10 Things I Wish I Learned Before I Became a ‘Real’ Adult

forms and girl cooking animated
1. Taxes - what are they, how do I do them 

My first year as an independent (i.e, my parents not claiming me on their taxes),  I was left to do them myself.  TurboTax? H&R Block?  Paying for someone else to do them for me? What even are taxes and how do I do them? Taxes are a mandatory contribution collected by the government; everyone has to pay them every year. Thankfully, there are numerous resources online that can tell you how to do them. Just make sure you keep track of which forms you need to log. Additionally, unless you absolutely desperately need help with them, you don’t need to pay to have them complete. You can find free websites to complete them online (IRS, FreetaxUSA, etc).

2. How to change a tire

While we're at it, let's add in how to change the oil in a car. For most, we spend a good amount of time in vehicles. Knowing how to change a tire should be a skill that all drivers have.  Have you ever got a flat tire and been saved by AAA? I know I've been thankful enough to have roadside service, but I wish I could save time and money by changing my own tires. Imagine not having service to call for someone to help. What do you do then? Or if you break down on the side of the road in the middle of the night or in a low-traffic area. You’ll want to have these essential skills!

3. Basic sewing skills

 I can't count the number of times that I lost a button on a t-shirt or found that *one* piece at the thrift store that almost fits perfectly. Being able to adjust your clothing to fit your body can make clothing more comfortable, and saves money on alterations. Now I'm not saying learn how to completely alter all your outfits, but figuring out how to patch a hole, add a button, or hem some pants a little bit shorter, is so helpful.

4. Budgeting

How do I know how many hours I need to work to afford rent? And not just rent, all my bills (phone, car insurance, health insurance, Wi-Fi, other apartment bills),  plus gas and food every month.  Getting a job only provides the support of income, but how do you know how much you really get to spend out of that? Budgeting can be a good way to understand where your money's going, and provide a basis for when you want to start saving. Juggling multiple bills and possible loan/school/car payments can be scary when you don't have a game plan. Have you heard of the - The 50-20-30 rule? It states that you should divide your paycheck like this: “50% for the essentials (Rent and other housing costs, groceries, gas, etc.), 20% for savings , 30% for everything else.” Do you think that is actually doable in today's state of wages and living? I know a lot of others, including myself, are spending about half on rent alone. 50% is only including rent, none of the other housing costs, groceries, or gas. Which means the 20% for savings typically also includes “essentials.”

5. Cooking basics

Once you move out, it’s on you to do the grocery shopping, cook dinner and then eat. But what should you make and how do you know if your grocery list covered everything for the appropriate amount of meals? Cooking basics should definitely include oven/stove safety, and safe food handling (how to safely cool down hot meals so they don’t go bad, how to know when food DOES go bad, etc). Additionally, cooking basics should cover: how to properly chop vegetables, getting comfortable using spices, how to cook a variety of eggs, oven/stove safety, and how to check if your food is fully cooked.

6. The Stock Market

Well, according to the Corporate Finance Institute, the stock market refers “to public markets that exist for issuing, buying, and selling stocks that trade on a stock exchange or over-the-counter.” This can be ever confusing, but I recommend reading a few articles to get informed before diving into exchanges or investments.

7. Retirement Plans

Let’s face it; our newer generation might not be retiring anytime soon, but that does not mean we can’t plan for it!  Regardless of your job, there are ways to set aside part of your monthly income to be put into a retirement plan. If you are asking yourself: When should I start? The answer is now! Even though you’re a half a dozen decades away from retiring, that is the perfect time to start. Review what plans might be available to you; does your work match your input to a 401k?  These are important aspects that might help get you a cushion for when retirement time actually comes.

8. Making Appointments (drs, dentist, etc)

Did anyone not realize how many appointments come up in our daily life? I was so used to being told ‘dentist on Wednesday’ or ‘you have an eye appointment next week’ by my mom for years. Once I was off her insurance and on my own, it was time to make sure I stay on top of those. Thankfully, you only need to get your eyes checked once a year, which is usually the same for your primary care physician (unless you have other extenuating health concerns that require more frequent visits).

9. Socialization

I had no idea how difficult it would be to make friends as an adult. When we are younger, we tend to rely on our parents to take us out and about, help set up playdates, encourage us to make friends at school etc. Once you hit high school, you probably have been doing some of this socialization on your own. But once you’re really an adult, and no longer have those social situations (classes, sports, extra circulars) to help continue to bring people around you, it gets that much harder to make friends. Thankfully there are ways to do so (Bumble, MeetUp, book clubs, other social events like concerts, etc).

10. Gardening
Okay, this might not be on EVERYONE’s list, but it certainly is on my. When I moved into my first ‘real’ apartment, I finally had space to grow my own fruits and vegetables! But where do I start? Well, I learned that certain plants are winter ONLY, and should not be planted in the summer. Corn is harder to grow than you might think. And you will get bugs. They are a natural part of the process. Learning to self sustain through gardening is a lifelong skill that can be taken with you anywhere you go.

Written by: Emily Schwerdtfeger

Written by: @emily_schwerdt


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