Many people look at today’s young adults, and they notice some disturbing trends: they don’t know how to adult. Scratch that — WE don’t know how to adult. I have to say “we” because I am included; I am a millennial who is having a hard time with the adult thing.
While some of the adult troubles are economy based (hello stagnant wages and skyrocketing cost-of-living), there are many adult skills we were simply not taught and instilled with when we were growing up. Understanding money, taxes, insurance, car emergencies, and general accountability for different responsibilities are just some of the things that many young adults are struggling with to varying degrees.
As a parent, you are responsible for preparing your children for their futures. Teaching them to be able to navigate some of the more complex aspects of adulthood should be of utmost importance so they can be successful in their everyday adult lives.
Knowing how to handle money is arguably the most important thing you can teach your children. There are so many aspects to understand surrounding the complexities of money that need to be addressed in different ways. By starting the learning process at a young age, you can absolutely teach your children how money works and the value of saving.
Start out by making them earn their money; while it is often argued that allowance shouldn’t be given to kids for doing chores — as it should just be seen as a family duty — it is a great way to show your children that you earn money by working. To compromise, you could have set chores that are weekly and are just a house responsibility, and also have “extra” optional chores that your kids can choose to do to earn money. Maybe their daily or weekly chore is taking out the trash and cleaning their rooms, but extra chores that can earn them money are weeding the garden or folding the laundry. As they get a little older, you can teach them ways to earn money outside of the house, like running a lemonade stand or offering to mow neighbors yards. Also, as your kids become teens, encourage them to get part-time jobs to pay for their own fun and activities.
Knowing the value of earning and saving money is one thing, but understanding the proper use of a credit card is another. If you’ve ever heard your kid say “just put in on your credit card” to you when responding to “I don’t have enough money to buy that,” you know it’s time to teach your kids about managing credit cards. Teaching them that credit cards are not “free money” and that cards should only be used when you already have saved the money to buy something is hopefully going to prevent serious credit card debt in their future.
Insurance and Taxes
While not exactly related to each other, insurance and taxes are equally complicated and both things that many young adults agree they wish they had learned about in school. But since the average public school doesn’t teach about these important life needs, it’s up to you as the parent to make sure you kids get a basic understanding.
While difficult to explain without the full context of having to pay their own taxes, there are things you can teach your kids about taxes to get them started. Why people pay taxes, what withholding is, and the importance of accurate records are just a few of the fundamentals you can go over. You might even consider involving your kids when you file your own taxes; have them help you match up numbers and go through receipts, all under your watchful eye. Not only will this give them some context, but it will make you pay closer attention to your tax filing, possibly catching some of your own mistakes.
A similar idea can be applied to teaching the general aspects of insurances. Information like what insurances do they need to be aware — like health insurance, car insurance, renters insurance, etc — and how they can compare the pros and cons of different plans and companies. This is another instance where letting them observe while you fill out your yearly health insurance enrollment would be beneficial to their understanding.
For as tech savvy as the millennial generation is, car mechanics is not a skill many possess these days. This can leave — and has left — many stranded with flat tires or dead batteries, not knowing how to handle it. So for your new teen drivers, it’s important that you teach them some emergency car maintenance basics, like how to change a tire and jump a car.
If you’ve instilled a sense of adventure in your kids as they’ve been growing up with road trips, camping, and skiing, they are bound to want to continue those activities into their adulthood. It’s vital for you to emphasise the need for multiple sets of tires. Finding themselves in different terrains without the right tires is going to get them stuck or sliding into danger. Even if your kids aren’t the outdoorsy type, having a set of snow tires is going to make a world of difference in the winter when they are licensed drivers (she learned, after a week stranded in her house during the great Idaho Snowpocalypse of 2017).
If you’ve ever yelled at your kids about leaving every light in the house on, or leaving the TV on even though they’re not watching it, you know conserving energy is on your mind but probably not theirs. But it needs to be on everyone’s mind. Help your kids understand the importance of saving energy. Let them know that energy costs money, and when electricity is left running, or hot water is used too often, it raises the bill. Also impress on them that wasting energy is bad for the environment and that they need to do their part to not be wasteful of this resource. Teaching them about energy conservation will not only saving money on your energy bill, it’s going to make them better world citizens as adults.
Being an adult is tough, but it can be made a little easier with life-long guidance and teachings from parents. My generation is having to learn most of these lessons the long and hard way, but you can make your children’s future lives a little easier by preparing them with this knowledge earlier on, and they’ll hopefully become functioning and responsible adults.
Mila Sanchez is a very involved aunt to 4 kiddos and writer living in beautiful Boise, ID. Her ambitions include traveling the world, studying languages, and taking pictures of her dog, Baymax. Connect with her on twitter and instagram!