Adulting 101: Top 7 Things to Do to Secure a Successful Future

By Brittany Anas for Galvanize

When it comes to adulting, there’s no training manual per se. But you do learn some life skills as you go, such as the importance of keeping your car on a regular maintenance schedule, doing your taxes on time, scheduling your own dental cleanings, and memorizing a few go-to recipes. 

But when it comes to your career—and finding one that aligns with your talents and interests—what can you do to set yourself up for success? How can you make sure that you’re not just financially well off, but have also found your niche in a rewarding and fulfilling career, one in which you can advance and feel that you’re reaching your full potential?

We asked life coaches and financial experts for their best advice when it comes to adulting 101 and excelling in your career. One common thread in their advice? Continually invest in yourself and be a lifelong learner. Enrolling in an online coding bootcamp, for instance, is a way to learn valuable skills to prepare you for a lucrative, fulfilling career.

Here’s more advice experts shared on how to have a successful and financially secure future:

1. Trust in yourself and become crystal clear on what you want

Often, young adults are still listening to all the noise of what others want for them, says Stacy Hartmann, a business success coach. While other people’s intentions may be good, it can make it difficult for you to identify what you want for yourself. 

So how can you tap into what you really want to do with your life? Hartmann suggests allowing yourself to imagine and dream any reality that you want, and do so without restraints, much like you would when you were a child.

“Even if the dreams are far-fetched, they contain clues about what you really value and care about,” she explains. “They unlock your deepest ‘why’ and passions that crack open new possibilities.”

The second step is then to step into that future version of yourself, Hartmann says. Ask yourself questions such as: “If what I want really happened, how would I be showing up?” and, “What characteristics would I have?”

As you journal out those answers, a picture starts to form in your mind, Hartmann said. 

“Continue to visualize your future as though it is already here. This creates deep coherence between the mind and the heart. The more we do this in addition to taking all the tactical steps to create your future, the more quickly success starts to show up.”

2. Find a mentor

Are there people who have careers and lifestyles that look appealing and seem to be something that you want?

Try to learn more about them and what they do, suggests Lauren Cohen, a Certified Life Coach and Certified Career Coach. “See if you can schedule a call or meet with them and set up a few check-ins,” Cohen says. “Let them know you’d appreciate guidance and are seeking a mentor.”

Many professionals love serving as mentors. In fact, some local chambers of commerce have programs that will help connect young professionals with mentors.

3. Give to others

One thing successful people have in common? They are givers, says Cohen. 

“No matter where you are in life, you can give back,” she says. “And being part of something bigger contributes to feeling happier and taking away from feelings of isolation and feeling down. No matter what personality type or age someone is, there are opportunities and ways to help others and give back.”

If you’re looking to volunteer your time, VolunteerMatch can link you with opportunities in your community. 

Want to donate money? Sites such as GiveWell and GreatNonprofits can help you find organizations that align with your values.

4. Maintain a budget 

A lot of times budgets carry negative connotations such as scrimping and saving and boring brown-bag lunches. But you can think of a budget as a way to reallocate your funds so that you have enough money for what you need and value. Whether you prefer a notebook or a Google spreadsheet, the first step is to create a budget that’s written down somewhere, says financial coach Jonathan Hess

“A budget is only as good as how it is followed,” Hess says.

Divide expenses up into needs and wants and separate the needs into fixed and variable costs. In addition, you should budget based on your paycheck, and not necessarily on a monthly basis. This will ensure that you have enough from each paycheck to cover all of your expenses and help you with the timing of variable spending.

5. Build an emergency savings fund

One thing every budget should make room for is an emergency savings fund. Most experts advise that you have enough in your emergency savings to cover at least three to six months of expenses. 

Having an emergency fund means you won’t have to rely on a credit card (and pay interest) should you get unexpectedly laid off, need to repair your car, or stumble across any other unforeseen expenses, says Shawn Valco, a Certified Financial Planner with Balance & Discipline.

“The less you rely on credit cards, the less interest expenses you pay over time, the more you get to spend your hard-earned money as you wish,” Valco says. 

6. Begin a retirement fund

Another line to add to your budget? A retirement fund.

The best thing young adults can do financially is to start investing for their retirement as soon as possible, says Steffa Mantilla, a personal finance expert and founder of Money Tamer. Even if you can only contribute $50 a month to start, the compounding interest will help you build a retirement fund and will help you get in the habit of contributing to your retirement from the start. 

“Too many people wait until their 30s to start contributing and then are playing catch-up,” Mantilla says.

Also, take advantage of any 401k plans your employer may offer, suggests Aviva Pinto, the managing director at Wealthspire Advisors in New York City. You don’t have to pay income taxes on your contributions, and often companies will match a percentage of your contributions, helping you build up your savings faster.

7. Be a lifelong learner

If you want to be successful and enjoy a fulfilling life, never stop learning, says career and leadership expert Tony Bradshaw, author of The Millionaire Choice. 

Whether it’s reading, taking enrichment courses, or enrolling in an online coding bootcamp, picking up a new skill will not just make you more valuable in the job market, it can also bring about happiness and confidence. 

“Develop a lifestyle of learning about job-related topics to push your experience and expertise, learn about health, family, marriage, and enjoy learning new things you know nothing about,” Bradshaw says. “With the use of technology today, it’s easier than ever to absorb and learn new things.”

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