We talk a lot about what it means to be an “adult” here at TFD. And if we’ve learned one thing, it’s this: there is no One True Definition of what it means to be a grown-up. And we can’t deny the societal truth that, if you’re over 18, you’re technically an adult — whether you feel that way or not.
But not everyone hits an age milestone and feels like they’re finally an adult, and that’s okay. And being a grown-up means different things to different people. Personally, there were a few different moments that made me stop and think, Wow, I’m really an adult now. Some were obvious, like making my first rent payment and getting my first office job. Some were a little more specific, like planning my first trip with friends that involved plane travel.
We thought it would be fun to reach out to TFD readers and other bloggers to ask what money or life milestone made them finally feel like a Real Adult — and boy, did we get some good answers! Here are some of my favorites, and if you have your own moment you’d like to share, feel free to sound off in the comments!
1. “Going out for a nice dinner with my parents and picking up the bill.” – Sarah
2. “Getting to 10K in my 401(k) and buying my first car! I didn’t get a car until I was 23; did the shopping, haggling, paperwork, etc. all on my own!”– Taryn
3. “When I took full financial responsibility of my horse, making sure her quality of life in retirement is as great as she made my teens. I made a promise when we bought her I would be her last owner, and keeping that promise has been a joy, despite horses not being cheap to keep!” – Tiny Rebellions
4. “Setting up recurring transfers to my IRA and 401K. Nothing like preparing to be really old that makes you feel, well, really old!” – Kellie
5. “Having framed wall art. My apartment doesn’t look like a dorm room.” – Megan O.
6. “Being able to buy whatever I want at the grocery store instead of having to get Mom’s approval (so this happened in college) — like if I want Toaster Strudels, I’m getting Toaster Strudels! More about freedom of choice than being able to afford it.” – Champagne & Capital Gains
7. “When my credit score hit 800 (after tanking it in my early 20s). Paying my bills, having multiple savings accounts, an IRA and clear money goals are wonderful feelings as well!” – Jill
8. “Sponsored my family trip to overseas. Yeay!” – Seetha
9. “Literally last Sunday when I was standing in front of the freezer in the grocery store, agonizing over which overpriced gelato I should splurge on. Then, I realized I am gainfully employed, save aggressively and PLOPPED COOKIE DOUGH + RASPBERRY IN MY CART, BABY. Sweet freedom.” – MissFunctional Money
10. “Buying small size bin bags for the smaller bathroom bins as well as regular ones for the kitchen bin! (…in the new flat we bought I guess.)” – Laura
11. “Buying my own bed and mattress, not going for the cheapest option but the most convenient. Oh, and towels.” – Samantha
12. “Moving out and not needing a monthly allowance from my parents to do so. Rent, utilities, cell phone, food, all on my own!” – Charlie
13. “Despite being married, pregnant, with my own flat, pets, career, savings, investments etc, what *finally* made me feel like an adult was setting up my password manager and two-factor authentication.” – Megan
14. “Moving overseas and figuring out residency paperwork, finishing an apartment, getting internet set up in said apartment, etc. all in another language, all by myself.” – Lindsey
15. “Pretty baseline, but when I saved the last dollar on my 6-month emergency plan. Big feeling of safety.” – Boo
16. “The moment I realized I have the equivalent of my salary in retirement savings.” – Maggie
17. “Getting laid off, strangely enough. I was floundering emotionally at my corporate job, we all were doing triple workloads, but I didn’t quit because the $ was too good. I’m stressed sometimes in service jobs, but I own my life and pay my bills.” – Colleen
18. “Yesterday — when I was at Whole Foods and I realized — I don’t have business to shop there. Was canvassing for prices online while at the store. Why so expensive?” – Lei
19. “When I sat down, laid out some papers and all my health insurance payments were up to date. I was 24 then.” – Chriselle
20. “Paying off my medical debt and starting an emergency fund!” – Sushi
21. “Probably the 12-day span that included opening a Home Depot credit card and then purchasing both a refrigerator and a water heater. Oh the joys of homeownership!” – Natasha
22. “When my boyfriend and I decided on the extended health insurance package because it included maternal care and it takes 24 months to earn the right for that part of the package, and we’re slowly planning kids and all.” – Kathrine
23. “Paying rent, my credit card bill and having benefits through my work (which all forced me to be better at saving and keeping track of my money).” – MK
24. “Opening a savings account just because my brother was paying me back a lot of money he had borrowed and I didn’t know where else to put it. I was like, I should have done this 2 years ago!” – Eysha
25. “When I got my own cubicle at work instead of sharing desks with other people. I was so excited to be able to hang up pictures and actually keep my own things in the drawers.” – Patrice
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