Have you ever encountered something brand new, unfamiliar, yet absolutely necessary in your adult life that you weren’t prepared for in your grueling years of standard education? I’m quite certain 99% of people can say, “Yes!”, right about now.
The funny part about life is that everything you don’t learn in school is usually pretty high on the “what’s important in life” scale. These things are part of normal, everyday adulthood and parenthood. The standard education most children and teenagers receive doesn’t cover a lot of what a young adult experiences as they live and grow through their twenties. The problem behind this is a person can get themselves into a lot of trouble, usually in the form of debt. I’m one of those people that had to learn from (too many) mistakes because I didn’t have the guidance I needed early on. I ended up digging myself out of debt in my late twenties.
Some examples of what standardized education doesn’t teach you include:
Home Ownership and Maintenance
The list goes on, but those are some heavy hitters in the game of life. So, unless you’ve taken specific classes, courses, or attended a technical high school with automotive, plumbing, and electrical programs, some of these topics are lessons you’ll learn the hard way.
I never understood taxes as a young adult. I chalked it up to being a necessary evil that had to coexist with your income. This isn’t far from the truth, but there’s a lot more to taxes than I thought. I also thought only major tax preparation businesses like H&R Block were capable of filing your taxes correctly. I was also under the impression that if you filed wrong the government would come and take the food out of your mouth, the shirt off your back, and take your breath away too. I was wrong about both of those. You can find someone who will do your taxes for far less than you’d pay at a major business. And if you’re really ambitious, you can learn to file for yourself.
Another thing to learn, whether you file your taxes or not, are write-offs. Tax write-offs are all the deductions you can subtract from the amount of taxes you owe. This is how businesses get away with paying little to no tax on their income. Individuals can do the same thing to an extent. You can claim your personal cell phone if you use it for work purposes, you can claim the cost for business attire if you buy suits for work, the dry cleaning you pay for to clean those suits that you wear for work, the miles on your car you drive if you use it for work (not including commuting from home to work and work to home), if you’ve purchased a computer or tablet for school purposes, if you’ve spent money on books for school, and even daycare so you’re children are cared for while you go to work.
For more information, explore this article from Turbo Tax.
I’m not tax professional, nor am I a certified financial planner, but I’ve learned a few things in my time. Paying yourself first is one of the most important habits to form when it comes to money management. I used to never pay myself. I used to take my money and put it all towards the bills I had (granted I had them due to financial irresponsibility in my early twenties). But because of my struggles, I learned the basics of budgeting and learned to stick with it.
The basics I’ve learned that have helped me the most are actually quite simple. Take all your monthly bills and add them up. This is called expenses. Now, take all the money your earn in a month and compare it to your expenses. If your expenses is greater than your income, you can decrease your expenses, increase your income, or both. That’s it.
The choice on what to do it up to you. Some people will decrease their expenses while others will get a second job. Sometimes it’s just a temporary change, like getting a second job to pay off a credit card. Some people will change their spending to be aggressive towards paying off debt, so they live check to check for that purpose (that was me). It’s extremely rewarding when you pay off a loan after months of putting all your extra money towards the principle.
I learned a lot from this book called The Wall Street Journal: Personal Finance Workbook.
Home Ownership and Maintenance
Homes are expensive, restoration and renovations help appreciate their value, and you are responsible for everything. End of story.
Actually, that is the truth. But it’s not so bad. The hard part is when you don’t know how to do anything yourself and you have to outsource the job. This is typical for many people. I don’t know anything about electrical work and I’m not about to fry myself trying to learn. So I’d hire an electrician if I had to. As for painting, I’m not bad at it, so I take on those projects and paint a bedroom myself. I can do most yard work myself, so hiring a landscaper will only come down to projects that require equipment I don’t have and don’t want to invest in, like an excavator.
Choosing a home is half the battle here, because if you choose a good home, there’s less work to be done. Choosing an older home that needs some “TLC” as the realtor put it, could cost you a home equity loan later on down the road. Take your time and don’t settle for anything unless you feel absolutely certain about it.
Now, here’s a fun fact I’ve learned from owning a home with my wife: Taking on projects yourself, like maintaining your own lawn, means you need equipment and than maintenance on that equipment. I say this because of my recent experience with my lawn mower. I almost forgot that a lawn mower is an engine powered tool, and engines require oil, oil filters, spark plugs, and spark plug wire(s). It’s a very simple design for a mechanic, but someone who works in IT and healthcare, motors were never something I learned in school. Luckily, there’s the wonderful YouTube where you can learn almost anything you want at the touch of your smartphone screen. I learned a lawn mower benefits from a synthetic oil that performs better at higher temperatures. This forces me to learn about motor oil. End results: get fully synthetic 5W-50 oil for your lawn mower. Next weekend I’m changing the oil filter, oil, and spark plug before I cut the grass.
I’ll tell you how it goes in a blog post. In the mean time, learn about motor oil here.
My mini lawn mower story was a great segue to automotive maintenance. Most of us bring our car to a mechanic shop or dealership to get oil changes, tune ups, and repairs done. I didn’t go to a technical high school or complete any automotive technician programs, so I don’t dive too deep into the mechanics world. Also, what I have learned was for Honda Civics from the 1990’s, which don’t necessarily apply to today’s vehicles.
Nevertheless, your vehicle needs to be cared for and if you don’t care for it, you’ll be back to those two things at the end of your legs that people used to use for traveling. Anything from a headlight to a transmission takes some level of mechanical knowledge. The only thing worse than not taking care of your vehicle, is attempting to fix something and causing more damage in the end.
If you’re inclined to do so, take a course on basic auto repair. If that’s not in the budget or schedule, use the internet and research a lot before diving in under the hood. And if all else fails, just save up some money and bring the car into an expert who knows what to do.
There’s not much to say about child care except it costs as much as your mortgage. And I wish I was joking.
OK… all jokes aside, I actually did learn a few things after first enrolling my son into child care. Deciding which daycare to put your child in takes months of research and visiting facilities. Start as early as possible. Plus, you might like a facility, but they may not have an opening for months to come. I repeat: START AS EARLY AS POSSIBLE.
You don’t have to pay for a high end daycare. Some home daycares are just as nice, and sometimes better because of the caretaker to child ratio. My son started in a home daycare with 5 other children. Having only 6 children total, the two women were able to dedicate more time to each child and my son made friendships early on. He and his baby sister are now in a school-based daycare. We loved the home daycare but we needed better hours. The woman also took a lot of vacation time (which is her choice to do as a business owner, and we signed the contract for the terms and agreements). We also had to plan our vacations during the times she would be taking hers. If we didn’t, we’d use our earn time when she went on vacation, and when she was open for business and we’d take time off, we were still paying for the days our child wasn’t there. The new daycare also has cameras that let us watch our children when we want to. It’s a nice feature.
Another important thing to think about are germs. A big daycare will have more kids, and more kids means more germs. If you’re little one is going to daycare for the first time, he/she will probably be sick a lot in the first few months. My son had an ear infection six times before we had to get tubes put in for him. It was awful seeing him go through the infections again and again. But that’s what happens when they go to a big facility. They also don’t send kids home that often. The home daycare we had him in at first would send him home if he had a fever and he couldn’t return for 24 hours. This was hard when he was teething because he wasn’t actually sick, we had to use earn time to go get him, and if it happened after 9 AM, we couldn’t bring him back the next day after 9 AM because of her rules. The extra time with my son wasn’t a bad thing, but my wife and I had to use up all of our earn time in the year that he was there, when he wasn’t even sick 80% of the time. But that’s what comes with child care.
Things to consider:
What are the hours of care?
How close is it to home and/or work?
What are the rules there with food?
What are the agreements with time off? (both the daycare being closed and you taking time off)
And what are the rules for sick children?
All in all, adulthood and parenthood don’t come with instructions, but it’s beneficial to have someone teach you early on. If you’re like me and didn’t have anyone to show you the ropes, try to learn them as soon as you can and put that knowledge into practice ASAP! You’ll thank yourself later for being wise enough.
© 2017 Clinton N. Downs