21 Life Skills Millennials Should Learn Before Age 21

Today, we’ve got a list of 21 life skills that needs to be part of a young millennial’s curriculum in order to manage life beyond the ivory towers. No straight up math because honestly, when is anyone ever going to use a logarithm again. I didn’t do half the things on this list before I turned 21.

Surprise Quiz! I’ve got about 18 out of the 21 down. I’m 26! Not bad…right? Um…how many have you guys and gals aced?

Hey, it’s not like these numbers…randomly came together to match up exactly at 21 or anything. 😏

1. How to file taxes.

If your tax situation is simple, it’s more economical to do it yourself. Especially if you are in Sweden. The Swedish government makes it so easy that you can do it from your phone in about 3 pages1. Unfortunately, the mummified layers of the American tax system has Intuit (the guys that make Turbo Tax and Quicken) lobbying for even more complicated tax structures so more people can buy their software.

2. How to write a check.

Props to my high school for actually reserving some time aside during class to teach students how to write a secure and proper check.

“Always remember to strike the rest of the amount on the check so no one can write in numbers after”

I mean some semblance of saving and investing knowledge would have been nice too but it seems there’s more emphasis on students learning to write checks.

Agendas everywhere.

3. How to open a bank account.

How I did it was marching into the bank with Mommy and letting her dictate what and where I sign as I sat there wondering when I can go back home and resume Sims 2. Well, if you can’t trust your own mom, who are you supposed to trust.

4. How to build credit.

I was surprise (but not exactly shocked) to learn some people believe in order to build credit, you would need credit card debt. Which obviously isn’t true; no one should ever carry consumer debt!

5. How to open a retirement account.

Kids like us have it so easy now. Go to any brokerage (Fidelity, TD Ameritrade, Vanguard etc.) or a neighborhood bank. Then fill out the required paperwork which might include going onto the IRS website and waiting a few days. Submit the paperwork and voilà! Then you can move into learning about bonds and funds to build that first million 🙂

Reader Joan brought up that traditional banks shouldn’t be a first choice because of their high fees compare to e-brokerages. I noticed that as well so Fidelity and/or Vanguard would be a seasoned alternative.

6. How to change and price the tires on cars.

A friend of mine went to their dealership for a tire quote and they quoted her twice, twice as much as the quote they gave to her husband on the phone a hour earlier. What pigs. I’m not saying girls should learn the ins-and-outs of a car but we should shake off our naïvety and be more suspicious how our gender plays in dealings that prey on gender stereotypes.

7. How to negotiate salaries.

Talk to this brave bat.

8. How to track spending.

There’s lots of modes and methods out there so excuses are invalid. Financially savvy or sink.

Related: Our budget download sheet with everything you need.

9. How to create a good resume (and cover letter).

I hated writing my cover letter and resume. I hated self promotion. The cover letter is a short essay on how awesome you are as a person and it took me 2 years to learn how to write one that was half way passing.

And after I wrote it, I couldn’t bring myself to read it. It was all lies. I was so tempted to write: I’m human. I have bad days where I’m not as patient with my coworkers but I really don’t think I would burn down the building or bum around. That’s not how my mom raised me so hire me please.

10. How to file for marriage.

Noooo rush. Especially not the ladder especially pre-21. But it’s important to learn the legality of it since it varies by state. I was a Californian citizen and Jared was a Washington citizen so we had just a little more paperwork. Jared’s lucky I haven’t looked into a divorce yet 😋

11. How to quit a job gracefully.

Put it into writing first, give an appropriate amount of advance notice, gather personal belongings beforehand and be honest during the exit interview of why you are leaving.

12. How to speak in public.

My parents told me when I was a child that children shouldn’t speak unless spoken to first. It stuck with me. It’s a cultural thing so I’m as shy as a wallflower now. Unfortunately, public speaking is the one thing that could boost your salary by 50%.

13. How to apologize.

BIG!!! This ended 2 or more of my relationships. I was in the wrong but for some reason the “S” word didn’t come to me. I knew I was wrong but I couldn’t apologize until Mr. Executive confronted me on it. He said he has never seem me say sorry and it hit me where I learned it from: my father. It was too late by then. I’m sorry Mr. E for being a brat.

Now I apologize to Jared almost everyday 😉 Check on Ms. FAF’s post on the article that eased their tension in matrimony.

14. How to ace an interview.

From a socially anxious POV, practice does make a huge difference. I did it in the mirror before (it felt silly) but it alleviated some tension.

A schoolmate of mine took an entire day off school to prepare for her summer job internship. The next day, I asked her if she ditched to do something fun. I thought it was ridiculous she needed the entire day. Well, she aced the interview (I bombed it) so for that one day of school she missed – it was $3,000 and work experience in her pockets.

15. How to drive (or at least bike).

Can I not do this list anymore…the last…4 things I never even learned how to do properly. I almost drove my driving instructor off a small cliff hidden in shrubbery. Thank goodness she responded in time with her brakes. I’m certain everyone here is a better driver than me but I’ll give myself half a point.

16. How to use birth control.

This is just as much of a woman’s responsibility as a man’s. 50/50. Everybody (millennial age) I know has gotten on the pill or got an IUD.

I’m fighting harder for birth control after my friend Soap told me to watch Teen Mom. Soap, as I mentioned before, likes her heroines to be like Paris Hilton. She likes shows like Teen Mom or Pregnant at 16. They’re babies making babies with men who might as well be babies too.

I use to watch Maury too. It was entertaining, not going to lie, but it made me a little depressed afterwards. Like eating a bucket of greasy fried chicken, you’re not happy with yourself afterwards.

Um…..well are you?

17. How to comfort someone.

Please don’t say anything that resembles: “it’s OK, look what happened to me” or “yeah I know how you feel” because you most likely don’t. We all respond to stimuli differently. Mrs. PP goes into more depth here on how to help a person who is grieving.

18. How to defend yourself “verbally.”

The best part about growing up is being able to talk back. I don’t even talk back actually. I stare at them with dead eyes until they realize what they said was tasteless. Try practicing being assertive; do not react angrily. Screaming and profanities doesn’t add much besides giving them the joy of a reaction.

19. How to defend yourself physically.

This isn’t just watching self defense videos or carrying pepper spray (not affiliate but I do have this one; never had to use it) around at all times. You have to consider the legal limitations on the definition of self defense as well.

20. How to remove stains & basic laundry.

Bleach can be harsh on fabric. The best stain removers on the market I’ve seen are Zout and Oxyclean.

Take it from an Airbnb host who has seen her share of “what..the…how…” stains: Zout is awesome.

“Shout” (Zout’s knock-off) on the other hand is completely worthless! So are TIDE To-Go pens. Very worthless!

It goes down to the enzyme properties of these stain blasters. Some removers only treat a specific kind of stain (blood, ketchup, grease, dirt) with its enzyme breakdowns where others cover two, three or all the big names in staining. Most commercial cleaning agents do not disclose the specific enzymes so just forget everything because their marketing needs Jesus transparency. You just need Zout and OxyClean. Oxyclean (RIP Bill Mays) is the king of stain removal.

21. How to cook 3 good things.

You don’t need to spend your life in the kitchen but you need to learn 3 basic recipes (by heart) that you can cook and cook well. This is not a gender negotiable thing.

A real life scenario usually goes down like this:

“Hey Terry, can you bring something for the potluck?”

“Yeah sure Sam, I make a mean Quiche.”

-At the potluck-

Super cute, smart millionaire (yet frugal) doctor at the potluck asks:

“Who made the Quiche? It’s great!”

Bam, just like that, wedding bells.


Woo-hoo, weekend coming up! Alright-y, out of 21, how many did you get?


  1. https://www.vox.com/2016/4/8/11380356/swedish-taxes-love

24 thoughts on “21 Life Skills Millennials Should Learn Before Age 21”

  • I think I got 12, which I feel is pretty dang good!

    I got married when I was 21, so I made your cut off of ‘not before 21’. 🙂 I remember learning how to write a check in high school, but now that I’m older, I wonder why we didn’t learn about budgeting and more financial tips that were useful. Those are real world needs for kids!!! Our kids will be learning all that and more. I’m pretty sure Hubs will have them set up to be financial advisors after graduation (not really, but probably not far off).

    These are all great tips to share! Send it to all high schools!!

  • I got about 15? Hehe I think that’s good enough. When we closed on our house two years ago, I didn’t even know how to void a check. Our realtor was like @_@.

    Thanks for the shout-out, dear! I also have a problem with the word “Sorry.” I grew up not hearing my parents saying sorry to each other a lot. Even know I still struggle with apologizing to Mr. FAF sometimes. Great lesson! 😉
    Ms. Frugal Asian Finance recently posted…Why I Don’t Follow Commercial Personal Finance Blogs

  • Add to the list: How to be humble. It’s a very important trait to posses – it’ll keep you honest and kind.

    I admittedly have had my moments where I was not humble when I should have been, and it’s lead to some unfortunate things.

    This is a great list 🙂 I have a similar one coming up (20 things I wish I’d known in my 20’s)! Great minds think alike?
    Dave @ Married with Money recently posted…Dating Advice: Should You Split The Bill?

      • Great list Lily. Interesting to see a list from a 26 year old perspective. I didn’t have most of the skills you listed before I was 21 but trying to make sure my kids have them. Thanks for sharing. If you want to know “What I wish I knew in my early 20’s” , check out my post from a few weeks ago (from a 50 year old perspective!). One skill I wish I learned early on was to be kind, ALWAYS.

  • On the investing part, I don’t think being able to sign up the paperwork at a bank is a good option!

    Banks are well known (it’s true!) for overcharging, wrap (hidden) fees etc. Cut out the middleman, you’ll be happier and so will your money down the road!

  • Quitting for the first time (at 26) was such a great and empowering experience! It was surprisingly terrifying (even with another job lined up that I wanted more). I’d left other jobs, but for the expected things: college/limited term/grad school, quitting on my terms was great.

    And, hmm, maybe I’m too full of myself, but I’ve definitely done all of those things (I’m 29)! Maybe not mastered them! And I guess my husband picked up the marriage license, so I guess I shouldn’t fully take credit for that!
    Mrs. Kiwi @ KiwiAndKeweenaw.com recently posted…Where’s Your Favorite Place?

  • I got most of these, but I never would have thought about the tires in a million years. How slimy you got two totally different quotes! Looks like I’ll be having a man call multiple mechanics for quotes from now on! Thanks for sharing!

  • Great list, I think this would be good for the millennials who were born in the mid 90’s. I’m a geriatric millennial so I almost feel like I shouldn’t call myself a millennial haha.
    Number 20- I have Shout, but I’ve never heard of Zout! Maybe it’s an American thing? I should look into it. You must see some weird stains as an Airbnb host.
    Number 21- Haha, smart, frugal, millionaire doctor- you have Jared already, computer engineers (at least that’s what I think Jared is) are even better!
    GYM recently posted…Money Regrets: Two Things I Spent Money On That I Wish I Hadn’t

  • Woo! I got all but the marriage one and the tires one – but neither marriage nor a car is in my future, hopefully for a very long long time. 😉 That said, I’m 30, so I’d better have this stuff down by now!

    This is a great list of “adulting” topics for people who don’t know where to start.

    If taxes are too confusing, my guess is that most millennials qualify for VITA assistance. It’s an IRS-sanctioned program where volunteers fill out your taxes for you for free. It’s geared towards low income folks but their upper limit is over 50k/year in income, so unless you’re really rich, you probably qualify. No need to give Intuit more money.

    Also, for those who do understand taxes, I highly recommend volunteering with VITA at tax time. I had such a wonderful experience and have never felt so appreciated as a volunteer.
    Meow @ Money with Meow recently posted…The Equifax Breach: What You Should Do

  • I’m 30 and my boyfriend is a mechanic and I still don’t know how to change a tire. I think I rely on him too much lol! So sad. I need to learn in case he’s not there to help me. I’ve seen him do it tons of times! But actually doing something vs. watching is totally different.

    Thanks for sharing a great list! I wish I knew this before I turned 21.

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