I’ve been a legal adult for almost five years now, but I’ve only really felt like an adult for about two years. I define an adult as someone who can truly take care of themselves, and own the responsibility for themselves and their actions. It can be pretty hard to make the transition because it feels like one day you don’t have a job and your parents handle all the important stuff, and the next day you’re dealing with four different insurance companies, your rent, the dentist, and your retirement plans (yay).
My friend Rachal writes a great blog (link here!), that details more of the trials and tribulations of being an adult, but today all I want to cover are the less glamorous aspects of adulting and where to start on handling them.
- Getting a job. I’ve written a whole post on getting jobs here, but basically being financially stable is going to be the crux of your adult life for a while. Having some sort of steady income to work with will be the first step in striking out on your own. Money can’t buy happiness but it CAN make you feel secure when moving away from your parent’s jurisdiction.
- Shelter. Assuming you don’t want to live under your parent’s roof anymore, the second step is, of course, finding someplace of your own. Most young adults I know opt for some sort of apartment or shared living situation. There can be a lot of things to consider here. First is rent, then you might have to get renter’s insurance. Then there are also all your utilities which may or may not be included (think water, gas, electric, sewage & trash bills), and your internet bill because of course none of us operate without wifi anymore. Luckily, if you choose apartment living, the apartment recommends companies for all of these, and if you opt for shared living, you have someone to help you research!
- The insurances. Hopefully, your job offers you some sort of health insurance package (see if it includes dental, vision, and mental), otherwise, you can probably stay on your parent’s plan until you’re 26 so don’t worry too much about that now. On the other hand, if you’ve got a car, you’ve got a car insurance payment. One trick you could use, is to buy your car under your parent’s name and pay your portion of the insurance to keep costs low. But if you’re on your own, just know that your premium will be a lot higher.
- The little things. All those little things your parents do that you take for granted? Yeah, now you’re responsible for those. You’re the one that is gonna buy your groceries, cook your food, clean your place, book your travel, schedule doctor’s appointments, take your car for oil changes, and stay on hold with the internet people when they are clearly overcharging you. I don’t know about you guys, but most of those I took completely for granted before moving out and becoming financially independent, but hey, if you’ve got these down, then you are in PRIME adulting condition.
- Retirement. I know, I know, you just started, how can you possibly think about retiring? Well, you MUST. I don’t want to preach at you but if you start saving now, even as little as 1% of your income, you will be much better off in the long run. And while you’re at it, make sure you get a Roth IRA plan. I prefer this one to other 401k plans because you will be taxed on the income you allocate to it today, which means when you withdraw it for retirement, you won’t be taxed on it! Pay now, relax later. That’s the idea.
- Emergencies. Unfortunately, the saying is true, shit does happen. And it WILL happen to you. When you are on your own, you will have to handle it. Someone will rear end you, or you will break your arm, or your debit card will get stolen, or an airline will lose all your luggage, or you’ll get stuck in a storm. Something terrible and unplanned will happen and it is important that you learn how to manage a crisis. Obviously, there are different ways to approach each one of the situations I described but the best advice I can offer is to KEEP CALM. This one is SO tough for me too, but crying, yelling, or freaking out in any way, will not help you. Breathe and promise yourself you can vent later, but now you gotta get it together (ProTip: always make sure you have a file containing your passwords for your important accounts, and identity information. Just create one, keep it someplace easily accessible, and you’ll thank me later)
Even though I just talked about all the things that kind of suck about being an adult, I do want to mention that being an adult is WAY better than being a kid. There were obviously some perks to the whole ignorance is bliss thing, but something I’ve learned since moving out and being financially independent is the sense of accomplishment I get from completing the mundane tasks I described above and from being completely responsible for myself…despite all the stress and hard work it takes. Maybe someday this feeling will go away because I’ll be too used to it, but for now, being an adult is actually pretty freaking great.