Welcome to Adulthood. Here’s What to Do With Your Money Now That You’re 18
Turning 18 is a rite of passage.
You’re an adult. You can vote. You can do whatever you want without needing your parents’ permission — well maybe not anything, if you still live under their roof, but you get the point.
Still — as Peter Parker’s uncle would say — with great power comes great responsibility. As an 18-year-old, you’re now in charge of making good money decisions so your financial life doesn’t crumble to pieces.
No one ever said adulting was easy. Luckily, we’ve got a list of tips just for you.
Financial Tips and Tricks Every 18-Year-Old Should Know
If you’re 18, we’ve got some tips and tricks for making, saving and managing your money so you don’t end up blowing this whole adulthood thing on your first try.
1. See Whether You’re Paying Too Much for Car Insurance
For most people, car insurance rates will begin to drop dramatically once you hit 25. But even at 18, you might be overpaying for car insurance and not even know it.
While there’s no way to completely avoid paying for car insurance if you own a car, one way you could save money is by shopping around and comparing rates at least once a year.
If you’re a smart shopper, you already compare prices, right? So just like you compare the prices of flights, shoes and laptops before purchasing, why not compare car insurance?
And if you look through a digital marketplace called SmartFinancial, you could be getting rates as low as $22 a month — and saving yourself more than $700 a year.
It takes one minute to get quotes from multiple insurers, so you can see all the best rates side-by-side. Yep — in just one minute you could save yourself $715 this year. That’s some major cash back in your pocket.
So if you haven’t checked car insurance rates in a while, see how much you can save with a new policy.
2. Get a 100X the Normal Interest Rate
Operating everything out of one account can make your finances muddy and contribute undue stress to your money management.
To simplify, open an account dedicated to saving, and put your money to work. One of our favorites is Aspiration — you’ll pay no monthly fees, and you’ll earn up to 2.00% APY on your savings.
You’ll get access to two online-only accounts: one for spending and one for saving. The spending account comes with a debit card that earns 0.5% cash back on all your purchases, plus free ATMs, so you can easily access your money when you need it.
After you open your Aspiration account, use it to split your income:
- Automatically deposit a portion of your income into your spending account, and use that to cover basic expenses like rent and bills, plus fun stuff; like eating out, shopping or going on vacation.
- Deposit what’s left into your Aspiration savings to keep it out of sight and let it grow. You’ll earn 2.00% APY as long you deposit just $1 a month. We recommend squirreling more when you can, but we like that you won’t lose the perk when you can’t.
3. Look Into Life Insurance
No, this isn’t a subtle dig about getting older — it’s an important step for anyone who has people who rely on them financially.
Even though life insurance is something everyone in their late 20s should consider, you don’t have to run out and purchase the first life insurance policy someone pitches you.
“The biggest mistake I see millennials making is being duped by insurance salesmen,” says Andy Yadro, a financial planner with Googins Advisors in Madison, Wisconsin. “Everyone needs insurance, but a very small subset of young people need the insurance that is sold by most ‘financial advisers.’”
If you’re mostly healthy, consider purchasing term life insurance online from Ethos. It partners with a major A-rated life insurance carrier to provide policies for a low price. For example, $30 a month could get your family $1 million of coverage.
Anyone, including independent contractors, can secure term life insurance through Ethos without a medical exam or extensive paperwork; just fill out a digital application.
4. Let This Company Help You Get Rid of Your Credit Card Debt
Like so many other young people these days, if you grew up in a home where debt wasn’t discussed, you probably weren’t aware of just how easily you could get sucked into the quicksand pit of credit card debt.
And you probably didn’t understand the impact it would have on your young life, either.
If you’re sitting on an account showing a few too many zeros (and not the positive kind), but find yourself unable to dig yourself out because of sky-high interest rates, it might be time to look into refinancing or consolidating your credit card debt.
A good resource is consumer financial technology platform Fiona, which can help match you with the right refinancing loan to meet your needs.
Fiona searches the top online lenders to match you with a personalized loan offer in less than 60 seconds. If your credit score is at least 620, its platform can help you borrow up to $100,000 (no collateral needed) with fixed rates starting at 4.99% and terms from 24 to 84 months.
All it takes is three easy steps to know what kind of loan you qualify for.
5. Get a Lower Interest Rate on Your Student Loans
For some, a lower interest rate could be one of the best steps to paying off student loans.
Try getting a lower interest rate on your federal and private loans by refinancing with a company like Credible. Other companies offer similar services, but we like that the average Credible user saves about two interest points on their current federal loans.
Refinancing will generally mean replacing your laundry list of loans with one (or a few) loans that bring all of your student debt under one umbrella.
This could simplify your life with one monthly payment, instead of several. It may also lower your monthly payment, improve your interest rate and/or give you more time to pay.
It might seem like a small difference, but a lower interest rate can mean a lot of savings over time. It’s helping grad Ashley Williams save more than $18,000 in interest over the life of her loan!
6. Don’t Think You Can Afford to Invest? Start With $5
If you’re going to be a real adult who makes small talk at parties hosted by other people your age, investing is a good place to start. And sure, becoming an investor sounds intimidating — but it really doesn’t have to be.
If you’re like most of us and wish your money would just take care of itself, consider starting an investment account through Acorns.
You can start small and stack up change over time with its “round-up” feature. That means if you spend $10.23 at the grocery store, 77 cents gets dropped into your Acorns account.
Then, the app does the whole investing thing for you.
The idea is you won’t miss the digital pocket change, and the automatic savings stack up faster than you’d think. For example, we reviewed how Penny Hoarder Dana Sitar was able to save at a rate of $420 a year!
At that rate, you could set aside $1,000 in about two and a half years — without trying.
The app is $1 a month for balances under $1 million, and you’ll get a $5 bonus when you sign up.
7. Get Paid When You Swipe Your Credit Card
If you’re not using a rewards credit card for everyday purchases, you’re missing out on free money.
You just have to be sure you don’t get too carried away with those purchases — and that the card is paid off at the end of each billing period.
Here’s an option we like: It’s the Chase Freedom Unlimited card. Its claim to fame? You’ll earn an unlimited 1.5% cash back on all your purchases. Plus, if you spend $500 in your first three months of opening the card (hi, groceries), you’ll pocket a $150 bonus.
There’s no annual fee, and the cash-back rewards don’t expire. We checked Credible’s annual rewards calculator, and it estimates $417 in annual rewards based on our spending habits.* (You can enter your unique spending habits and see what you’d earn, too.)
Get signed up — and 0% intro APR for 15 months — here.
*Annual Rewards amounts will change based on the amounts you enter. The monthly spending category names and definitions may vary among issuers, and categories may not align one-to-one.
The information for the Chase Freedom Unlimited card has been collected independently by The Penny Hoarder. Opinions expressed here are the author’s alone, not those of the credit card issuer, and have not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by the credit card issuer. The Penny Hoarder is a partner of Credible.
8. Wow Your Friends by Becoming a Real Estate Investor
Listen, it’s not every day a 18-year-old can say they invest in real estate.
But this one isn’t just for the street cred — it’s also a smart way to dip your toes into the world of real estate investing without handing over thousands (or even hundreds of thousands) of dollars.
Twenty-one-year-old Katie Smith, who recently graduated from Georgetown University in Washington, D.C., had some money sitting in a regular, low-interest savings account.
She knew her money could be making more money and liked the idea of investing in real estate, she didn’t really have “buy a house” kind of money.
Then she heard about Fundrise.
You can start investing in real estate with a minimum investment of just $500, and Fundrise does all the heavy lifting for you.
Through the Fundrise Starter Portfolio, your money will be split into two portfolios that support private real estate around the United States.
This isn’t an obscure investment, though. You can see exactly which properties are included in your portfolios.
“I can go into my Fundrise account and see what I actually own,” Smith says. “I own a piece of an apartment complex in Ann Arbor, Michigan. Property on the West Coast. Bits and pieces of apartment complexes in Texas and Denver, a construction loan, a mixed-use property.”
9. Let This Financial Assistant Negotiate Your Internet Bill Down
The price of internet — and cable, if you’re still into that kind of thing — certainly isn’t decreasing. If anything, prices are steadily climbing.
And if you’ve had to chat with a representative from your internet/cable company recently, you know how long you can sit on hold.
That’s why it’s time to call in a robot. The negotiation bot Trim will negotiate your cable or internet bills down for you.
It works with Comcast, Time Warner, Charter and other major providers.
You can sign up simply with Facebook or your email address. Then, upload a PDF of your most recent bill, and Trim’s AI-powered system gets to work. If at first it doesn’t succeed, it’ll keep negotiating until it can save you some money.
Also, if you have any outages, Trim believes you deserve a credit, and it’ll handle that for you. Trim takes 25% of the savings tab, and you get the rest.
10. Get the Most Out of Your 401(k)
As you’re completing the onboarding paperwork for your first real job, you’ll want to opt into your company’s 401(k) plan. But you also should know if your 401(k) is doing what you need it to.
Most people have no idea whether their 401(k) is on pace for their retirement or just sputtering along.
Make sure your 401(k) is on the right track. Take control with help from Blooom, an SEC-registered investment advisory firm that can optimize and monitor your 401(k) for you and keep it speeding toward retirement.
It just takes a few minutes to get a free 401(k) analysis that will show you whether your investments are allocated properly and whether you’re losing money paying hidden investment fees. It’ll even tell you just how much more money your account could earn by the time you want to retire.
After that, if you sign up, it’s just $10 per month to have Blooom monitor and maximize your 401(k). Bonus: Penny Hoarders get the first month free with the code PNNYHRD.
Think of Blooom like a mechanic constantly fine-tuning your car’s engine so it gives you the best possible performance and gas mileage. Except it’s your 401(k) — and your future.
11. Make a Little Wiggle Room in Your Budget for Going Out
Look, I understand. You’re young. You’ll want to go out with your friends and have fun without having to account for every penny spent.
But if you’re not careful, it’s easy to blow your entire going-out budget in one weekend — after which, you’ll be stuck hitting up fast-food dollar menus while your friends enjoy happy hour appetizers at your favorite restaurants.
Luckily, there’s a way to save money on the everyday items you buy.
Then you can use that dough to pad your budget for a night out on the town.
Ibotta is an easy-to-use cash-back app that’s partnered with more than 50 retailers offering deals on many of your favorite brands.
At the time of writing this article, there’s even an offer for 7% cash back on Groupon purchases.
That’s pretty sweet.
12. Protect Your Home and Belongings
You’ve worked hard and for a long time to create your home. The stuff you’ve accumulated, whether you rent or own a home, is worth protecting.
If you have homeowners or renters insurance, you might be paying too much for it. Try shopping around.
If you’ve never looked into it, start by getting a free quote.We recommend the online insurance company Lemonade, through which renters insurance starts at $5 a month and homeowners insurance starts at $25 a month.
Beyond affordable rates, Lemonade adds a layer of transparency you don’t often see in the insurance world. Instead of profiting extra when it doesn’t have to pay out claims, the company keeps a set 20% of your premium for itself, and 80% goes into a pool for paying claims. Money left over after paying claims each year goes to a cause of your choice.
That also means Lemonade isn’t going to be super stingy about granting customers the claims they deserve — ’cause the money isn’t going into its pockets.
Lemonade is available in Arkansas, Arizona, California, Colorado, Connecticut Georgia, Illinois, Indiana, Iowa, Maryland, Michigan, Nevada, New Jersey, New Mexico, New York, Ohio, Oklahoma, Oregon, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, Tennessee, Texas, Virginia, Washington, D.C. and Wisconsin.
OK, so now that you know Lemonade has your back, here’s how to get a free quote. It’s easy — and you can do it all online. (Nope, it won’t hurt your credit score!)
- Click “Check Our Prices.”
- Get to know Maya, Lemonade’s chatbot. She’s nice and will ask you a few questions.
- Once you complete the application, you’ll receive a quote within a minute or two.
It’s easy-peasy, lemon-squeezy. Plus, at the end of the day, you’ll feel better knowing your hard-earned belongings are insured. After all, when life hands you lemons… (OK, we’re done.)
13. Find Your Free Money
Clarity Money* is a free app that helps you see, organize, and take control of your finances.
The way it works is simple. You just download the app, connect your existing accounts, and get ready to learn more about where your money’s disappearing to… and how to keep more of it.
Clarity Money analyzes and uses your spending history to provide budgetary insights. It’ll show you exactly how much you spend in different categories, like bars and restaurants, as a percentage of your total expenses.
But it’s not just a recap of your weekend spending with pretty graphics.
It also gives you the tools and information you need to start making better financial choices. And they’re all super-easy to use, and accessible right inside the app.
14. Get Rewarded for Paying Your Bills on Time
Your mom probably gave you an allowance for washing the dishes and sweeping the floor when you were a kid. Now all you get for doing it is a kitchen that’s clean for, like, 15 minutes.
As an adult, you don’t typically get rewards for doing things that are expected of you… until now.
This app kind of rules them all: MoneyLion, a free all-in-one app for managing your personal finances.
MoneyLion offers rewards to help you develop healthy financial habits and will literally pay you for logging onto the app.
You can earn points in the rewards program by paying bills on time, connecting your bank account or downloading the mobile app.
You can redeem those points for gift cards to retailers like Amazon, Apple and Walmart.
If credit cards aren’t your thing, MoneyLion is like having a rewards credit card without the temptation to overspend.
The app also connects with all your bank, credit card, student loan and other financial accounts. Based on your income and spending patterns, it offers personalized advice to help you save money, reduce your debt and improve your credit.
15. Know Your Credit Score
Your credit reports are basically the Holy Grail of your finances — and your life.
Financially, they can influence many of your big life decisions, like buying a house or a car. These decisions can become a whole lot more difficult if your credit reports have an error.
This is easy to prevent, though, especially if you just check in on your credit reports (you’ve got three major ones) every so often.
One option is to use a free app like CreditWise® from Capital One®. There, you’ll get a free TransUnion® credit report, which you can review for signs of error, theft or fraud. It’ll even give you personalized suggestions to help you improve your credit score.
16. Get Some Help Paying Your Credit Card Bills
Carrying more than one credit card balance can feel a bit like herding cats. Just when you think you have one under control, you realize you’ve let a different one slip away.
High interest rates and late fees can make it feel like you’ll never get those bills under control.
That’s where Tally comes in. It’s a simple app that lets you store and manage your credit card payments in one place, optimizing the amounts and times.
Simply download the iOS app, scan in your credit cards, and if you qualify (with a minimum credit score of around 675), Tally will give you a line of credit with an interest rate between 7.9% and 19.9%* and use the lower interest rate to make managing your payments easy.
No more missed payments. Lower interest rates. All in one place. And don’t worry, Tally uses bank-level security, so your information is safe.
Tally is currently available in Arkansas, California, Colorado, Connecticut, District of Columbia, Florida, Illinois, Louisiana, Massachusetts, Michigan, Minnesota, New Jersey, New York, Ohio, Oregon, Texas, Utah, Washington and Wisconsin.
*Your APR (which is the same as your interest rate) will depend on your credit history and varies with the market based on Prime Rate. Accurate as of July 2018.
17. Set up a Passive Income Stream
Passive income is exactly what it sounds like: income that comes to you without you lifting a finger — at least, after the initial setup.
While you can’t expect free money to just appear in your bank account, you can take steps to set yourself up with a cash flow that comes in automatically with little to no upkeep.
Why is it important to have a source of passive income? Well, Brad Hines, who estimates 10% to 15% of his income is passive, puts it this way:
“When zero of your money is passive income, that inherently means every minute you’re not working, you’re not making money.”
To make the most of your down time — like that big trip you’ll take to celebrate turning 18 — set up a passive income stream of your own.
Passive income sources can range from really big (think: owning a business) to really tiny (think: owning a gumball machine).
If you don’t mind the initial work of setting up your passive income streams, the payoff and peace of mind can be sweet.
18. Build Healthy Habits for Life
Sure, you’ve made it to 18 without paying much attention to what you eat or how often you work out. But sooner or later, you’re going to have to get some healthy habits in place.
In 2016, Teresa Suarez was frustrated by the thought of a possible future in which she continued to ignore her health — and by her own lack of motivation.
“I knew I could be at 300 pounds within months,” she recalled.
So Suarez signed up for HealthyWage — a company that will literally pay you to lose weight.
She bet $125 per month that she would lose 60 pounds in six months. When she achieved that goal, she won a whopping $2,415.28 — more than tripling her initial investment in herself.
Betting on herself and knowing she would lose the money if she didn’t follow through was the kickstart Suarez needed to actually make lasting lifestyle changes.
Here’s how it works:
- Read our full HealthyWage review, and sign up.
- Define a goal weight and the amount of time you’ll give yourself to achieve it.
- Place a bet on yourself ranging from $20 to $500 a month.
Depending on how much you have to lose, how long you give yourself to do it and how much money you put on the table, you could win up to $10,000!
A Real Adult With Real Adult Finances
Yeah, that’s you — the real adult.
And whether your plans involve a college degree, a life of travel and adventure or getting a jumpstart on your career goals, you’ll need to keep a close eye on your finances to ensure they’re going to get you where you want to go.
Disclosure: Clarity Money compensates us when you download the app using the links we provide.