10 Essential Life Skills for 20-Somethings

GET SET FOR LIFE

The life lessons that you learn in your 20s should help make you an independent person. Some are financial and some are practical. Your financial accomplishments will help you survive in emergencies, make your older years more comfortable, and build a foundation for good lifelong money-management habits. Similarly, learning a few basic household skills will give you bragging rights and save you a bundle because you won't need to call in a pro.

FINANCIAL ACCOMPLISHMENT: CONSOLIDATE COLLEGE LOANS

Many 20-somethings start their working lives burdened with college loan debt -- $33,000 on average for 2014 graduates, according to The Wall Street Journal. Consolidating loans obtained from multiple sources can lower your monthly nut, although rarely the interest rate. Graduates who received aid from the federal government can apply for the loan consolidation program. Loans from private sources, however, are much harder to consolidate; Wells Fargo is one of the few banks that will help you do so.

FINANCIAL ACCOMPLISHMENT: BUILD YOUR CREDIT SCORE

One huge byproduct of paying back college loans is the boost it gives your credit score. A high credit score helps you qualify to rent an apartment, borrow money to buy a car or a house, and open a credit card account. Paying bills on time and running a credit card tab that stays below 30 percent of your credit limit also keeps your score in the target range.

FINANCIAL ACCOMPLISHMENT: PLAN FOR RETIREMENT

>FINANCIAL ACCOMPLISHMENT: PLAN FOR RETIREMENT You're not retiring any time soon and keeping your head above water is claiming every penny you earn. But if your workplace offers a retirement plan, you really should contribute. If the opportunity isn't available or you're self-employed, set up one of the IRS-approved retirement accounts designed for individuals. Contribution limits, tax treatment, and investment choices differ for each type of account. Speak with an investment advisor to help you sort this all out. How much to contribute depends on many factors, but if you start saving for retirement now, you won't miss the cash and you'll have a cushy nest egg for your senior years.

FINANCIAL ACCOMPLISHMENT: SET UP AN EMERGENCY FUND

You never know when you'll need a hefty chunk of change for an emergency. Obsessing about all the bad things that can happen is certainly a buzz kill, but stashing money in a bank account designated for emergencies is one smart move. The size of this fund is up to you, but many financial experts recommend at least three months worth of living expenses. America Saves offers tips to get you going.

FINANCIAL ACCOMPLISHMENT: BUY RENTER'S INSURANCE

Sure, a landlord is obligated to fix your apartment in the event of weather damage or fire, but don't expect help replacing your possessions. That's why you need renter's insurance, even if your lease doesn't require it. Tally up what it would cost to buy new everything -- dishes and furniture, sheets and towels, computer and other electronics; the total might shock you. If you're a typical apartment renter, insurance probably won't cost more than $200 a year, and sometimes can be bundled with your auto insurance.

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PRACTICAL ACCOMPLISHMENT: HANG SHELVES

You don't need any knowledge of complex carpentry to hang a shelf. As long as the walls are made of drywall, and not plaster, hanging shelves is almost a piece of cake. And doing it yourself, rather than hiring a professional, will save you a good $75. For starters, you'll need a drill, a must-have in every household toolbox. You'll also need a few inexpensive parts, including brackets, screws, and anchors, as well as a few more supplies that are worth owning, like a level, tape measure, and screwdriver. Follow these step-by-step directions and mission accomplished.

PRACTICAL ACCOMPLISHMENT: CHANGE A TIRE

Knowing how to change a tire turns a major headache into a minor inconvenience. Make sure your car has a spare in the trunk along with basic equipment (that would be a car jack and lug wrench). DMV.org posts this helpful guide on how to change a flat. Practice a couple of times so you'll be prepared, just in case, and keep a copy of the instructions in the glove compartment.

PRACTICAL ACCOMPLISHMENT: SEW ON A BUTTON

Sewing is one of those things that people (girls, anyway) used to learn at their mother's knee. Not so much anymore. These days, losing a button or the hem on a skirt often means marching off to the dry cleaner, who will charge $10 or so for the repair. But this is another DIY job that can be accomplished in minutes, and the necessary skill acquired without much effort. The Art of Manliness gives clear instructions for sewing on a button and YouTube provides tips on hemming.

PRACTICAL ACCOMPLISHMENT: PAINT A ROOM

There's no shortage of housepainters who would gladly slap a coat on your walls. But with average earnings of $15.81 an hour, according to PayScale, Inc., you easily could shell out a couple hundred bucks for the labor alone. Any self-respecting 20-something should become acquainted with this life skill. This Old House guides you through the prep, the priming, the taping (or not), the brush work, and so on. You'll need a ladder or chair to reach the ceiling, a roller pan with disposable liner (for lickety-split clean-up), and drop cloths to protect the floor.

PRACTICAL ACCOMPLISHMENT: UNCLOG A DRAIN

The next time a bathroom or kitchen drain gets clogged, take charge of the problem yourself. Forget about the products that claim to clear obstructions -- they probably won't work and can damage the pipes. Instead, remove the drain cup and bend a hangar into a hook, stick it down the drain and pull out the blockage, then flush with hot water. If that doesn't work, a mixture of baking soda and vinegar should do the trick. Remember the volcanic reaction from your middle-school chemistry class? The Good Human shows how this applies to a clogged drain.