and income.
But this isn’t 100% true.
Before you spend tens of thousands of dollars, be sure the career you want requires this education.
You might be able to gain the skills you need at a local community college or with free online classes instead.
If you need to attend grad school, see if your employer will help pay for the costs.
While they might not be willing to pay 100%, chances are they will cover a portion, saving you money.
Finally, don’t think you need to jump right to graduate school after getting your undergrad degree.
Some people see this as a way to increase their starting salary.
But many employers don’t like to higher candidates with more education and little to no experience.
As lovely as it would be not to need to worry about money, this is the driving force behind a lot of decisions.
Learning how to manage your finances can make or break your financial situation.
The financial life skills you need to know include:
- Having the proper bank accounts
- Signing up for a credit card
- Learning to manage a budget and pay bills
- Repaying student loans
- Dealing with savings and taxes
- Using insurance to your advantage
Many young adults assume that all of this is intuitive, but learning to crack down on these skills is the baseline for adulting 101.
A solid financial foundation helps you build the rest of your life and is achievable, even with limited income.
All young adults should have a checking account and a savings account.
A checking account allows you a place to hold on to your money and pay bills quickly.
This account serves as the base for your finances and keeps your funds safe and secure.
A bank account makes paying bills a breeze, especially when you’re living on your own.
We recommend getting a checkbook for this account, even though you’ll use your debit card most often.
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Checkbooks give you easy access to your routing and account number, and it’s better to have it and not need it than the other way around.
A savings account is also valuable as it is a place to put your money for various savings goals.
I’ll dive into more detail about savings shortly.
A credit card is a touchy subject.
Many people will warn against the harm, but credit cards can help you move up in life.
They help you build credit, and some places also require them to hold a reservation.
Look for a card with a lower limit to start, and ensure you pay the balance in full monthly.
Ideally, you opt for a cash-back credit card to lower the cost of everything you buy.
Some practical advice is to use the card strictly for gas or a specific bill to keep it active and ensure you aren’t overspending.
Budgeting Basics For Young Adults
While much of leading your own life involves making decisions on the fly, you need a budget to keep you in line.
A budget helps you enjoy your life while also putting money aside for future expenses and savings goals.
A budget also helps prevent you from racking up debt.
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Understand first how much money you have coming in, either from your job or a monthly allowance.
Once you have this number, write all your monthly expenses.
These usually fall into categories like:
- Student loan payments
- Car payments
After you lay down the basics, you can start looking at extras.
You don’t have to do without things like Netflix, takeout, or buying new clothes, but it’s important to make room in your budget for these things, so you don’t end up in financial strife.
The most straightforward budget to get started with is the 50/30/20 rule.
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This budget has you allocate your money into three buckets and spend accordingly.
Repaying Student Loans
Ideally, the only debt you have to your name is your student loans.
Be thankful for this.
If you have high-interest credit card debt, it’s not the end of the world, but you need to reign in your spending and work to pay off your debt.
With student loans, pay them off as quickly as possible.
You might see your friends simply paying the minimum each month and enjoying life.
This lifestyle choice looks great at the moment.
But fast forward twenty-five years, they are still paying this debt and now have a family to support.
If you pay more on your debt now and pay it off, you have more money each month to save and invest or to help you raise your family.
Not having debt makes changing careers or having a spouse stay home much more manageable.
The same idea about paying off your credit cards is true too.
Use the snowball method to get out of debt.
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Working and having your money go to someone else is not fun.
Planning Ahead (Savings And Taxes)
Your budget should also leave enough room for you to save money consistently.
Aim to have a month’s savings to start, then move up to three months, six months, and then beyond.
This savings is an emergency fund in case you lose your job or run into an unexpected expense.
If you haven’t already, you need to know how to file taxes.
It’s best to with a certified accountant, at least when you start.
They serve as an excellent resource for:
- Navigating your annual taxes
- Taking advantage of all your deductions
- Preventing a nasty audit
Some run shops can also provide you with financial planning advice.
You can look for a financial advisor to help you invest money once your savings are established or learn to do it yourself.
Other accounts you should look into include retirement and health savings plans like IRAs, 401Ks, and HSAs.
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Your employer may offer these, but a financial advisor can help you determine what works best for your situation.
There are several types of insurance to take advantage of, including:
To start, you should have homeowner’s or renter’s insurance, regardless of your living arrangements.
This insurance coverage will protect you from certain liabilities, cover accidental damage to your living space, and protect the items you keep in your home.
Most states require automobile insurance, but your coverage needs vary depending on your state and vehicle.
Some people opt for the cheapest insurance to save money.
But if you get into a serious accident, the coverage amounts might not be enough to cover all your bills.
A good option is to get coverage for at least how much your net worth is.
Then update your coverage as your wealth grows.
Because car insurance can be more expensive, make sure you shop around.
Your pet is probably your world, and securing some sort of pet insurance makes a difference.
Many of these plans cover routine visits, but the real value is in making emergency decisions.
Pet insurance offers the security to seek costly treatment without worrying about your finances, and it can prevent you from making a difficult decision.
Life insurance is the last on this list, but it’s still important for long-term wealth.
While life insurance is tricky to navigate, understand that opening a life insurance policy when you’re younger is smart.
The younger you are when you take out a policy, the lower your premiums will be, saving you a lot of money.
Home Life Skills
Whether you rent, own your home or split domestic duties with your best friend, there are several home life skills every twenty-something should learn.
Doing laundry might sound complicated, but it is not.
For most articles of clothing, you need to separate whites from colors and wash using cold water.
That will cover 99% of your laundry needs.
For the rest, you need to learn to read the label, which is simple too.
Sometimes, you will need to wash a shirt separately or on a delicate cycle.
If you have a stain, treating it as early as possible will yield the bests results.
Spot treating with a stain remover immediately is good, and then wash it.
Most times, the stain will come out.
As for drying, I prefer to use a drying rack.
First, it saves money by not using electricity to run it.
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But also, a dryer wears out your clothing.
By line drying, you get more wear out of your clothing.
Cleaning is an integral part of adulthood.
It might seem overwhelming to clean your house or apartment, but it is much more manageable if you stay on top of it and break it down.
For starters, make your bed in the morning.
It’s a simple task that can set the tone for your day.
After that, make it a point to clean up after yourself.
Put your shoes away and throw dirty clothes in the basket, not the floor.
Put your dishes in the dishwasher after you eat.
Doing these things will make the process of cleaning and organizing easier and faster.
As for how to clean, you can choose the schedule that works best for you.
Every two weeks, you can clean your entire apartment.
Or you can choose to clean specific rooms one week and others the next, only to repeat the process the following week.
Home maintenance limits your need to repair items, which saves you money in the long run.
Keep up on:
- Appliance cleaning once a month
- Testing smoke detectors and CO2 alarms
- Changing filters
- Cleaning out your refrigerator
The more routine maintenance you do, the longer your things will last.
Meal Planning And Cooking
Groceries can be a significant part of your monthly budget if you don’t follow some basic tips.
First, try to cook at home as much as possible and treat dining out as a treat.
Avoiding eating out will save you a lot of money.
As for what and how to cook, check out YouTube.
Plenty of great videos teach you the basics of cooking and specific dishes.
When buying groceries, opt for store brands to lower costs.
Also, know the grocery store sales cycles so you can meal plan around what is on sale and know when an item is a good deal.
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DIY Repairs To Know
Understanding minor home repairs are essential life skills, regardless of whether you own your own home or rent an apartment.
Either way, learning how to do these things can save you money.
Most of these take less than an hour, so they don’t cut much into your free time.
Repairs to learn include:
- Unclogging a drain
- Plunging a toilet
- Fixing minor leaks
- Reigniting the pilot light
- Patching small holes
- Replacing or repairing your door or window screen
It’s a bad idea to attempt repairs on your roof or do major electrical repairs yourself.
The same goes for major plumbing issues, gas appliance repairs, or structural damage if you don’t know what you are doing.
For all other minor repairs, an online search can get you articles or forums with information on how to fix the issue.
Alternatively, you can search YouTube and watch videos for repairs as well.
Your car is an expensive asset you own, so you want to ensure you take care of it, so it lasts a long time.
Make sure you change the fluids on the suggested maintenance schedule and any air filters.
Try to wash your car monthly and wax it twice a year to keep it looking good too.
Not only will you feel good about driving a nice-looking car around, but it will get you a more significant amount when it comes time to sell or trade in.
Don’t hesitate to take your vehicle in with any issues, as this can prevent them from turning into something bigger and more expensive.
Your health involves two areas, medical attention, and proper maintenance.
To live your best life, you must learn how to handle both areas independently.
Adulting 101 means no one is calling the doctor or cooking for you anymore.
Make sure you keep up with regular visits to your doctor and your dentist.
These visits help you stay on top of any medical concerns you may have and pick up on any potential issues before they develop.
Just like with your car, it’s better to deal with any problems you have early on.
Even if you’re scared, early detection is something not everyone has.
Maintaining Your Body
You should ensure you’re taking care of your body to prevent issues.
A healthy lifestyle involves creating environments in which thrive and are inspired to:
- Eat healthy
- Make fit decisions
You don’t need to be a fitness guru or a nutritionist, but some effort is better than none.
Substitute meal planning for Chick Fil A and see what happens.
Living on frozen pizza is not all that great, and it’s better to learn early on how to take care of your nutritional needs than play catch up later on.
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Relationships aren’t just a part of adulting 101.
They are an essential part of your entire life.
Now that you are maturing as a person, it is time to improve your relationship skills, so you can better handle everything life throws at you.
Listening And Communication Skills
Part of soft skills, listening, and communication are keys to happiness and success.
Learn how to listen.
Instead of preparing something to say, truly listen to what the other person is saying.
Repeat back anything important in your own words to make sure you fully understand them after they finish speaking.
Part of listening is also being able to read body language.
You can become a great listener if you can learn the basics here.
As for communicating, you must learn to speak in a way to get to your point.
Also, while you might think using big words makes you look smarter, know that most people have a basic comprehension ability.
This basic ability isn’t to say they are not intelligent, but instead, we all understand things more when explained to us at a basic level.
Conflict resolution isn’t one of the life skills many young people think about when it comes to being an adult, but it’s important.
Learning how to resolve conflict productively and positively is key to having successful relationships with the people in your life.
One of the most important things to remember when resolving conflict is staying calm.
It can be challenging to do this, especially if you feel emotional about the situation.
But it’s important to remember that getting angry or defensive will only worsen the situation.
Try to see things from the other person’s perspective and understand their point of view.
Once you’ve done that, you can start to work on finding a solution that will work for both of you.
Making Connections With Other People
In today’s world, adulting 101 also includes learning how to connect with others on an emotional level.
With social media, we’ve lost the ability to communicate and connect with others.
Just look around the next time you are out.
Even two people sitting together for dinner will likely have them on their phones more than talking to each other.
Making connections is essential for building and maintaining healthy relationships and growing your career.
Making connections with other people doesn’t have to be difficult.
Start by listening to what the other person says and showing genuine interest in their lives.
Ask questions about their interests and hobbies.
Be patient and don’t try to force the relationship.
These things take time, but if you’re sincere in your efforts, you will eventually be able to build solid and lasting relationships with the people in your life.
Increase Emotional Intelligence
What is emotional intelligence?
It’s the ability to be aware of and understand your own emotions and the emotions of others.
It’s about being able to regulate your emotions, respond effectively to emotions in others, and create positive relationships.
Increasing your emotional intelligence can be challenging, but it’s worth the effort.
There are some things you can do to work on this skill.
First, try to become more self-aware.
Pay attention to your emotions and how they affect your thoughts and behavior.
Second, practice active listening.
Active listening means focusing on what the other person is saying and trying to understand their perspective.
Finally, try to be more understanding and compassionate.
These skills help you to recognize that everyone is going through their own struggles and challenges.
Showing empathy and compassion towards others will go a long way in making adulting a little bit easier.
There is no guarantee when it comes to a marriage lasting.
But there are certain things you can do to increase your chances of finding lasting love.
First, take your time.
Don’t rush into a relationship just because you feel like you need to be in one.
Get to know the person and make sure that they are someone you can see yourself with long-term.
Make sure you talk about the big issues in life and that you are on the same page.
Second, communication is critical.
Make sure you are communicating your needs and wants to your partner.
And be sure to listen to them as well.
Third, don’t be afraid to compromise.
In any relationship, there will be times when you’ll need to give and take.
If you can learn to do this effectively, it will go a long way in making your relationship stronger.
Additional Adulting 101 Things To Know
Many other tips for growing up and taking charge of your life don’t fit neatly into a specific category.
Below are the other things you need to consider as a young adult.
Clean Up Your Online Presence
Being raised with social media as part of your life, you might not think it’s a big deal to have pictures of you with your friends drinking at a high school graduation party.
But a future employer might think differently.
And you might not think flaunting your wealth online is an issue, but some people can use this information to rob you or steal your identity.
You don’t need to delete all of your accounts or stop posting on social media, but rather clean up your profiles.
Change the privacy settings on your accounts and untag yourself from some photos you don’t want people to be able to find you in.
For any accounts, you have online, update the passwords to make them difficult to guess.
A password manager is a great tool to make this task easy.
Be Nice To Others
While sometimes you want to tell someone off, you never know what will happen in the future.
As a result, you are better off not burning any bridges.
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For example, maybe your roommate and you have a falling out.
It could be easy to talk bad about them or move out unannounced and leave them to pay the rent.
But fast forward eight years, and your potential boss is your former roommate’s mother.
You are better off treating everything with kindness and respect than you are with doing the opposite.
When you first graduate, you think the world is yours and life is a rocket ship ride.
You will immediately get a six-figure job, marry the perfect person for you, and have two children.
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But life doesn’t work out this way.
Learn to be patient and enjoy life as you figure things out.
It will all work out. You need to give it time.
The best way to do this is to use humor.
Enjoy the season of life you are in and look forward to even better days to come.
Control Lifestyle Inflation
It can be easy to want the best things money can buy now that you are making decent money for the first time in your life.
But the more you can put off buying things, the better off you will be.
First, you can save and invest the money instead.
Having money opens up doors in life to new opportunities.
Second, when you are happy living with less stuff, you don’t need to earn as much from your career.
Not needing a specific salary means you have a lot more job opportunities available to you to choose from.
It could even mean becoming financially independent and living on your terms sooner than you thought possible.
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Adulting 101 goes beyond getting your bachelor’s degree and figuring out what you want to do with your life.
It includes other life skills that are essential for enjoying life.
The sooner you learn these skills and make them a part of your everyday life, the more happiness and overall success you will experience.
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I have over 15 years experience in the financial services industry and 20 years investing in the stock market. I have both my undergrad and graduate degrees in Finance, and am FINRA Series 65 licensed and have a Certificate in Financial Planning.
Visit my About Me page to learn more about me and why I am your trusted personal finance expert.