Updated: Mar 18, 2019
I love working with young adults who have just gotten out of high school or college and are ready to set out on their adventures in the world. However, I see every day that so many young people are at a huge disadvantage when they begin ‘adulting’ because they just don’t have the financial knowledge they need to be successful. They either end up under a pile of crushing debt or they pigeonhole themselves into careers they hate simply because they don’t know what else to do. One of the characteristics I find extremely helpful for these young individuals is the ability to be flexible. Flexibility can help them think on their feet, alter preconceived notions, and imagine a future that can be quite different from what their parents or guidance counselors laid out for them.
Here’s how flexibility can lead to success for young adults.
Why Flexibility is So Vital
Emotional agility means you can think on your feet and adapt to situations even if they are not what you planned for or expected. Emotional agility is a key component to flexibility because it allows you to come up with a plan B (and C, and D…) and continually shift your thoughts and actions to achieve success. Young adults need to be emotionally agile to envision a future for themselves that does neatly fit into someone else’s box. This could mean working remotely and never spending a day of your life in a traditional office, or it could mean forgoing the spouse and kids route that all your high school friends are taking in favor of traveling the world. Whatever it is you truly want to do, you need flexibility and emotional agility to get there.
What Gets in the Way of Flexibility
Most young people simply don’t get a comprehensive and realistic education about finances from their parents or in their educational settings. This can lead to a whole host of problems like money shame, lack of responsibility, or a misunderstanding of how revolving credit works. This lack of education can result in taking the ‘safe route’ of attending college and finding a well-paying job, all while racking up debt and never truly understanding what you need to create a happy and fulfilling life. It’s hard to remain flexible when you’ve got thousands of dollars of student loans and credit card debt to pay off and need that stable paycheck to pay your bills! So how do you avoid this trap? Here are some tips.
How to Retain Flexibility as You Move Toward Adulthood
Don’t think ‘learning’ only means ‘college’: Many young adults are conditioned to believe they need to immediately start at a four-year university as soon as they graduate from high school. Unfortunately, a large number of young people have no idea what they want to do for a career and end up wasting valuable time and money getting a degree in something they’ll never pursue. It’s important for young adults to realize that they can continue to learn and grow after high school without immediately jumping into a college setting. You can always decide down the road to go to college once you’ve zeroed in on the career path you really want to pursue.
Put off the big purchases: Sure, you may want that brand-new sports car or that fancy loft apartment, but do you really need them now? Part of growing into a wealthy person who has a healthy attitude toward money is being content with what you currently have and not always thinking you need that next best thing. As you start to create your life as an adult, staying out of debt as much as possible will allow you to retain your freedom to make choices. Those fancy purchases can always come later—after you’ve earned them.
Make a dream list or vision board: How do you hone in on what you really want out of life? I’ve found that either writing down a wish list or creating a vision board is helpful for young adults. Being constantly reminded of what you’re staying out of debt for and what you want to eventually accomplish can keep you on the right path and working hard toward your goals.
As a young adult, you have the whole world at your fingertips. However, you can easily lose the advantageous position by rigidly following the pack and getting yourself into a financial situation that limits your flexibility. My challenge to you is to think about all the ways you or those close to you have created limits in their lives so you can more fully understand how to be flexible.
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