What Necessary Adult Skills Were You Never Taught Growing Up?

What Necessary Adult Skills Were You Never Taught Growing Up?

When you're young, you spend most of your time getting an education to help prepare you for being an adult. And yet some things slip through the cracks. What weren't you taught that you think you should have?

Picture: Tulane Public Relations/Flickr

Despite 13 or more years of education, people often still end up in adulthood without certain common skills, like how to navigate getting a car loan, how to balance their chequebooks, how to understand their health insurance needs, or even how to get along with other people. We want to hear where the holes were in your education. What challenges did you meet in adulthood that left you confused or lost, wondering why no one bothered to explain this to you before?


  • I was in my early twenties before I worked how compound interest worked on something like a credit card or savings account. It’s a shame that math is compulsory for much of shool, but the curriculum doesn’t focus on any real-life financial applications. A bit less trig and a bit more annuities would not go astray.

    • Obviously schools are different, but I completely disagree with this statement. Compounding interest, interest on leasing vehicles, difference in mortgages if you pay more off faster etc. were all thoroughly and specifically covered for real world applications across several years of schooling. I’m only 24, though, perhaps it changed.

  • Defiantly the voting process here in Australia. That said, I don’t think 15/16 year olds would have cared as they can’t vote anyway. But there needs to be much, much better education as to where you vote goes when you cast it.

    • How old are you, if you don’t mind me asking? My primary school did a Canberra trip in year 5 or 6 (early 90s? I can’t remember exactly) that involved visiting Parliament House, learning about how our voting system works and even doing a live example with students acting as political parties with preferential votes cast. I was under the impression that was a fairly standard thing, and Parliament get so many school groups visiting and doing the same tour they have rooms and viewing areas specifically set up for it.

      • Grade 5/6 is far too young for that kind of teaching to have any lasting impact. It really needs to be much closer to the time when you’re going to be voting for kids to remember it.

        • I don’t know, it stuck with me =) Sex education happened around year 4 for me and wasn’t repeated or reinforced at any other time in schooling, but what was taught stuck with me and most of the other people in my year. Kids are pretty good at just remembering things they’re taught and recalling them years later.

    • Good point, but I would argue against teaching people about the ideals of democracy.

      For example, you don’t want to teach kids that the way democracy works is that a bunch of candidates decide that they want to stand for something, and if enough people also believe what that person believes, that person will go on to represent the people who voted for them.

      If you teach THAT version of democracy, you will simply end up with what we have now: a nation of embittered, disillusioned voters who hate all politicians just for being politicians, and who vote in reverse order, putting the person they want to NOT win last, and then picking varying degrees of lesser evils after that.

      Set expectations. Let them know about compromises, about electoral borders, about ‘safe seats’ and ‘swing seats’ and how it’s possible for to mean absolutely nothing when we try to exert our tiny shred of influence which good men and women have fought, bled, DIED FOR, to vote on paranoia, fear, ignorance of issues, trusting the TV to tell us why red or blue should ‘win’ a popularity contest, and why it’s OK that actual issues you care about day to day can’t actually be moved upon because they don’t happen to be ‘the economy’ or ‘security’, which get trotted out and take up centre stage come election time.

      Eg: This party believes in the social issue I care about, but I have to vote for this other party because they sound far more credible (which is important, because I don’t actually have the tools to determine whether they ARE more credible – just whether they sound it) when talking about The Economy, which seems a lot more grown-up and serious and now isn’t the time to be thinking about that little concern that I actually complain about and which impacts me.

      *spits* Fuckin’ remind me why we haven’t had a violent revolt yet? Ohyeah. Because it’s way too fuckin’ hot and I’m pretty tired after work every night hey, and it’s hard enough to pretend to try and get to the gym and watching my shows without getting involved in civil disobedience. Does it count if I pirate game of thrones?

  • How to manage & consolidate Super. Understanding home loans (any loans really). Insurance (health, house & contents etc…). Internet banking and payment types. TAX returns.
    These are nessesary future life skills IMO as an adult.

    I’m also surprised how many young adults I come across now that struggle to fill in a simple form.

    • Why not, i use maybe 5% of what i learnt in highscool classes, most of the subjects i was forced to take i retain no knowledge of the content.

      Despite being an all boys school they should have had Home Ec and Life classes, because its the perfect environment for getting the background and getting a basic understanding of things you actually need to (or at least should) know (and many things i still dont, and for those there is google thankfully)

  • The philosophy behind this issue is very much that of “teach a person to fish”. The theory being that teaching critical thinking skills will allow people to navigate life much better than teaching specific skills, because they’ll have the ability to figure these things out. Teaching maths and English etc is thought of as the best way to acquire those skills.

    Not saying I agree or disagree, but that’s the idea.

    • I think the problem is that the critical skills taught in these subjects aren’t taught within a context of negotiating outcomes. I’d go further and say that my schooling (up to early 80s) was positively slanted against that sort of critical thinking.

  • I grew up with my father dishing out very balanced & thoughtful justice.

    Needless to say this is not how the real world operates. I struggled at uni & professionally with people that were covertly vicious & undermining, having the belief that justice would be done. Read: very very niaive.

    Some people have personality disorders that make them do unfortunate things: borderline & narcissistic. And 1:100 (USA) & 1:200 (UK), ? (Australia), have a sociopathic/psychopathic personality disorder.

    And they will bring you undone if you think life should be fare. Unless you have the skills to deal.

  • 1) The benefits to health insurance (reasonable to understand why this wasn’t passed along because until age 30, there fucking are none).

    2) Track your super. Pay attention to who’s got it, and how much they’re taking from you for it. And they are taking from you. That’s yours, and they’re taking it.

    3) Everything that seems too good to be true IS. Everything. YES, EVERYTHING. No, I don’t care, I do mean everything. If you think you’re getting something for free, you’re not. You’re being marketed as a product at best, outright exploited and scammed at worst.

    And yes, that means 36mth contracts for rented equipment that results in paying three times the market up-front price of the goods, you can’t actually opt out of those at any time you want, and the ‘interest free’ deals come back to bite you with a VENGEANCE if you haven’t actually set a schedule for paying off the item before the interest free deal expires.

    This means all those ‘work from home and earn $6000 a month’ scams, offers to pay and visit seminars that will teach you how to HAND OVER MONEY TO A CON ARTIST, anything that requires you to sign up your friends before you start making money is a pyramid scheme (even if they’ve gone to great lengths to have Legal prove that it’s not), and

    4) Do not get a credit card. Get a debit card. Do not spend money you don’t have. “I’ll pay it later,” works about as well as, “I’ll do it later,” does for your most unpleasant chores – sure you will. When you’re absolutely forced to and it’s an entirely unpleasant experience.

    5) Dating. All of it. Just… all of it. No, porn and TV don’t prepare you, and neither did your parents or high school. People are fucking weird, man. And everyone has different expectations. The best you will ever, ever be able to do is try to communicate your expectations honestly, and no matter how ‘well’ you do, that’s no guarantee you won’t still end up getting fucked over. Price of entry, son.

    6) It’s not what you know, it’s who you know. Always. SO GET NETWORKING, and make nice with everyone you know. Actually knowing something HELPS, but people and connections are more important than skill and knowledge. Maybe you’ll break the paradigm through the sheer unparalleled power of your competence, but really… are you that good? The odds are pretty good you’re not.

    • 1) ages 20-30 were probably the period I had most need for health insurance. I started wearing glasses, my wisdom teeth and tonsils needed removal, sports-related injuries took their toll.

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