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8 Millennials On The One Thing They Didn’t Know About Adulthood Until They Got There

1. “I didn’t know that not all adults cook! I know it is weird, but I grew up in a cooking household — my mom cooked every meal, I was taught to cook at a young age, and we always ate nice, home-cooked things, never frozen meals or like, cans of soup or boxes of macaroni. When I became an adult, it was a thing I just automatically started doing, and I obviously wouldn’t change it because I like it that way, but I actually didn’t know that a lot of people just don’t do that. I remember being at the house of one of my bosses and in her kitchen, she just had a few bags of chips and boxes of frozen burgers, frozen pre-cooked chicken patties, french fries, etc. It felt like kid food to me! And I don’t even mean to sound pretentious, I just genuinely assumed everyone bought fresh meat, fruits, vegetables, etc. and cooked full meals instead of just throwing premade things together and calling it a day. Of course, not everyone does it, but a lot more people than I would have expected.” — Brigid

2. “Taxes — a lot about them. Didn’t fully understand income tax, although I worked a mall retail job in high school and understood that money was taken from my account. I didn’t, however, realize that if I started a business myself, I’d still have to pay those taxes myself without having them automatically deducted from my paycheck. It was a rude awakening when I found that out. Also, property taxes, which I didn’t know were a thing until I began the process of trying to buy property, and then I found out that they didn’t exist in some states, which I was even more surprised about after having just found out they existed in mine.” — Alex

3. “I just never realized how much money you truly need. Lol — that sounds so bad. But there was a time early in college where I had a part-time job and thought, okay, I make maybe $250 a week, so if I get an apartment with friends and we split rent and my portion is $500, I can totally afford to move out of my parents’ place because I can earn my rent money in two weeks of work. Not so! There is so much more that goes into simply living that you just don’t get when you’re younger. Rent is just one tiny fixed things, but you’ll have utility bills that will fluctuate, you’ll need food, you’ll need other maintenance items for your home, personal health/care items, insurance, transportation…the list goes on and on and on. You’re supposed to spend less than 30% of your income on housing, but as an 18-year-old I was prepared to spend 50% without a second thought.” — Samantha

4. “I think I underestimated how much it costs to feed yourself. I remember one day even sitting at a McDonald’s drive-thru thinking ‘okay, even if I buy a dollar-menu McChicken three times a day, that’s still $21 a week, which feels like a lot of money even for the shittiest food. I know $21/week isn’t even a lot, and I obviously had no plans to actually do that, but just making sense of the fact that even shitty terrible food costs that (when a healthy haul of groceries to cook with would be maybe $30) put a lot into perspective for me.” — Evan

5. “You’ll still feel weirdly 17 when you’re 28. You might just actually feel like a kid doing grown-up things until you die.” — Brendan

6. “I realized now that I’m older how expensive weddings are — both to have, and to attend. I’m the youngest of 12 cousins and remember hearing all my older ones bitch about going to weddings, and thinking wow why are they so mad! They get to go to a free party and get drunk and dress up, that’s so fun! But now that all my friends are getting married, I realize that each wedding really costs hundreds when you add up gifts, travel, outfits, wedding-party activities if you’re a part of that, etc. And now that I’m planning my own wedding, I’m like, holy shit…this is absurd.” — Aubrey

7. “I essentially spent a lifetime with no idea what credit was or that it even existed, then I tried to move out of my parents’ place and couldn’t get anything because I had no credit. I was thinking, wow, they should really make this a part of high school curriculum. Granted, I didn’t go to college…but I still feel like I should have had some sort of inkling that this existed before I suddenly needed to have it.” — Christina 

8. “I didn’t know how near-impossible it is to buy a house. Maybe it was easier once, but at this point (at least in my area) you need a down payment of around $100,000 — how is anyone supposed to save $100,000 and buy a house by the time they hit like, 30? I always assumed it would be a little easier, but so much goes into it. Getting a mortgage is such a process too, and that’s after you’ve already figured out where the gigantic down payment is coming from. It is extremely overwhelming, and I’m 27 and starting to feel the itch, like I should be buying soon but I don’t realistically know how it will happen. As a teen I totally assumed I’d be a homeowner by now.” — Ashlee

Mary writes every day for TFD, and tweets every day for her own personal fulfillment. Talk to her about money and life at!

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  • HL

    Where does #8 live?! $100,000 is almost the entire cost of my house! Becoming a homeowner was the first time I really thanked my lucky stars that I live in an unglamorous, low COL area. As much as I dream of living on one of the coasts, I don’t know how I’d even survive out there if peers who are much better off than me can’t afford even to buy starter homes.

    YES to #5! I’m just past 30 and it still seems so foreign to consider myself a grown adult woman. I can’t wrap my mind around the fact that college was almost 10 years ago; in so many ways I still feel like a young 20-something. I wonder when that feeling goes away, if it ever does? Will I still not believe I’m a “grown-up” when I’m 40, or 50?

    • hessiebell

      In Vancouver, BC, Canada, a single, detached “starter” home is pretty much no less than $1,000,000. To avoid having to pay mortgage insurance on top of everything else, you need a 20% down-payment. That’s $200,000. I’ll happily live where #8 does!

      And ditto to #5. I’m 45 and I still feel like I’m faking it as an adult most days.

    • Simi

      As you said, probably on one of the coasts. In many of the cities I’ve lived in California, $100,000 is the minimum down payment needed for a conventional loan to purchase 1 bed 1 bath starter homes.

      • Sara

        Likewise in Seattle and Boston, if not more.

    • bextannya

      Montreal, Canada. $100,000 is the go-to 20% value of a regular (note: fixer-upper) home here.

    • Christina

      I’m in Seattle and the median home price is over $700k.

  • 9. Education is often times a poor investment when speaking from a purely financial perspective. Take lawyers for instance. 4 years of debt for a bachelors degree at 6% interest and then 3 more years in law school at the same rate and it’s more expensive. Then consider if you joined the laborers union making 70k a year not considering overtime, which most law students put into their studying, you basically lost 490k of lost income. Lets also say you got a jump start on your retirement investing at 18, well we all know what starting early can do.