How Much Financial Responsibility Should A 20-Something Have?

I am not great with money. I think the problem is I don’t love money. Don’t get me wrong, I love material things, but money in and of itself doesn’t really interest me. Maybe the idea of having money isn’t as compelling because as a recent college grad, I don’t have any. Until very recently money didn’t feel real to me: I loved the things it bought me, but the dollars themselves didn’t have much value. When did my attitude towards money evolve? The very second I opened up my first paycheck. During my last semester of college I spent hours upon hours tutoring freshman on the finer points of writing and not using a hangover as a reason to ask for an extension on their term paper. I loved every almost every minute of explaining the beauty of the semicolon, but I wanted that paycheck. For every minute that I could have been doing something, anything else, I wanted compensation. At eight dollars an hour I was hardly raking it in, but I was so proud of each dollar.

Not gonna lie, my whole perspective towards money didn’t change. Rather, I still spend too much on clothes and restaurants, but at least I am starting to realize that I need to change my financial ways. OK, to be entirely honest, I realize the days of my parents paying my bills are numbered. My childhood of prepaid college room and board is most definitely over, and residing solidly in my 20s — it’s time to tackle this money stuff out. It’s time to start figuring out scary things like rent, insurance and investing. Yikes! When did I become a real person with real responsibilities?

Realizing I know nothing about anything that actually matters, including how to balance a checkbook, I decided to do some hardcore investigating into what the financial experts say is the right amount of financial responsibility for your average, clueless 20-something.

  • Do An Inventory of Your Finances: Do you even know how much money you have? The recession has done a number on all of us, but do you know how it has affected you? Talk to your parent or guardian and figure out how much money you have in the bank, if you have any debt or if you own any property. Once you know what you are working with you can decide how to proceed.
  • Talk To Your Parents About How Much They Are Going To Support You: Your parents might buy you your first apartment or they might never give you a penny the day you get your first paycheck in the mail. There is no right or wrong amount that your parents should or should not give you. It seems pretty standard, however, for parents these days to help their kids get settled and up on their feet. Help can come in the form of money or letting you back into your childhood room while you save. No matter what the decision is, you should come to some agreement about how much the parentals are willing to give and for how long. You don’t want to rely on them forever or be the token 50-year-old still living in the garage.
  • Make A Plan, One You Can Actually Stick To: Recognizing that even 20-something econ majors have a thing or two to learn about real-world finances, devise a plan simple and realistic enough to stick with. If you are one of the many jobless casualties of the recession, don’t plan on receiving a monthly check. If you are in a new relationship, recognize that you might spend a bit more on eating out and Spanx. Basically, steal a tip from Socrates and know thy financial self. Budgets that do not reflect your life won’t work. I am not suggesting that you not try to cut back here and save there, but recognize that there is no way you are going to stop buying your favorite pricey lipstick.
  • Save, If Only To Get Into The Habit: Even if you are only saving a dollar a day, that dollar adds up. Concepts like retirement and paying for future offspring’s college tuition are quite alien to the strapping childless 20-something. Alas, the expenses shall come. Best be prepared for the rising cost of everything by getting yourself into the habit of stashing away part of your paycheck (or in my case babysitting money). No one expects you to have much money to save at this point, especially in your early 20s, but maybe by the time you actually have a paycheck you will naturally put away some of the dough for a rainy day.
  • Learn How To Balance a Checkbook and Pay Your Taxes: Yeah, I don’t have a clue how to do either of those things. I am totally petrified by the concept of filling out all those forms, but I am a big girl, so it’s time to step up to the plate. Maybe I will ask my dad to teach me.