Personal Finance

14 Things You Need to Do to Be a Financial Adult

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Growing up is hard to do. And it’s even harder in today’s tough economy. With so many young adults moving back in with mom and dad, that line between childhood and adulthood is blurring.

Whatever your financial situation, though, you can begin taking steps to become an independent financial adult. Even if you’re living at home, you can start carrying out some of these tasks and building good financial habits that will last a lifetime. Here are 14 things you can do to become an adult with your finances.

1. Open a Bank Account

If you don’t already have a bank account, get one. You should have at least a checking account, and preferably a savings account for short-term savings goals and an emergency fund, too.

2. Earn an Income

This one’s kind of a no-brainer, but it’s easier said than done in today’s economic environment. Still, even working at Starbucks or the local gym is better than nothing.

3. Pay Some Bills

Maybe you don’t have a mortgage to pay yet. That’s OK. But you could start by paying at least some of your bills. Get a cellphone in your own name. Pay part of your parents’ utilities. Making on-time payments is an essential part of financial adulthood.

4. Save for a Goal

One of the hallmarks of adulthood is delayed gratification — the ability to wait to get what you want. Saving is a great way to practice this skill.

5. Buy Gifts for People

Once you’re an adult, it’s time to quit letting your mom sign your name to the cards for all the family wedding and holiday gifts. Even if they’re small, it’s time to buy your own gifts now.

6. Check Your Credit

A good credit score will serve you well throughout your life, so get familiar with it now. Learn how to pull your free credit report and your credit scores, and check for any potential problems now before they get out of hand. You can get your free credit reports once a year from AnnualCreditReport.com, and many places let you see your credit scores for free, including Credit.com.

7. Use Credit Wisely

Credit cards used well can help you earn rewards and build your credit score. Just be sure to pay them off monthly.

8. Work on Your Student Loans

If you’re on the verge of adulthood, chances are you have some student loans. Take the time to understand your payment plan options, and keep making monthly payments even when times are tough.

9. Follow a Budget

Budgeting is one of the most basic steps for financial management. Take time to create a budget that suits your income and needs, and then stick to it.

10. Build Up an Emergency Fund

Even a few hundred bucks in savings can go a long way in a minor emergency, like a car breakdown. And if you’ve already done #1 on this list, you can use your savings account as a way to track your progress.

11. Start a Retirement Account

Again, every little bit counts. Even if you can only save $10 a week, it’s a start. And the earlier you start saving, the bigger effect compounding interest will have on your nest egg.

12. Learn About Investing

As soon as you start your first retirement account, it’s time to learn more about your investments. Do some research about your investing options, and look to the future, too.

13. Figure Out Your Taxes

Taxes are a complicated subject — from filling out your first W-4 for an employer to filing a 1040 with the IRS. Just remember, the goal is to wind up neither owing anything nor getting much back at the end of the tax year.

14. Give Back

One great part about being an adult is giving back to your favorite causes. Get in the habit now of giving back — either with your time or with your money.

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