If you’re like most of us, you probably had to learn plenty of life lessons — some of them the hard way — as you grew into adulthood. In fact, there’s a good chance you’re still learning new things as you go about life. But wouldn’t it have been helpful to have a list of tips for making life a little easier when you were young and breaking out on your own?
Chances are you’ve always tried to instruct your kids or grandchildren on important things they need to know in life. You may have already covered honesty, integrity and a good work ethic. However, there are also other everyday tips that can add up to smoother sailing as an adult.
Want to help your children or grandkids navigate their way into full-fledged adulthood and beyond? Double-check your own stockpile of life lessons against our list of 13 grown-up things kids these days should know.
Cook Basic Foods
Kids don’t need to become master chefs but knowing how to prepare simple meals is essential. For one thing, they’ll save money and get ahead financially. Plus, cooking is a basic survival skill. Kids should know how to make at least a few basic things, like:
- Roasted vegetables
Start teaching your kids to cook with foods that are simple to prepare such as scrambled eggs, macaroni and cheese from a box or baked chicken, fish or pork chops. Then show them how to enhance cooking skills using YouTube cooking tutorials — or invite them into the kitchen for a hands-on demonstration.
Never Show Up to a Dinner Party Empty-Handed
Want your kids to be treasured guests? Teach them to show up at a dinner party with something to contribute to the meal, like:
- A bottle of wine
- A hostess gift
- A loaf of artisan bread
- A seasonal pie or another dessert
Advise them to check with the host first if they’re bringing a side dish or dessert to avoid duplicate foods. All it takes to impress the host is a quick stop at the wine store or running into a grocery store or bakery on the way to the party.
Write Thank You Cards
Writing thank you cards has fallen out of fashion, with many people just shooting a quick email or text to thank someone — or worse yet, not saying thank you at all. Let your kids know it takes only a few minutes to pick out a card and send it to thank someone for walking their dog while they were sick or inviting them to a holiday dinner. Maybe even buy your kid a box of thank you cards and forever postage stamps so it’s even easier to show their gratitude.
Create a Budget and Stick to It
If you want your young adult just starting out to have an easier time managing money, show them how to create a budget. While you may be old school, scratching out income and expenses on actual paper, your kids are more likely to follow a budget if it’s on an app. Fortunately, there are many budgeting apps available, even linking to their bank account and offering budget suggestions based on spending habits and expenses. And the good news is, you can start kids on this good habit when they’re teens, or even pre-teens.
Have Emergency Savings
Do your kids a big favor by teaching them the importance of having emergency savings to cover expenses like car repairs, medical bills and other unexpected costs. The more they have in savings to cover emergencies, the less they’ll have to put on a credit card — or even worse, borrow from you. Setting an attainable first goal of $1,000 is a good start. Then show them how to add to that amount with deposits of a portion of each paycheck. They could also use an automated “roundup” app that rounds up every dollar spent, painlessly depositing the excess into a linked savings account.
Cheap Stuff Doesn’t Last
Your graduate may be used to saving money by purchasing cheap clothing and rickety furniture. But now it’s time to teach them the value of buying items based on quality and longevity. A well-crafted sofa won’t sag in the middle after six months. Good clothing won’t typically pill or fall apart after a couple of washes. And sacrificing along the way to save enough to buy a well-made version of something makes the purchase even sweeter.
Protect Your Credit
Many young adults don’t realize how important having a good credit score will be later in life. When they’re buying a car or a house, for instance, having excellent credit will typically mean better financing terms. Without good credit, your kids will likely have to resort to predatory lenders, have trouble finding a rental home and could even miss out on getting hired at a job.
The best way to protect credit is to pay the bills on time, of course. But it’s also important for them to monitor their credit score, along with any activity and accounts on their credit report. Steer those just starting out to AnnualCreditReport.com, where they can obtain one free copy of their credit report per year.
Get Renter’s Insurance
Your kids just setting out on their own are probably just getting started on making their apartment as homey as possible with semi-expensive furniture and pricey electronics. The last thing they need is to have to start over if the contents of their apartment are damaged in a fire or stolen during a break-in. Renter’s insurance can cover their hard-earned possessions, and it’s not expensive — especially compared to what they stand to lose. And don’t forget to mention asking their insurance agent about savings if they “bundle” renter’s insurance with their auto insurance.
Know How to Change a Flat Tire
Just because your kid has roadside assistance doesn’t mean a tire won’t go flat while they’re driving through a remote stretch of woods or on a lonely highway. Teach your kids how to change a flat tire now, before an emergency. If you haven’t yet mastered the skill, you can school yourself, too. There are instructional videos available online, or you can visit with a trusted friend or mechanic who can demonstrate the process.
Maintenance Now Saves on Repairs Later
If there’s one lesson we’ve all learned the hard way, it’s that spending money on maintenance to keep things running right — or in some cases, running at all — is money well spent. Sit down with your kids and go over the costs of how much a new car engine costs to emphasize why they should take the vehicle for regular oil changes and other maintenance. Explain why it’s worth spending $100 for a furnace check-up to prevent spending $600 if the appliance breaks down on a bitterly cold night.
Try Not to Burn Bridges
The teen or young adult in your life may feel justified telling off their mean boss with a scathing email on their last day. But remind them that the manager they offend today could one day badmouth them to a potential employer down the road. The friend they impulsively dump during an argument might have been a great help in a challenging situation ahead. Teach your kids it’s better to take a break — maybe hold off a few hours on that angry text or email they want to send — until cooler heads prevail than to burn bridges they may need later.
Shop Smart to Save Money
You want your kids to shop smart for large purchases or even a house one day, right? Get them into the habit of looking for savings with their everyday purchases. Grocery and retail store circulars and online sales can help them pay less for items like:
- Apartment furnishings
It might take a couple of days to receive the product in the mail or to find the right deal, but they’ll learn that doing the work and having patience pays off.
Start Saving for Retirement Now
When retirement is 40+ years away, someone in their early 20s may not feel an urgent need to save for the distant future. However, you can help kids entering the workforce get a jump on a comfortable retirement by teaching them to start making contributions to their employer’s 401(k) or a similar retirement plan now, especially if their employer matches a portion. Otherwise, they’ll be leaving free money on the table. You can even show them on a simple retirement calculator how investing early can add up to hundreds of thousands of dollars over time.
Paying it Forward
Now that you’ve taken a look at our list of things grown-up kids should know, do you have some life tips of your own for young adults?
Share your own hard-won expertise on how to make life easier and more financially stable in the comments.