Wouldn’t it be easier to have an instruction manual for adulthood? A book covering all the things parents should have taught their kids about personal finance, a career, happiness, and the main things that matter in life?
Sadly, no manual or playbook exists to help you make all these new adult decisions. But if it did, it would include these 25 things Your Parents Didn’t Tell You About Being an Adult that You Wished They Did.
14 Personal Finance Tips You Wish Your Parents Told You About Adulting
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When two-thirds of parents don’t discuss money with their kids, it’s not surprising that it becomes the main source of stress for 44 percent of people. From working, balancing money for your monthly expenses, paying off college loans, and saving money for your retirement, there are much personal finance matters to manage once you enter adulthood.
So while most people don’t keep track of all their finances, and a majority of Americans don’t know how much money they spent last month, you can start adulthood on the right foot with these 14 personal finance tips.
1. Actively Manage Your Finances by Making a Budget
When you were still living with your parents, did you ever think about how they managed to pay for the house, car, groceries, clothes, and everything else? You might have heard your parents discussing bills, but of course, it is different when you’re the one behind the wheel. Now that you are an adult, you’re facing the reality that you have to pay many bills – credit cards, utilities, cable subscriptions, and groceries.
That is why creating a budget is the first step in actively managing your finances. Tracking and monitoring your expenses allows you to see how you can afford both the essentials and things you value. For example, you can do things with no money on the weekends. Then you’ll have more money for a new car or a vacation with friends.
2. Save Some Money From Your Paycheck Every Month
If you don’t have a budget yet and don’t know how to get started, the 50/30/20 budget rule is a good starting point. This rule says that you should allocate your take-home pay using the following math: 50% for your needs, 30% for your wants, and 20% for your savings.
These numbers may not be possible for new graduates, but it’s a great goal to work towards. What is important is that you regularly save money from what you earn, even if that means starting with $5 a paycheck and working your way up.
3. Build an Emergency Fund To Cover Unforeseen Expenses
The very first thing you should do with your savings is building an emergency fund. Putting aside money for emergencies is critical because those unforeseen expenses will happen. For example, a flat tire, a large medical bill, or even losing your job are all things to plan for.
As a rule of thumb, an emergency fund should cover 3 to 6 months of living expenses so you’ll have a cushion until you find a new job. Of course, it will take time to reach this goal, but the important part is to get started.
4. Start To Save for Retirement
After you’ve built up your emergency fund, it’s time to start saving for retirement. When you first become an adult, retirement seems like a lifetime away. But a fundamental yet overlooked idea is that the sooner you start building your retirement accounts, the better. Your older self will thank you for saving for retirement as soon as possible.
While you are young, you often have lighter financial responsibilities before the days of mortgages and kids. While it might seem lame to save money for retirement instead of spending it, remember the earlier and more you save, the earlier you can stop working.
5. Invest and Let Your Money Build
Since many parents don’t talk about money matters with their kids, they don’t know that your money can work for you instead of you working for money once they become adults.
If you knew from the start that investing could help you reach your financial goals, you might make different moves with your hard-earned money. Investments can provide an additional income stream that can help your overall financial plans and help build your wealth gradually.
6. The Difference Between Good and Bad Debt
There are both good and bad debts, and understanding the difference will save you a lot of money and stress in the long run.
Mortgages and student loans are often considered good debt. However, credit cards, personal loans, and payday loans are bad debts. While it is almost impossible to live without credit cards, using them to fund a lifestyle you can’t afford is not a way to enter adulthood.
7. Paying Cash Can Help With Impulsive Purchases
If you’re having problems sticking to a budget and find yourself impulse shopping, paying cash can help. It’s pretty quick and easy to use a credit card, while the act of counting out your hard-earned money can bring more mindfulness to your spending and help create better money habits.
8. Pay Your Credit Cards in Full
You should pay the total credit card balance every month to prevent costly interest charges on your purchases. Plus, it will improve your credit score. When you don’t pay your credit cards in full, the interest will start building up, and it gets harder to pay it back at all.
It can be a large hole to dig yourself out of. If you find yourself with credit card debt, it’s important to pay off the outstanding debt as soon as possible so the compounding interest charges are minimized.
9. Leverage 0% Credit Card Offers To Get Out of Debt
If you have a strong credit score but find yourself with a credit card balance, you may be able to transfer the balance to a 0% credit card. If you qualify, you’ll have 3-12 months to pay off your debt with no interest charges. If you ever find yourself in this situation, leveraging a 0% credit card offer can help you get out of debt faster.
10. Credit Card Interest Rates Are Negotiable
If you don’t qualify for a 0% credit card transfer, you can negotiate for a lower interest rate. Did you know that you can call your creditors and just ask? If you have a good payment history and an acceptable credit score, creditors can lower your rate.
11. Late Payments Hurt Your Credit Score.
Late payments can knock points off your credit score, a figure that shows your creditworthiness. Your credit score is between 300-850, and the higher the score, the better. It’s determined by factors like total debt, repayment history, number of open accounts, and more.
Companies also use it to determine how likely you’re going to pay them back their loans. This number will be referenced every time you want to rent an apartment, apply for a mortgage, purchase a car, open a bank account, or apply for a credit card. So make on-time payments a priority.
12. Automate Your Payments Online
Your parents grew up and lived a part of their life in an era of traditional banking, so they may not have explained the benefits of online bill paying. It’s an easy way to pay your bills on time as it all happens without you once you’d set it up. However, be careful that you’re not spending more money than you have, as your bank will charge you costly overdraft fees if you dip below your balance.
13. Credit Cards Can Protect You
When you’re shopping online, credit cards offer better security features than debit cards. In addition, in a case of fraud, a credit card will provide better protection. If you shop online regularly with one site, like Amazon, think about opening a credit card that will give you points or a certain percentage of cashback when you shop.
14. Know the Terms of Your Credit Cards
If you don’t know the rules, how can you play the game? Suppose you’ve applied for a credit card for travel hacking to earn free flights or hotel stays. In that case, it is crucial to read the fine print to prevent fees and penalties and make sure you actually receive the large sign-up bonuses.
11 More Things You Wish Your Parents Told You About Adulthood
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While money matters are an essential part of adulthood, there’s so much more to life and finding your place in the world.
15. It’s Okay to Talk About Money
While it’s been taboo to talk about money in America for over 150 years, if you’re struggling with money matters, don’t hide it. Whether you speak with your parents, friends, or financial institutions, the sooner you work through the challenges, the faster you can make a plan to resolve them.
16. It Will Take Some Time To Find an Enjoyable Job
Your parents may provide suggestions for your college major and as well as your career. Odds are, they are coming from a place of love.
But what they might not tell you is that it will take time to find a job that you enjoy. And that it might mean trying out different roles and using a process of elimination. You may not learn that you like ( or dislike) something until you give it a try. Then, over time, you’ll know which direction you want to go in to land a job you enjoy.
17. Childhood Dreams May Change
During this process of elimination, you may discover that your childhood dreams have changed. Our parents and teachers ask kids what they want to be when they grow up. Whether you want to be a doctor, a lawyer, or a police officer, our childhood dreams provide some direction early in life.
As you grow up, things may change. Try asking your parents what their childhood dreams were and how they shaped their careers.
18. It’s Okay To Ask For Help
The last thing most young adults who are striving for independence want to do is ask for help. Our brains are wired to push us towards doing things on our own. But life is complicated. If you’re having a bad day, a tough time navigating work, or feeling down, it’s okay to ask your family, friends, and professionals for help.
19. Don’t Hide Your Feelings
If you grew up in a house where uncomfortable feelings weren’t welcomed, you might have formed a habit of hiding your feelings. Now that you’re an adult, you’ll need to work on your communication skills. The last thing you want to do at work is push feelings down so long that you blow up at a meeting and get fired.
20. Navigating the Workplace Is Complicated
While you’ve already navigated the complicated relationships that come with middle school, high school, and college, the dynamics of interpersonal relationships in the workplace take it to a whole other level.
You thought group projects in college were challenging? Unfortunately, the workplace is one long group project that never ends. If you find yourself struggling in this area, seek out a Career Coach who can help build your soft skills so that you’ll succeed no matter what role you’re in.
21. Take Calculated Risks While You’re Young
While protective parents may not preach about risks, it’s one of the best things you can do as a young adult. You’ll have less to lose. You learn something from it, gain experience and build confidence in your abilities and resilience.
22. There’s Learning in Mistakes
You might have been raised to avoid mistakes at all costs. But if you play it so safe that you never push yourself, you’re missing out on growth, experience, and learnings.
No one’s perfect. If you have a good relationship with your parents, ask them what they learned from some of their biggest mistakes to give you to courage to push yourself into some new areas as an adult.
23. Practice Gratitude
Since only half of Americans practice gratitude, odds are you didn’t learn this habit from your parents. However, at an age when you’re constantly comparing yourself to your friends and their accomplishments, gratitude is one key to happiness. According to Harvard Medical School, consistent gratitude can help you feel more positive emotions, enjoy your experiences, improve your health and build strong relationships.
24. You Can’t Control Everything in Life
Another route to happiness as an adult is letting go of the things you can’t control. If your parents didn’t model this behavior, it could be hard to make the switch as an adult. While you can do everything in your power to be a strong candidate for a job, or an apartment, at the end of the day, the decision on who gets pick is out of your hands.
25. Don’t Focus on What Others Say
At this age, what your friends think of you carries so much weight, but what others say is another thing you can’t control in life. To feel accepted and liked is something that everyone wants, but maturing into a new mindset is part of becoming an adult. You could apply author Brene Brown’s approach by training yourself to react with thoughts of “How Can I Improve?” instead of “What Will They Think?”
Lyle Solomon has considerable litigation experience as well as substantial hands-on knowledge and expertise in legal analysis and writing. He graduated from the University of the Pacific’s McGeorge School of Law and now serves as a principal attorney for the Oak View Law Group (https://www.ovlg.com/).