Adulthood for Beginners: What you should know about turning 18

Written by Hazel Pankratz

Friday, July 8th, 2016

On my eighteenth birthday, my first act as a bona fide adult was to write a note excusing me from class. When I walked out of the building, I was overwhelmed with a profound sense of freedom. "I am in charge," I thought to myself. "I'm the only person I have to answer to." Not that I advocate cutting class just because you can, but as a grade 12 student dealing with finals, it's reassuring to know that I can take time off to finish papers and projects if I really need to.

That being said, turning 18 is so much more than being solely accountable for myself. Hitting that magical age is incredibly liberating, but with great power comes great responsibility. Here are a few things to keep in mind as you head towards the big one-eight:

You can now get a credit card in your name

The general purpose of a credit card is to pay for things with money you either don't have at the time or to use in cases where you can't physically get to the payee (such as with online shopping). At the end of the month, you're supposed to pay off whatever you owe. But be careful: Whatever you don't pay off gets carried over to subsequent months—and it generates interest. The exact percentage varies from bank to bank and plan to plan, so be sure to do your research before you apply for a card.

You can buy investments

I haven't spent much time researching stocks or other investments, but a friend of mine swears it's the first thing he plans to do when he turns 18. (I should note that this only applies in provinces where the age of majority is 18, since in some provinces it's 19 and you'd have to wait another year.) Without having saved the money yet to buy other assets like a house, new adults could use investments as a way to start building their wealth. But don't rush into anything - a more likely priority would be to simply start building your savings.

Beware of bank account fees

These are monthly and transaction fees that cover services you might need from a bank. Depending on how often you access your account or how much money you keep in it, these fees can vary. Monthly and transaction fees vary from bank to bank. Certain people are also eligible for discounted monthly fees. Monthly fees are often reduced significantly for senior citizens, and many banks offer accounts for full-time students with no monthly fees at all. Before firmly committing to one bank or another, make sure you check out what's available for you.

Turning 18 is just the beginning of a major transition between adolescence and adulthood. A sign of maturity is holding yourself accountable for your decisions, so make sure you examine all of your options before committing to anything, whether it's deciding on a bank, a university, or even a friend. In the words of William Ernest Henley: "You are the master of your fate."

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