There’s more to learn

The Washington PostJune 1, 2014 

Recently I asked readers which life skills they wish they had learned in a classroom setting. Here are 10 subjects that anyone receiving a degree this spring, or in the springs to come, should expect to grapple with in his or her first years out of college:

1. Budgeting: Adult life comes with a lot of costs. Your first salary may feel exciting, but build plenty of room into your budget for the expenses that had not occurred to you when you started hunting for your first apartment.

2. Financial planning and navigating financial institutions and instruments: If you are lucky in your employer, your choices for saving may be fairly complicated. Roth IRAs, 401(k) plans and pensions all have their advantages, and you will need to pick your way through to find which combinations work for you.

3. How to read documents and understand your rights as a consumer and a renter: Do not sign anything you do not feel comfortable with or do not understand, and never let fear of seeming young or ignorant stop you from asking.

4. Emotion and stress management: One thing I heard repeatedly from readers – and it surprised me a little bit – is that many wish they had some sort of preparation for the emotional strains of adult life.

5. Time management: It will take time to figure out how much sleep you need; how much social time leaves you fulfilled; how much exercise, worship and alone time you need to recharge and feel healthy; how long it takes you to recover from illness; and how frequently you need to see your significant other and family.

6. Basic cooking and meal planning: There are an infinite number of ways to teach yourself to cook and plan. I learned from the now-discontinued Everyday Food magazine, but the books adapted from it are still available.

7. Negotiation: From the terms of your lease to the price of your car, to the size of your first salary and number of vacation days – it can be intimidating, but you can ask for almost anything.

8. Career planning: Especially in the present economy, just finding a first job out of college may seem like an exhausting process. Figuring out an actual trajectory is much more challenging.

9. Basic home, clothing and car repair: Things in your life will break. Being able to sew a button back on, patch a hole in drywall, unplug a sink or change your own oil will not just save you money, it will save you stress and anxiety.

10. How to travel: This is a luxury, not a basic, but it came up frequently. Figuring out what it really costs is a great exercise in budgeting. Determining what you are comfortable with is a great way to define your own limits (and yes, it is fine that limits exist).

Rosenberg blogs about pop culture for The Washington Post’s Opinions section.

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