Ah, Adulting. The new verb that has become somewhat of a joke when we fall short. These days there are many preconceived notions of what true adulting looks like. At 33 years old, I am fast approaching a turning point in life whereby I will have lived more years as an adult than a child. I’m officially at the tail end of the 18-35 spectrum what many have defined as a”young adult” or “youth”. Since leaving my mom’s house at 17 I have undergone many phases of self-development that make me who I am today.
Part of me wishes I could do it all over knowing what I know now. But mostly I’m glad that it’s over. I’ve realized that true “adulting” is simply an exercise in solidifying your identity: how you feel about your world and what makes you happy.
And I finally understand the depth of the quote:
“Youth is Wasted on the Young”
Of course, it’s not meant to be taken literally but rather serve as a humourous quim that most of us can undoubtedly relate to. The time between leaving the shadow of your parents and finally getting comfortable in your own skin is certainly a transformational time, but also a time that most of us take for granted. But I get it – each mistake makes you who you are today, and I’m quite happy with how I turned out in spite of learning most things the hard way. But that is not to say that I can’t impart what I’ve learned to the next crop of people just entering the same phase in which my time is waning.
When I first stepped out into the world I had built up several assumptions about what it means to be an adult. Most of these assumptions turned out to be wrong. But I also realized that these assumptions stemmed from a systemic view of what it means to be an adult; a pattern of thought that many of us accept as fact but in reality are no more true than the alternative. So I decided to list a few with the hope that some of you as you begin your path of adulting can carve a new direction before you are conditioned otherwise. Hopefully it is taken to heart.
Myth 1 of Adulting: The Stock Market is complicated.
I avoided the stock market for a long time. There is something intimidating about the rise and fall of those graphs, and all this alien language that sounded like English but had weird “financial” sounding language behind it. So I opted to save money whenever I could, and eventually draw it out in times of spontaneity or desperation. 16 years into adulthood and I’m like many of my generation – not much money in the bank, crawling out of debt, and working hard to hustle for every dollar that comes in.
My big “a-ha” moment came in 2007 when the iPhone came out. The device was so amazingly revolutionary that I absolutely knew that each person would have one. “This could be the greatest invention of our generation,” I told myself through the voice in my head. Of course I got one, and so did a few hundred million other people. I knew that Apple stock was going to take off. And boy, did it ever. When you look at the chart for the stock value’s entire lifespan, there is an exponential tipping point where the value just soared.
I wish that I could pat myself on the back for picking such a great stock, but the bummer of this story is that I never purchased any shares. In the end I was swayed by one of my friend’s parents who dismissed my call to purchase stock when he told me that AAPL already had their run. The stock had already been booming for several years. But there was a limit in what people thought possible, even if I generalize the whole population to my friend’s dad. I took his advice but I shouldn’t have. Sure he might have known more about finance but I knew that this product was huge. There wasn’t a doubt in my head.
And that is what makes a savvy buyer of stocks. Take all the financial vocabulary out of the equation. Yes, you need to know about their financials and make sure they can keep the boat afloat. But a balance sheet and earnings statement will tell you the majority of what you need to know.
Maybe I’m different. Maybe I have a good instinct for it. But the rule is pretty simple and doesn’t steer me wrong: only invest in something that A. You will use for it to improve your quality of life; and B. It will do that for the majority of the human race. By these two rules things get less complicated, and if you compare those rules to the stocks that do well, you will begin to see a pattern.
Myth 2 of Adulting: You Need a Job.
Let me clarify this before I get written off, But it’s true: you don’t need a job. Adulting is about generating an income. The two concepts are much different. True that a job provides an income, but it is a finite amount that requires you to devote a third of your day, five days a week, and that’s if you’re lucky enough to get a job that pays all the bills. Many people have to work much more than that to get what they need in life.
Economics is fairly simple when you look at it. People exchange money for goods and services. How much money they are willing to give depends on the perceived value of whatever it is you are offering. Most of the time, your job helps someone else (or a group of people) make lots of money. True that you get a paycheck; but that paycheck is peanuts to the potential profits the owner makes.
I’m not saying that having a job doesn’t have a value. There are many times where you simply want to show up, punch in, punch out, and not worry about a thing when you go home. You collect a paycheck and do it all over again. Many people enjoy this low level of responsibility.
But a job is not the only way to make a good living. The key is ownership. The owners of businesses and stocks make the real money. Sure it comes with obligations and schedules where managing it can be a job, but there is also the ability to do absolutely nothing and get paid. But at that point you can usually increase the income by working a bit harder. You of course need to find the balance that you are comfortable with, which is different with anyone. But the bottom line is that when you are in control of what you want to do, money will find a way into your life.
Myth 3 of Adulting: You are supposed to know what to do with your life.
This one is different than you might expect, as I have no intention to give some motivational speaker-y navel gazing speech about finding your passion. Because there is only one point in time when it should matter really what you are doing with your life. And that is right now. Yes, right now; this very moment. Because all that truly ever exists in life is the here and now. So you have to ask yourself if whatever it is that you are doing at this moment in time makes you happy. If it does, does making yourself happy harm anyone in your life? If not, great.
Life does not have an ultimate goal. If you reach it and you have time left on the clock you’ll be left thinking, “what next?” I lived much of my life in search of something that didn’t exist, which is happiness in a point that didn’t exist because it wasn’t right here or now.
Myth 4 of Adulting: You need to pay for a roof over your head.
The single highest expense for most of us is paying the rent or mortgage. For some this bill can be 50% of what they earn, perhaps more. But this is not a mandatory expense, and much of the world is not inundated with such a burden.
Even in the modern world there are many ways to have a roof over your head without paying rent or for a mortgage. This most often comes through work. Many jobs that require relocation will offer up housing. Think places in remote areas. If your goal is to save a pile of money, then this could be a great option.
Another avenue to try is the host of options that are available to travelers. Workaway has fast become a leader in this area. For a small yearly fee one can log into the system and find places all over the world that will house you (and sometimes feed you) for free in exchange for a few hours of work per day. It won’t make you rich, but it will allow you to see places you never thought you could on a budget that is sometimes smaller than what you would be spending back home. There are other sites too, and some quick searching around online will bring up several sites that can help you on this journey.
The bottom line is that paying for accommodation is not something that is mandatory in life. So if you feel overwhelmed with the cost of living where you are, look for some other options in your line of work (or volunteer life) that can help prevent you from depleting your bank account to pay a landlord or the bank. You might be surprised with how many options there are.
Myth 5 of Adulting: Food comes from the grocery store.
We have become accustomed to having a division between ourselves and the food we eat. This is a relatively new concept. Only a century ago our ancestors ate food that primarily came from only a short distance away. In most cases people would know their farmer by name. Nowadays, food is one of the largest industries in the world and we couldn’t be more removed from the methods that put dinner on the table. In doing so we have created a huge disconnect.
The expression “You are what you eat” is much more real than some may realize. Especially now when what we eat is not exactly our grandparents’ idea of what may constitute food. As such, what you find in the grocery store is generally not the best thing you could buy.
Many argue a tight budget as the reason for shopping frugally at the grocery store. But then again, look at how much obesity and disease exists in the western world and tell me if you think that that is representative of a healthy society. We have become consumers of food, and that is not a good thing.
So do yourself a favor, check out a farmer’s market. Even if you are in the city you should be able to find something. Even better, try to visit a farm and see where food comes from. It will probably make you reconsider what you put into your mouth and spend your hard earned money on. And the best thing you can do is to grow your own food – even if just a few herbs for taste. You’ll feel a better sense of satisfaction knowing that you have sustained your own life the old fashioned way.
Myth 6 of Adulting: You’re no longer a child.
Childhood is not an age range. It is a state of mind that reflects innocence, a way of looking at the world without filters that we have built up which we use to interpret the world. Each of these filters are unique based on our individual experiences.
Many times these experiences leave us with a harsh view of the world, because in reality, the world is a cruel place. I’ve had my share of ups and downs and in retrospect have been jaded from time to time. This feeling has prevented me from some real good because of a negative outlook, where if I had viewed a situation the way I had as a child the outcome would have been much different.
I like to think of the child/adult balance as more of a spectrum than one or the other. With each situation in life you can view it with innocence or experience, and usually it fits somewhere in between. Doing so allows you to look at things more openly. Dogmatic thinking of “this is the way it is” unfortunately leads to less flexibility. While that is important for things like making an appointment or paying a bill, it is detrimental when meeting new people or trying new things. So don’t think of yourself as either a child or adult, think of yourself as a human that is somewhere on the experience spectrum. It will help you out, I promise.
Myth 7 of Adulting – Alcohol is cool.
Alcohol is a part of society and it has been for centuries. People like to unwind and relax, and a drink can conceivably help you get there sooner. But when it comes down to it, there is a lot of bad associated with alcohol. A whole lot. For some this is more true than others. But for everyone, most of the bad is not worth the good when you add it up.
The main thing for me was money. Once I got real about drinking and cut back significantly, I started to have extra money at the end of the month. I then started investing that money. Using what I learned in the first point about the stock market, that has resulted in more financial success than had I done nothing.
I don’t want to add up how much money I have spent on alcohol over the years. It is far too much. Even $30 a week becomes $1500 a year. And the fun that I’ve had without a terrible hangover is even more of a return on that money in time that is not wasted in bed hating life.
So go ahead and drink, but realize that the older you get the worse it feels. And if you consciously try to cut back when you are young, you will have an unquantifiable amount of more money and health ten years from now.