Where was the class on how to be an adult?
I’m 27 years old and on the surface, it looks as though I have it somewhat together. I have a job that I like, I get to pursue my passion of writing, I have great friends, family, and a great boyfriend. But let’s be real here. I’ve literally gone through the motions of adulthood each year since graduating college without really figuring it out. I think I’m faking adulthood.
There are ways in which, I feel like, yeah, I’ve got this adult thing down! I’ve gotten more responsible as the years have passed. I have a good paying job, I wake up early in the morning and get ready for said job. I don’t party it up unless it’s a weekend and even that is sporadic. I can (usually) pay my bills on time. So on some level, I know I have grown up and become an adult. But here’s the thing: it’s not that simple and there’s still a lot of things I don’t know that I should.
When I look at myself in the mirror and see the person looking back at me, I see a woman who looks older, but doesn’t necessarily feel older. Even though I know it’s me, I feel like an impostor. I still feel like the girl in her early twenties, just trying to figure it all out. Not the girl in her mid-to-late twenties who’s supposed to have it figured out.
I know I’m not alone in this. My friends and I constantly complain and talk about the fact that we don’t feel like we’re adults. It’s like we woke up one morning and, BAM, adulthood. But we’re all faking it, and if you’re one of the ones who aren’t, please teach me your ways! Because I keep waiting to feel like the adult I am. I keep waiting to come into my own, fully, and not feel like I’m faking it.
But it’s not just about not feeling like an adult, sometimes I feel I’m actually oblivious to the things I should know about as an adult, like insurance, and taxes, and how to buy a car. Not to discredit calculus, but seriously, where was my class on how to adult? I feel I was ill equipped to successfully be an adult, because I was never taught the basics. So, let’s take a look at the reasons why we all would have benefitted from a class on how to adult.
- Buying a car
When I was buying my first (expensive) car, I didn’t know exactly how to go about it. I had bought cars before, but they were under $2000 and I was able to pay for them out of pocket. Now that I was ready to buy a car that would last, I had a lot to learn. Apparently, many people agree that you should never buy a brand new car, because the value decreases so much just after signing your life away to it. If you didn’t know that, think heavily on whether or not you really need a brand new car. My car was bought at a Toyota dealership and was only 2 years old with very few miles on it. I felt it was a smart decision. But now what?
In order to get that car, I would need to have a pretty good credit score (we’ll get to that lovely concept later), get accepted for a loan, and then decide on a monthly payment that was doable for my budget. That all seemed fairly easy, but then there was all this talk about 5 year loans vs. 7 year loans and interest rates, etc. I went with the 7 year option because it made my monthly payments cheaper, but I have regretted that decision ever since. I feel like I’m married to my car and will be paying it off forever. Although I know that is not the case, I wish I would have better understood the interest rates and loans before diving into the equally unknown concept of buying a car.
- Buying a home
I am not a homeowner, but was very close to becoming one a little less than a year ago. Going through the process, was very foreign to me. Just like with the car, there was a lot of financial talk that I did not understand, but there was also much more. I had to consider things like air conditioning, heat, the foundation of the house, etc. So not only did I have to know about how to buy a house, I also had to know about houses.
I actually got to the final processes with one house, which came with a lot of other foreign concepts. There would be home inspections and closing costs and other payments required before I even finished the paperwork with the house. It ended up costing me too much and I had an overall uneasy feeling about buying the house (or any house for that matter), because all in all, I was not ready for such a huge step. Now, I feel like I know much more about what it takes to buy a house, but at the same time, it would have been nice to know more going into the process and not learning along the way.
- Credit scores
Credit scores dictate so much of your life. If you don’t have a credit card to ensure that you would also not have debt later in life, your credit score might not be so good, which seems kind of unfair. Here’s the thing, your credit score will be the one major factor that lenders will look at when deciding whether or not to give you a loan for a car or a house. It will also be what apartment complexes look at when deciding whether or not to allow you to rent from them. If your credit score is bad, you’ll have to have a co-signer, but what do you do if you have no one to co-sign for you?
Did you know that your credit score primarily looks at your credit cards and established credit in that way, but it also looks at whether or not you paid your electric bill on time or your cable bill, etc. So if you want to improve your credit score, put a bill in your name and maybe think about opening a credit card and only spending what you can pay off within a month. Again, this is something I had to learn along the way, but it would have been nice if my economics class taught me a little more about this.
- Retirement plans
I know that retirement plans are important. That much, I understand. I even understand that the sooner you start with a plan and regularly contribute to it, all the better. What I don’t fully understand is “matching” and what percentage of my check should I put into my retirement plan. And what happens when I switch jobs? What do I do with my retirement fund through my previous employer?
This is something I definitely go through the motions with. I have a retirement plan, but I have no earthly idea if I’m going about it in the right way. Of all of the things on this list, this one would have been the most beneficial to know about earlier in life because it effects how I live later in life. Excuse me, but I don’t want to be working until I die. One day, retirement would be nice, and I would like to have the money to sustain my healthy living habits when I’m older. Understanding a retirement plan is incredibly important and it seems to have only been brushed over.
- Insurance (health insurance, car insurance, renter’s insurance, etc.)
When I have work meetings that cover benefits such as health insurance, all I hear is the teacher on Charlie Brown. I’m present, but I have no idea what’s going on. Can someone for the love of god please just be honest with me and tell me what a good plan is and not just sell me one. I hear these terms tossed around like “high deductible” and I’m just supposed to know what they mean. What exactly is a high deductible? I can figure out the basics, but I really would love it if someone could explain this to me in laymen’s terms.
It doesn’t help that these meetings regarding insurance benefits take place with the rest of the employees at a company. If I asked questions (or too many questions), as the younger employee, I would look inferior. Plus, everyone hates these meetings anyways. I don’t want to be the person making it last longer, but I do need to understand how it works.
Beyond health insurance, what about car insurance? How many different types of insurance do I need? How can I differentiate between what’s too much coverage and what’s not enough? Anyone?!?!
Oh death and taxes. The only real certainty in life. As I’ve gotten older, I’ve started to understand this more. I know a portion of my check is going to taxes. I even know that I have to pay federal and state taxes. What I don’t understand is how to correctly fill out my W2 so I don’t screw myself come tax season. I also need to know how to correctly file my taxes.
Most of my friends go to someone to get their taxes done. Some go online and do them. But then there are a few people who do them all on their own and that is such a mind-boggling concept to me, I look at those people as citizen gods! Taxes are important. We should better understand where that money goes, why it goes away, and how to make the best out of tax season. I don’t know about you, but I almost always have to pay and that just doesn’t seem right or fair.
I’m sure there are other things I’m missing that would have been beneficial to better understand instead of going through the motions. If I’m going through my adulthood like it’s all trial and error, where is the value? I feel like it’s more error than not. Like I said, it would have been nice to be better prepared for this adulthood thing. Especially when so much of it is actually important. I understand that I might not feel as old as I am, but I’m hoping that will eventually solve itself. What I’m actually bummed about, is the fact that I still have to ask my parents about so many life “things,” because I don’t understand them as well as I should.