You can learn many lessons about being an adult from a teenager. This teen may even be a better adult than you are.

What makes an adult?

According to society and government, once you reach age 18 you are considered an adult. You can make your own decisions and sign legal documents. But just because you are a certain age, does that make you an adult?

While you might technically be an adult, the actual act of adulting is a little bit harder. Functioning as a successful adult requires more than just turning 18.

In fact, as I look at some of the things so-called adults do (or don’t do), I realize that there is a lot that 21-year-olds can learn from my 13-year-old son. Hell, there are probably some days that my son is actually a better adult than I am.

Here are some of the life skills that my 13-year-old excels at, and will help him when he becomes an actual adult.

Time management.

If you want to be a better adult and more successful in life, time management is key. We all have days when we don’t want to get something done wrong we have a hard time getting a handle on the clock. The idea, though, is to do our best to plan ahead so that we can manage our obligations.

A couple weeks ago, my son and I were talking about our after-school day. I reminded him that I had a meeting to go to and that he would be on his own after dinner. He mentioned that he knew that he would need help with his homework and suggested that we tackle the homework first, before he practiced saxophone. Rather then springing the homework on me after I returned from my meeting, he thought ahead to all of what he needed to do that afternoon and took the initiative to make sure he had time for all of his obligations.

Sometimes we just run out of that time and we have to choose between different activities. That’s just life. Adulting is recognizing that sometimes you do have control over your time, and making sure you prioritize what is most important.

Do you have to be told what needs to be done?

My 13-Year-Old Is a Better Adult Than You Are

We only need direction sometimes, especially when we’re learning something new. However, if you want to be a better an adult you need to recognize that sometimes you just need to do what needs to be done without being told.

My son comes home from school and knows he needs to take care of certain things. He has music practice, fencing practice, and homework. I don’t need to tell him to get started on these things; even on days he doesn’t necessarily want to get going, you still getting started even if I’m not home too tell him to do so.

After I broke my wrist my son really stepped up, keeping track of when he needed to start the laundry and paying attention to what time to start dinner. In many cases, he saw would need to be done and went ahead and did it.

Eat healthy meals.

We all like junk food. I’d rather eat cake than make a salad. However, I know that macaroni and cheese for dinner every day and over processed foods aren’t good for me. So I don’t make them very often.

My son is learning how to be a better adult by making better food choices. When he make dinner, he includes a fruit and vegetable in addition to whatever the entrée is. He helps with cooking, and is capable of reading a recipe. Thanks to Blue Apron, it’s possible for him to see you what we plan to have and get step-by-step instructions on making a nutritious dinner.

Track your spending.

Maybe it’s because I write about money, but my son is already learning habits that many 20-somethings I know don’t have down. I recently got him a debit card, and he is very good about tracking his spending.

He also takes the time to think about what he wants to buy with his money. He almost most never makes an impulse purchase because he had a clear idea of what he hopes to use his money for, and the knowledge that if he uses his money on something today he won’t be able to buy something else tomorrow.

He’s also learning to give money to charity and set aside money for the future. He follows the stock market because he is investing in an index fund with his long-term savings money.

Finally, he’s constantly thinking of other ways to make money. He works hard and his 4-H projects so that he can earn ribbon money, and he helps out with administrative duties in my home office. He also has big plans for a YouTube channel and other online ventures. We’ll see if he follows through with any of them.

Obviously my 13-year-old is not ready for many of the responsibilities associated with being an adult. But he’s got a pretty good handle on things.

What do you think makes an adult? Are there some things that you see so-called adults doing that aren’t very adult-like at all? How are you trying to be a better adult?

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Anxiety still carries plenty of stigma. Have you ever wondered what anxiety feels like? Here’s what might help.

Editor’s note: Whether you have anxiety or you have a close friend who has anxiety, it’s good to understand what other people may be experiencing. Part of successful adulting is communication and empathy, and reading or hearing what someone may be going through is helpful in that respect, and will help grow stronger relationships.

In the old days, the days of your parents, they just called you nervous. If you were on edge, it was your nerves. If you had a particularly bad episode, they would say you had a nervous breakdown. People went their entire lives without knowing the actual cause of that nervousness: anxiety.

Thankfully anxiety is better understood today, and for good reason: it’s one of the most common mental health disorders on the planet. According to The New York Times, it’s now more common among college students than depression. No matter who you are, you or someone close to you has probably been affected by anxiety.

But despite its ubiquity, anxiety is still misrepresented and misunderstood. It’s a difficult disorder to describe, and as such you’ll still hear it referred to as “nerves” or “stress.” Those terms aren’t completely off the mark, but they lack the nuance to truly explain just what it actually feels like to have anxiety.

How does it feel?

I didn’t realize I had anxiety until my senior year of college. I was often stressed and anxious, but so was every Type A student managing a full course load and extracurricular activities. I’d known since high school that I frequently got stomach problems if I started getting nervous or upset, mostly due to my irritable bowel syndrome, but I never considered that the nervousness itself was a symptom.

When I heard someone describe the symptoms of anxiety, I recognized them immediately. Anxiety is about feeling overly nervous or worried with no reason to be. It’s about perceiving every minor slight or incident and worrying about it incessantly.

Living with anxiety is like having the most pessimistic devil on your shoulder. When I lose a client, anxiety tells me that I’m not cut out to be a freelance writer. When I forget a friend’s birthday, anxiety tells me that this is why I struggle to keep friends. Anxiety is a straight-up bitch.

I spent years with different therapists learning about cognitive behavioral therapy and how, even though I couldn’t cure my anxiety, I could learn how to recognize when it was affecting me.

What helps?

One of the best strategies my therapist taught me was how to challenge the anxious thoughts in my head. There are many ways anxiety can manifest itself, but thankfully there are just as many ways to combat it.

She gave me this worksheet where I could list the anxious thoughts I was having, why I was having them, and a more rational scenario. For example, if I was anxious about not hearing back from an editor and assuming that he didn’t like my latest article, the worksheet could help me realize that he likely hadn’t taken the time to read it yet.

What helped even more was taking medication, a solution I resisted for years. It’s one thing to go to therapy, but I was convinced pills were only for people who were “broken.” Even when my equally prescription-dubious husband suggested it, I resisted. I was worried I wouldn’t feel like me anymore. I was also worried that if my anxiety did improve, it would be because of the pills and not anything I accomplished

After consulting with a good friend who takes anxiety medication, I finally talked to my doctor. After one day’s dose, I felt significantly better. Suddenly I wasn’t as anxious on a regular basis, and when I was, I could handle it.

I compare anxiety to driving on the highway in the dark with traffic cones everywhere. Anxiety medication can remove the cones and make it easier to drive, but you’re still in charge of the car.

I know there’s plenty of stigma about anxiety and medication. When I texted my mom that I was getting a prescription, she left two voicemails. I told my dad in person, and he got very quiet — a rare feat, if you know my father. Society is still coming around to mental health medication, but to me it’s like taking medication for high blood pressure or cholesterol.

The more I talk about it openly, the more I find out how many people I know that are medicated. Like anything, the more we share, the more we realize how similar we are.

Do you have anxiety? Does a close friend? Share your experiences — you might help someone.

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You’re not a bad person for borrowing money to get a college degree. You may be smarter than some financial “experts” lead you to believe.

You finished your bachelor’s degree and you’re out in the real world. You’re feeling real pressure to find a good job along your career path. It’s those massive student loan bills. You dread opening them because they remind you of the four or more years you lived without a major concern about your finances.

Now your college education seems like a burden. What did your bachelor’s degree get you, anyway? You’re 22 and you don’t have a job yet. Or you’re 30 and you’re still not sure if you’re on the “right” path.

If you haven’t been ignoring the reality of your debt, with your head in the sand like I was for a few years after earning my bachelor’s degree, you’re fully aware that student loans — like all debt — reduce flexibility in your life. You can’t afford to delay your career. You can’t even afford to go out with your friends (but you probably will anyway).

And if it feels a little unfair that all you did was earn a college degree like your parents, it might be. The cost of a college education has grown much faster than income for most Americans.

While your parents could have afforded their education at a state college on their own by working through college, the economy doesn’t make that as easy today. At the same time, college students and millennials are told en masse: “You have no work ethic.” “You expect everything to be handed to you.” “You want the best of what life has to offer without putting in the effort to achieve it.”

You’ve been set up to fail financially by the world while you were a teenager, and that same world does blame you unfairly. Well, we all have friends who embody the millennial stereotype — but not you, right?

Is college no longer worthwhile?

Financial experts are now making headlines by tearing apart the idea of higher education. Whether it’s due to the evolution of the curriculum over the years, or the lasting effect of the recent recession on the idea that the only worthwhile type of education is one that leads directly to a job that in high demand, loud voices are encouraging alternative paths.

When someone tells you striving to get the best education possible was a stupid mistake, and you should have gone to a trade school to learn a skill instead of getting a degree, don’t take it personally. And don’t feel bad. These are the two most important financial justifications for pursuing a college education:

But return on investment (ROI) isn’t the only benefit of a college degree.

Ignore the financial experts.

Here’s some more good news for those who are being told their degree is worthless.

Student Loan Debt

If you grew up in a middle class environment, some of the opportunities colleges affords the world are privileges you all ready have. And financial experts take advantage of those who don’t recognize their own privilege, especially when it comes to talking about debt. Whenever the unemployment rate is high, we find more encouragement in the media of entrepreneurship as the singular path to a lucrative life, replacing of education.

You have probably heard at least one person tell you that education is overrated and the best path to success is starting a business. You don’t hear that most businesses fail and that a college education still plays a major role in financial aptitude, even for entrepreneurs.

  • A good educational foundation greatly improves someone’s ultimate entrepreneurship goals by enhancing the cognitive, business, and life skills that good entrepreneurs need.
  • Many of your anti-education role models had other types of assistance that you might not have, and the louder they talk about their success, the more they’re hiding about their privileges.

Sure, you should try to keep your cost of education low. Grants and scholarships are better than loans, of course. But now that you’re out of college, the goal is to manage the debt you do have, not allow the world make you feel guilty for prioritizing your future livelihood over buying a house immediately upon graduation.

So here’s what you can do.

Here’s the four-step plan to dealing with student loan debt.

Student Loan Debt

1. Recognize that your debt does not make you a bad person, nor did you (necessarily) make a bad decision to pursue a college education. Yes, you may need to make some sacrifices now to manage your finances responsibly, but in most cases, the degree will be worth it.

That will be true even if you decide to change your career path, away from the focus of your degree! Any bachelor’s degree is better than no degree. If you didn’t screw around too much in the four-plus years it took you to pursue your undergrad education, and if you took a variety of courses and exposed your brain to a diverse array of ideas you wouldn’t have considered elsewhere, your education will never be worthless. It will continue to help you with whatever life you decide to live.

2. Get organized and pay attention. You can’t ignore your bills forever, so don’t even start ignoring. Tackle your responsibilities head on — and your student loan debt may be the first real responsibility you have in life for which there are consequences.

I ignored my bills for too long. Working at a low-paying nonprofit organization after college didn’t help. But I figured my life out and found a path that allowed me to totally eliminate all of my debt. This path wasn’t related to my college degree but I know that I succeeded thanks to my college experience.

3. Look at some of the options for helping you eliminate student loan debt. If you have federal student loans (and these are almost always better than private student loans), you can look into income-based repayment plans. If you’re just starting out in your career, you can lower your monthly payment to help you with cash flow.

You may qualify for loan deferment, so your payments are put on hold, and in some cases, you will not need to pay more interest while you wait for your deferment to end. If you don’t qualify for deferment, you may qualify for forbearance, which also gives you a grace period on your payments. But with a forbearance, you’ll still accrue more interest while you wait.

If you’re a teacher or you have a public service job, you may even qualify for the cancellation of some federal student loans. That’s not the only way the government is willing to help you. It is possible to get a tax credit for the student loan interest you pay.

I’m not going to suggest consolidating your loans, unless it’s with a federal consolidation at an interest rate that’s lower than what you have now. Now there are private companies willing to refinance your student loans, and there are some disadvantages; namely, you lose all the advantages for borrowers mentioned in this section.

And watch out; these private lenders pay financial “experts” bounties for signing up new borrowers through websites, and thus there are many more positive reviews on the internet than there would be otherwise. Still, you could end up saving some money — in exchange for a fee and limited flexibility — when you refinance with a private lender.

4. Pay it off consistently and regularly. Work out a plan to pay the student loans off well in advance of your schedule. Student loans will stick with you even if you need to declare bankruptcy (almost always), so do what you can to get rid of them as soon as possible.

And then celebrate! Because not only did you pay off your student loans, but you received a college education, and will most likely be better off in life than people who say you made a bad choice for getting a college education.

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The last one living wins.

Do you have a dream of getting fit? Exercise comes with the number of benefits. You can improve your mood, boost your energy, look better, and even live longer.

The good news is that exercise doesn’t have to mean beasting it up at the gym all the time.
You can start getting fit by doing things that you like to do, and by engaging in small amounts of exercise at a time.

Don’t sit around all the time feeling low energy and disappointed. I’m getting fit, you can change your outlook on life and be healthier.

Concepts

  • Many of the benefits that come from exercise.
  • How exercise can lead to a longer life.
  • Excuses we used to avoid getting fit.
  • Ideas for helping you overcome your reluctance to exercise.
  • Tips for more effective exercise.

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Resources

Mayo clinicBenefits of physical activity
NIHWalking can lengthen your lifespan
BuzzFeedTotal body workouts
WedMDBeginners guide to fitness

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Harlan, Miranda, and special guest Matt Schulz of CreditCards.com talk about what you need to know before applying for your first credit card.

Every week, we present Adulting.tv LIVE! on Blab. Subscribe and join us for the next event, and share your questions about or suggestions for future discussions!

Adulting.tv LIVE! welcomes special guest Matt Schulz from CreditCards.com to talk about how to choose your first credit card. Miranda, Harlan, and Matt explore why someone might want to apply for a credit card, what is needed before applying for a credit card, what types of credit cards are available, and what to expect once you have a credit card.

Credit cards aren’t for everyone, but if you think you’re ready to handle your spending responsibly or you’re a seasoned credit card user, watch the replay.

Watch the video above, or listen to just the audio by using the player below.

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If you’re struggling financially, is there ever a good way to ask your parents for help?

The idea of borrowing money from friends or family has always made me feel… gross. In all honesty, I’d rather be broke than deal with the icky feeling of owing someone money.

There’s something about introducing a financial transaction into a personal relationship that almost always ends up in some sort of discomfort — especially when parents are involved. One day, you’re the independent, successful adult you struggled so hard to become; the next, you’re once again that awkward sixteen-year-old begging for gas money.

But sometimes asking your parents for financial help is unavoidable. In fact, about half of college students expect their parents to support them financially for up to two years after graduation.

Plus, they’ve had years to grow their wealth while you’re still getting used to the idea of paying someone for running water.

So whether you’re struggling to find post-college employment and need to move back in for a while, or you’re a few thousand dollars shy of owning your first home, here’s how to navigate the tricky conversation of asking for financial help from Mom and Dad.

Decide if you need a gift or a loan.

Before you even broach the subject, determine exactly what it is you’re asking for. Depending on your mom or dad’s personality, you might be more likely to receive a loan than a handout. If so, figure out exactly how much you need to borrow, how long it will take to repay the loan, and whether or not you will also pay interest.

On the other hand, you might know very well there’s no way you will be able to pay the money back. Instead of making promises you can’t keep, be prepared to state your case as to what, exactly, you need and why your parents should be willing to make the investment. Which brings us to the next step.

Have a solid case to present.

You might technically be an adult, but in your parents’ eyes, you will always be their child. However, this is not a situation in which you want to be viewed as immature or childish. You need to appear prepared, confident, and accountable.

Have an action plan ready to present — write it down, review it several times, and believe in it. Talk to your parents calmly and explain your situation clearly. Be prepared to negotiate. And above all else, don’t get emotional or attempt to manipulate their emotions. It. Will. Backfire.

Don’t compromise your parents’ finances.

How to Ask Your Parents for Money

Some parents are willing to sacrifice everything to help out their kids, no questions asked. Others prefer to send their children through the School of Hard Knocks, even if they have to repeat a few grades.

If your parents are more like the former, be especially sensitive to how your request for financial assistance will impact their well-being. Will Mom have to dip into her 401(k) to cover your student loan debt? Is Dad planning to work a few more years so you can get back on your feet?

Ask yourself if you’re really okay with being the person who jeopardizes your parents’ golden years after they’ve worked so hard — for decades — to reach them. Yeah, didn’t think so.

Should you even do it?

Turning to the Bank of Mom and Dad can be tempting when you’re seriously short on cash. But there’s a host of potential landmines when you ask for money from the people who used to change your diapers.

Consider whether you’re looking to your parents for financial support because it seems easy or because that’s really your only option.

There’s nothing wrong with getting help from Mom and Dad if they’re willing. But it’s almost always best to suck it up and figure it out on your own if you can. After all, they’ve already made the biggest investment in you anyone ever will. They raised you.

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Congratulations on landing your first real job! Before you get caught up in your work, take some time to navigate your surroundings.

Now that you you’re successfully navigated the interview and hiring process, you get to take a big step forward in your career by starting it. Or, if your job isn’t exactly in your career path, at least you’re working.

Before long, all of your job’s roles and responsibilities will be clear, and you’ll start making your mark. You may get a little overwhelmed with your new environment, so take some time now to deal with some of the tasks that are essential at the start of your first real job. Ignore these tasks, and you will miss opportunities to set yourself up for long-term success. Don’t blow it.

1. Get a true sense of your take-home pay.

Surprise! Your paycheck is a lot smaller than you expect it to be. A $40,000 salary after federal, state, and local taxes might leave you with only $500 a week. For reals. Even less will end up in your pocket if you have an automatic enrollment in a retirement plan.

You may get some of the money withheld for taxes back when you file your tax return, but your net pay, what you take home, is what you should focus on right now, not your salary.

2. Figure out your new budget.

Now that you know how much income you really have to work with, write down your new budget. Start with the things you need, like your rent or mortgage payment, your food (groceries), and your transportation to and from your workplace. Set aside as much as possible for savings. You’ll need something set aside for emergencies. Then try to fit in some of the luxuries, like dining out, entertainment, vacations, and nicer clothing. If you can.

If you can’t, just hang on for now. You can’t have everything you want in life the moment you start your first real job.

Read this article to see how to make a budget based on priorities. Once you make the budget, track it, so you stay within its limits or realize that you need to change your assumptions about your spending.

3. Open bank accounts if you don’t have any.

It still surprises me how many newly-minted grown-ups don’t have bank accounts. When you get paychecks for working, not cash, you need to have at least one bank account, a checking (debit card) account. Don’t take your paychecks to check-cashing places or Walmart. They charge fees that add up quickly.

Instead, find a free checking account with free debit cards. You might want to check with whatever bank has a branch closest to you, and ask about free checking and free debit cards, but some communities don’t even have any bank branches.

It might be easier to just go online. Ally Bank and Capital One 360 are two of my favorite free online checking accounts.

Once you open your checking account, you can tell your supervisor or human resources department at work that you want to set up a direct deposit. Your paycheck will be sent directly to your bank, so you just use your debit card when you need to pay for anything or go to an ATM when you need cash.

4. Invest some of your income.

6 Life-Changing Tips When Starting Your First Job

If you don’t start investing right now, you will always be trying to catch up. First, make sure you’re enrolled in your company’s retirement plan, if the company offers one. If the company doesn’t offer a 401(k) plan, a 403(b) plan, or anything else, you’ll have to start investing on your own. Put money aside for a few months, and open a retirement account at Vanguard.

Choose a Roth IRA if you already have a plan at work, or a traditional IRA if you don’t. Invest in a broad index mutual fund, like the Vanguard Total Stock Market Index Fund (VTSMX), for now. It’s a low-cost way to save for retirement, and keeping your costs low is the most important factor in building wealth over the long term.

5. Understand your benefits.

Your employer may offer some benefits, including health insurance, disability insurance, life insurance, free lunches, a weekly chair massage, or personalized humanoid robot butlers. You’ll only find out what you get by reading all the information you receive your first few days on the job.

If you have a choice, and you might for something like health insurance, review the information carefully and ask around for advice. It’s good to know what your health insurance options are, and what’s covered, in case you need to use them.

6. Learn about your company’s culture.

Getting ahead and succeeding in your job isn’t just about your job performance or doing all that is expected of you. You’ll also need to be able to fit in — without losing your individuality, of course. Spend lots of time with your coworkers. Observe how people behave and present themselves on the job and listen carefully to important discussions. Look for the clues, both subtle and obvious, that will lead you towards making a good impression. Much of this is based on mimicking the behavior of the more successful people at your level.

Use this time exploring the culture to work on your communication skills (ask questions!) and build relationships with people in your workplace.

The most important thing about getting started is not to expect to be treated like a superstar on your first day on the job. You’re a unique snowflake, that’s for sure, but so is everyone else. As the new girl or guy, you have to put in time and effort before you are able to reap the rewards of great benefits, a salary that reflects your worth, and personal freedom.

You’re not entitled to the best of what your employer (or life) has to offer just by showing up, but when you put in the hard work and prove yourself, success will find its way to you much easier. After some time.

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