To all my teenage and younger followers...
Let me tell you some life lessons I have learned in my 24 years on this Earth.
1. Read the fine print. In every lease agreement, credit card application, and bill. Never take the information in large print as truth. The world is a place full of capitalist greed and people will try to swindle you for every dime you have.
2. A credit card very rarely makes things better. While suddenly having a couple thousand dollars to spend might sound amazing, keep in mind the fact that you’re going to have to pay that back and then some. Never get a card with an annual fee if you can avoid it- because even if you don’t use it, it’ll still cost you.
3. Set up automatic payments. You will forget payments, and that can cost you (literally) a great deal. Set up automatic online payments with reminders so that you know it’s coming up, but don’t have to worry about it.
4. In-Store credit cards are almost always terrible. Sears, Home Depot, Victoria’s Secret- all of them. They are usually packaged with fun deals like “get $50 off this purchase if you’re pre-approved!”. They fail to mention the 25% interest rate, annual fees, and the fact that it can only be used in that store.
5. Keep your receipts. Seriously! Just keep a folder in your car and one in your house and drop every receipt you get in them. At the end of the month dump them out and go through them. You’ll be amazed at what your spending looks like when it’s splayed out in front of you. It makes budgeting much easier when you see real numbers. These can also come in handy around tax time- you would be surprised at the things you can write off in certain situations.
6. Learn about income tax. Visit the IRS website and educate yourself! It sounds boring (and it freakin’ is) but in no way does high school prepare you for or teach you about taxes well enough to hold your own in the real world.
7. Claim as little as possible on your W4. When you start a new job, they always give you a W4 to fill out for tax information. On line 5 of the form, it’ll ask how many allowances you want to claim. Now, claiming yourself may seem like a good idea because you get to keep more money on your paycheck- but it can also come back to bite you at the end of the year. You may even end up paying in! On that same note, make sure your employer files your tax information correctly. I once ended up paying in $8,000 in taxes because my employer never had the IRS take taxes out of my checks! Whoops!
8. Start a savings fund. No matter how small it is! Even if you just put away $2 a week- it will eventually add up. If you can, start a savings account that will earn you interest.
9. Save your paystubs! If you plan to buy a car or rent an apartment, they’re going to want to see them.
10. Write down the start and end dates of every job you have. Making a resume and filling out job applications will be much easier with this information.
11. Make a good resume and keep printed copies as well as a digital copy at all times. There are many excellent resume writing resources online that can help you (heck, I can help you- I used to work in HR!) buff up your resume. You never know when you might meet someone who can present you with an opportunity!
12. Never be afraid to ask for a raise or promotion. If you are performing well and meeting or exceeding expectations- ask your supervisor for a raise or change of position that will pay more. If you are aiming for a promotion, stroke the company’s ego, say something like “I would like the opportunity to prove my worth to the company and further my career with ( ).”
13. Debt collectors do not give up. They are a lot like the Terminator. If you block their numbers or ignore their calls, they’ll find your family members or show up at your house. This is no joke. I have had hospital bill collectors call roommates, my parents, and even my dad once. They are relentless and they do not care about your current situation or financial stability. They follow a script and expect you to pay up. It’s hard not to panic when you get that first collections call- you definitely don’t feel in control of the situation. But remember, debt collectors are actually bound by many restrictions- they are barred from:
-Using abusive or obscene language. -Harassing you with repeated calls.-Calling before 8 a.m. or after 9 p.m. unless you agree. -Calling you at work if you have asked them to stop. -Talking to anyone but you or your attorney about the debt. -Misrepresenting the amount of your debt. -Falsely claiming to be an attorney or a law enforcement official. -Falsely claiming to be a credit bureau representative. -Threatening to sue unless they actually plan to take legal action. -Threatening to garnish wages or seize property unless they actually intend to do it.
Always ask for written information on the debt- tell them to send you a paper statement of the debt so that you can look it over and decide what to do. Offer to make payments that are within your financial means- if they try to bully you into making larger ones, tell them you are well aware that they’ve looked into your finances and should know what you are able to afford.
14. Get renters insurance. Better to have it and not need it than to need it and not have it!
15. Take inventory of the things you own. If you own electronics, guns, or other expensive items, write down the serial numbers and take pictures of them in your house. That way, if there’s a break in, fire, or flash flood, you have documentation and data to provide to your insurance company.
I’ll add more as I think of them, but here’s a start. It’ll be tagged under “successfully adulting”.
EDIT: Here’s a link to the google drive document version of this. It will be updated periodically! https://docs.google.com/document/d/1Q_YnP3euuJcfjpQY7wuE1JmB_5e60ebZFsfW5f0MtGM/edit?usp=sharing
This document also includes a resources section with links to help you get started in many areas of adult life!