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So, what should you be able to do?

This is fun.

When Genevieve Bellaire graduated from law school in 2015 at 26 years old, she had acquired ample knowledge of case law, but didn’t really understand the deal with health insurance, taxes, or how to find an apartment. What were all these forms she was being asked to complete at her new job? How do you set up a 401(k)? “I found that I just really didn’t have the answer,” Bellaire says, “and oftentimes, didn’t even know the question to ask to make smart decisions.”

Bellaire realized many young people were similarly ill-equipped to deal with the realities of adulthood. According to a 2021 survey of recent US college grads, 81 percent wished they were taught more life skills before they graduated. After years of following a syllabus, there are few instructions for how to get your act together outside the confines of a classroom or your parents’ home, she thought. In 2021, Bellaire launched Realworld, an app designed to answer those same adulting questions for its user base of over 100,000.

OK, so US graduates are alarmingly ill-informed. We know that.

Now, what is it that you should actually know how to do? If we were to build a short book – a pamphlet – which would teach folk what they really need to know, what should be in it? How to get a mobile phone contract? Get electricity supply? Enroll in a pension? Boil an egg? What are the basic things folk actually need to know?

Bathe before going to work? Check the teeth for spinach? Pay the rent?


50 thoughts on “So, what should you be able to do?”

  1. Good manners? Basic housekeeping skills? How to cope with the internet? Some idea of one’s own (un-)importance?

  2. The Book of Adulting.
    Chapter One How to rent an apartment.
    Chapter Two How to save money by cooking your own food.
    Chapter Three How to communicate with people over the age of forty.
    Chapter Four You’ve lost your job because you made your boss mad by taking too much time off work. How to get another job.

    All of the above and more.

    Chapter Eleven How to understand that you are not the centre of the universe.

  3. Clovis.. Chapter 11 should be Chapter 1, so you can refer to it while doing the other chapters, often.

    But yeah… It’s not the US alone. And not even new.. Nothing in my primary-highschool-uni education track even hinted at even the necessity to have a look at that Adulting Skills.
    And afaik still doesn’t up to this day.
    The focus is entirely on Grades, Graduation, and Grievance.

  4. “but didn’t really understand the deal with health insurance, taxes, or how to find an apartment. What were all these forms she was being asked to complete at her new job? How do you set up a 401(k)? “I found that I just really didn’t have the answer,” Bellaire says, “and oftentimes, didn’t even know the question to ask to make smart decisions.”

    If only there were people she could have turned to for advice on tax and pensions. People who would have studied such things whilst she was studying law. People who might have charged a fee, just as she charged people who came to her for advice on the law.

  5. How about asking some adults they’ve known all their lives. Like their parents. Or their parents could even have involved their kids in the adult things they were doing as the kids grew up.

  6. I offer you my parents’ advice as I went off to university.

    Mum: Keep yourself clean.

    Dad: Take out English girls – you can afford beer but not whisky.

  7. Some clueless bint launches an app to help people even more clueless than she is.
    Got to be a winner. Can I get the home number of the guys who funded this?

  8. I wouldn’t have bothered learning any of those skills before leaving university because I was such a lazy self-centred arse.

    Although I did briefly share a flat with a bloke from Belfast whose mum made sure that before he flew the nest he could iron a shirt, cook a reasonable meal for two, and bake a cake. I thought that was quite impressive.

  9. dearieme – that was actually pretty good advice.

    As far as a pamphlet goes, all you would need these days is a few recommended URLs. Even a few suggested search terms would do. For heavens sake, I moved out years earlier than her (23? it was a while ago) and bought a house, without anything like the resources she has at her fingertips.

  10. Q: How to tell when politicians are lying to you?

    A: Are they a socialist, a leftie, a greenie, a commie, a democrat? They’re lying to you. Are they something else? 70/30 chance that they’re lying to you.

    Q: Is a boy/girl/whatever with blue/green/purple/pink/orange hair, and/or an assortment of metal embedded in their face/body worth dating?

    A: No.

  11. Back at *school* we had a two-year course called Design For Living which taught all this stuff if we hadn’t already picked it up. Things like turning up for work, what mortgages and rent are, dealing with bank accounts, looking for jobs in the newspaper Classifieds section, where the STD clinic was and how to avoid needing it, etc.

  12. My experience of such classes at school was that the alleged adults who designed them were totally clueless.

    As for this app, I believe it’s called Google. Alternatively, phones reputedly have the ability to call one’s parents for advice.

  13. Sewing a button back on a shirt

    How to make a fire without matches

    How to build a basic structure

    Reading contracts

    Women hate nice guys

    Splitting a check

    Trading stocks

    Taking out a loan

    How to purchase a house (calculating down payment, mortgage, etc.)

    How to react to failure and rejection

    No one cares what you do for a living

    Always talk to a lawyer instead of the cops

    Hating your dad doesn’t make you cool

  14. Advice given by a grizzled old teacher to my leaving class, “Just remember that when you get married, a twopenny bun will cost you fourpence.”

  15. Stupid 16 year olds leave home and manage to live.

    You have to be very wet to not be able to do so at 26.

    81 percent wished they were taught more life skills

    They wanted to be taught them. For free no doubt. Like you can teach a person how to cook for themselves or keep to a budget. Some skills are learned by reading, watching and asking questions. If cooking classes were run, you would be sure the useless ones wouldn’t attend anyway.

    As for the mechanical things like health insurance, really? The problem is stopping the bastards from trying to sign you up.

  16. How to put up a shelf
    How to change a wheel
    How to change a bicycle tyre

    How to do basic maintenance

    It’s surprising the number of people who can’t do even simple things.
    Flat tyre? Call AA because they don’t know how to jack a car up and swap a wheel.
    Brake pads worn? Take it to garage and get charged silly money. It takes 30 minutes, FFS.

  17. Flat tyre? Call AA because they don’t know how to jack a car up and swap a wheel.
    Brake pads worn? Take it to garage and get charged silly money. It takes 30 minutes, FFS.

    For safety-critical items, I’d personally rather pay a professional to do it right! And if I’m paying for the AA anyway they can come and change the wheel: it’s probably no quicker at the side of the road to do it with the hand tools I have with me, than wait for them to turn up with the compressor-powered spanners.

  18. Change a diaper, plan an invasion, butcher a hog, conn a ship, design a building, write a sonnet, balance accounts, build a wall, set a bone, comfort the dying, take orders, give orders, cooperate, act alone, solve equations, analyse a new problem, pitch manure, program a computer, cook a tasty meal, fight efficiently, die gallantly.

  19. Flat tyre? Call AA because they don’t know how to jack a car up and swap a wheel.

    BiW is right. I pay for the AA and they have the kit to do it safely.

    Some years ago I had a blowout on an unlit section of the M25. Pulled in, triangle up, hazards on, but no hiviz required in those days. Passing coppers asked me what the problem was, I explained that I was waiting for the AA. “Quite right, too many people get killed trying this themselves. And we’d have given you a good telling off.”

    AA man said “Can’t you get the nuts undone ?”

  20. I don’t know if this is still true, but the most pointless lesson in school was Careers. Absolutely fucking useless, nothing that we could take forward with us at all.

  21. @BiW @Ottokring

    Surely time spent in the hazard area being minimised is safer?

    I’ve had several blowouts in my years of driving.

    One on the M8 and another on the A55 (and one in a B&Q car park).

    M8 was front offside.
    A55 was front nearside.

    Both swapped out and changed in under 20 minutes. The one on the A55 was hairiest, no hard shoulder, fast traffic approaching (dual carriageway speeds). Pulled off as far as I could to swap out. Helpfully a random copper was driving past and pulled up behind with lights.
    I wouldn’t want to be sat there (there wasn’t much of an embankment to move away from the vehicle either) for hours waiting for the cavalry to come and fix it.

    The AA claim they get to more motorists in 30 minutes than other breakdown providers.
    So on average, I’d be quicker to swap out myself and would minimise the hazard to other people and myself. Doubly so if you’re going to be sat there for hours because they’re having a busy period and the nearest tech is miles away.

    Its just a matter of being vaguely mechanically competent and knowing what to do. It isn’t that hard to learn how to use a jack and tyre iron. Once its done, then you can go to a garage and get them to use the brrp-brrp tools.
    (As an aside, I am not a fan of the modern trend for not having a proper spare. Have a proper wheel, its safer.)

  22. She appears to have missed out on one of the most essential skills for a young(ish) female.
    What to do when hearing “Make me a sammich”

  23. @Ottokring
    Advice from my careers teacher: You shouldn’t study computers they’ll never catch on.

  24. We didn’t have a “careers teacher” or if we did he or she didn’t waste time with the top streams who would, you’d think, be capable of deciding for themselves what they’d want to do.

    Looking back I suppose our teacher of Religious Knowledge gave us some useful preparation for life: her account of Mohammedanism, as it was then called, was interesting.

  25. In my old school, a history teacher became Careers master. He retired about a dozen years ago.
    His only job outside teaching was as an auxiliary postie at Christmas.

  26. She graduated law school at 26 – this has nothing to do with the school not teaching life skills.

    Had she never held a job before?

    It’s a grift she’s running.

  27. Chapters for your book? I think that’s already been done:

    Climb the very highest Himalayas
    Be among the greatest ever tennis players
    Win at chess or marry a Princess or
    Study hard and be an eminent professor
    I could be a millionaire, play the clarinet
    Travel everywhere
    Learn to cook, catch a crook
    Win a war then write a book about it
    paint a Mona Lisa
    be another Caesar
    Compose an oratorio that was sublime


  28. ” I pay for the AA and they have the kit to do it safely.”

    I daresay you do pay for them. But it’s just insurance, so once you’ve called them, you’ll pay more at the next renewal. Call them twice in a year and they get very sniffy. Call them three or more times and probably you won’t be able to renew, or at least not for that vehicle.

    Best to change your own tyres if you can, and keep the AA for the real problems.

    Oh, and seconding whoever said make sure you have a real spare wheel.

  29. Pitch black winter’s evening near Jct with M1 on M25 countd as real problem

    I am a gold card holder now, which means I get to bum the repairmem when they turn up ( at least I think it said that, I’ll have to check…)

  30. The first time I needed to change a tyre I was (or nearly) 50 – wasn’t difficult.
    So I don’t rate that as a priority.

  31. @ Clovis Sangrail
    Good comment – you are clearly closer to modern life than I.
    c.50 years ago renting a small flat was not a problem; I learned some basic cookery before I was 10; my parents and most of their friends and my senior tutor were over 40; the only times I lost a job was through redundancy albeit both times “Human Resources” hated my guts because I achieved better results than by following their nostrums (partly by working harder for longer)

  32. How many times are you going to need to do X?
    How well will you be able to do X compared to a professional, what would be the difference in time, and will difference in quality matter eg to aesthetics or (more important) safety?
    If you learn to do X yourself will you need to purchase/rent tools and will you need to pay for initial/top-up training to keep your skills current?
    Is doing X going to be “fun” for you, fulfilling, a hobby in its own right? Or just drudge necessity?
    How much can you earn in an hour?

    If it’s something where you earn enough in a few hours’ work to pay for a professional to do X as many times as you’re likely to do it in your life (or at least the marginal difference between getting a pro versus getting tools and training yourself), then there isn’t a lot of point learning to do X if you don’t particularly want to do it or you think you’ll be wasting a lot of time or potentially cocking up the safety or looks.

    Something like learning to cook well is very valuable on this kind of scorecard as you’re unlikely to poison yourself (just as likely to get food poisoning at a dodgy restaurant) but you’ll do it many times, enough to make buying a range of equipment a reasonable expense and the savings compared to regular dining out will, over a multi-decade timescale, be massive.

  33. As for fear of paying for AA or anyone else because “it isn’t a real job” and you might not be able to renew when you really need it – I think in most cases that’s misplaced. What kind of banger are you driving if you need roadside callouts three times a year? If by choice or necessity you are driving something that unreliable I guess you better get good at maintenance. But I think most people go years between call-outs – certainly modern cars are more reliable, and when they do go wrong, the electronics make it a more specialist job to diagnose and fix – and if you’re paying for the AA and don’t feel confident doing it yourself, I don’t think there should be any shame in getting some service back for the payments you’ve been making. To be honest I switch breakdown insurance most years anyway, and unlike car insurance it doesn’t have a system of years of no claims bonuses transferable between providers, so “they might stick up the price next year if you use them” really doesn’t bother me at all.

  34. But I think most people go years between call-outs – certainly modern cars are more reliable, and when they do go wrong, the electronics make it a more specialist job to diagnose and fix

    Cars are more reliable.
    Diagnosis is easy though – get yourself an OBD II reader, about £20.
    Give you a good indication. Saved me loads of money.

    Maintenance and general mechanical skills are the best way to save loads of money. Most common car jobs are relatively simple with even a little mechanical ability. And general mechanical skills allow you to do things like fix a leaky tap, a shower, put up a shelf. That will save loads over years.

  35. A mate of mine was told “You’ll never go anywhere, boy” by the Careers Master. A few years later he went back with a photo album of his two trips around the world after he had got a job as a Silver Service Steward on the Canberra………..

  36. Seconding Peter MacFarlane’s comment about a spare wheel. Something like 30% of new cars sold in the US DO NOT HAVE spare tires of any kind. A lot of this tire-changing discussion is moot if what you really need is a flatbed truck to haul your car away.

  37. @CD
    “That will save loads over years”

    I guess it depends what “loads” means to you. Couple of hundred pounds a year for plumber, carpenter, car mechanic jobs maybe? It wouldn’t be a 100% saving on those areas – few of us would want to touch eg gas central heating or do household electrical work. So I don’t see how it gets into thousands per year. And for a lot of us (on this site anyway I suspect), a couple of hundred quid a year is just peanuts really. Couple of hours of work. If you’re worried about a grand a year, easiest thing to do is find a job that pays a few grand more. This doesn’t apply to someone who works minimum wage so down that end of the spectrum, makes more sense to do more of the practical stuff yourself.

    Much more savings to be had on getting good with food, I think. And even bigger savings from improving your discernment of potential long-term partners at a youngish age … While settling down with someone and splitting the bills can substantially reduce your outgoings, little in life will cost you more than a messy divorce later on.

  38. Lord Finchley tried to mend the Electric Light
    Himself. It struck him dead: And serve him right!
    It is the business of the wealthy man
    To give employment to the artisan.

    Hilaire Belloc (1870-1953)

  39. @Chernyy Drakon, October 24, 2022 at 9:26 am

    Wheel change after ~60mph blow out on busy A road:

    NS/R on grass verge, in dark and rain and no torch. Under 10 min

    Later when back home timed it on drive in daylight with same std in boot jack etc

    <3 mins from exit car to back in

    Screw AA etc

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