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Adulting 101: These apps teach life skills young adults need to survive in the real world

Realworld breaks adulting down into four major categories the company calls “playbooks,” which includes finance, health, work and life.
Realworld breaks adulting down into four major categories the company calls “playbooks,” which includes finance, health, work and life.

Kids these days might know their way around TikTok, but that instant access to an entire world of information that comes with getting their first cell phone does little to help with the increasingly complicated task of adulting.

I’m watching it unfold with my own almost-21-year-old daughter. She, like many of her friends and classmates, finished more college courses before they graduated from high school than I did in my first two years at a top university. But this latest generation on the cusp of being a certified grown-up, is no closer to navigating real life than we were at their age. Sure, they might pass AP chemistry with flying colors, but the life skills gap is wider than ever when it comes to understanding credit scores, negotiating a salary or paying taxes.

The good news is, there are a few simple tech tools ready to swoop in and save the day. Or at least make adulting a little less painful for the next generation.

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1. GPS for 'adulting'

The “GPS for adulthood,” Realworld.co (iOS, free) app was created for this exact problem. It breaks adulting down into four major categories the company calls “playbooks,” which includes finance, health, work and life. Each of these main topics then branches further and covers the big stuff, such as creating retirement savings, taxes, health and life insurance, credit scores, car-maintenance and just about everything else you might need on your quest to being a certified grown up.

“Our vision is to not just help with your 20s,” Realworld founder and CEO Genevieve Bellaire told me over the phone, “it’s not like it gets any easier after that, getting married, having kids. No one teaches you how to do it all and that can be really embarrassing and isolating. But the reality is, no one teaches you how to simplify this incredibly complex world of being an adult.”

The way Realworld works is simple. Download the app, sign-up, then answer a few simple questions – and it gives you personalized action items with deadlines, benchmarks and big highlights in one place, so that you understand what it means to you.

Honestly? I’m 51 and getting a ton out of this app and so is my daughter. It’s a new must-have for anyone trying to navigate this tricky world of adulting for sure.

2. Budgeting and saving

Quicken makes it easy to see a consolidated view of all your accounts, track and pay bills and know exactly where every penny goes every month.
Quicken makes it easy to see a consolidated view of all your accounts, track and pay bills and know exactly where every penny goes every month.

There are so many great apps in this “fintech” space – Mint, Credit Karma, YNAB (YouNeedABudget), Acorns and these are likely more familiar to the 20-something set already. But most deal with just one facet of adulting.

I prefer a tool like Quicken (annual plans start at $36) because it feels like a more centralized hub overall. It makes it easy to see a consolidated view of all your accounts, track and pay bills and know exactly where every penny goes every month.

It also lets you create a custom budget tailored to your lifestyle and priorities, such as 401(k)s, IRAs, brokerage accounts or even saving for a special vacation. It includes investments, too, and allows you to review your portfolio, monitor performance and see market comparisons. It’s pretty tough to beat for that sweet-spot dashboard into all things financial.

3. Getting a job

And then… comes employment. An estimated 4 million people will graduate from college this year, but few Americans feel like those grads are prepared for success in the workplace (the number is 5% for high school graduates). Apps like Peerro (free, iOS and) helps high-school and college students connect with peers to find out what skills they need to get entry-level jobs, discover training programs and connect with potential employers.

Another great resource here is LinkedIn Premium (free for the first month, then $40/month). You know that old saying, it’s what you know, but who you know? Some 72% of recruiters used LinkedIn to find candidates last year. Premium lets you reach directly to recruiters and that alone could be worth the price of admission. But there’s a whole lot more than that, including being a “Featured Applicant,” getting information about your competition and insight around negotiating a higher starting salary.

Also – starting on Tuesday, LinkedIn is offering a Learning Pathfinder, which helps identify skills you need to achieve your next professional goals. The description suggests it’s an interactive choose-your-own-adventure-style experience based on the top things professionals are looking to achieve – with options like cultivating work-life balance, finding a new job or getting a promotion. LinkedIn is also offering these 100+ LinkedIn Learning courses free through April.

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4. Legal issues

Divorce is painful but your wallet won't suffer as much if you use LegalZoom to do the paperwork. It costs far less than going the traditional route.
Divorce is painful but your wallet won't suffer as much if you use LegalZoom to do the paperwork. It costs far less than going the traditional route.

And now, for the even less pleasant part of adulting – dealing with legal issues, such as a divorce. If you’ve ever been through one, you likely thought, ‘why didn’t they make getting married this hard?’

Marriages aren’t supposed to end, but when they do, throwing a paperwork tornado at the unhappy couple isn’t fair. In many cases, including uncontested divorces where both parties agree that they need to part ways, LegalZoom can be your one-stop shop.

A quick eligibility questionnaire determines your suitability for the online filing and once that’s done you simply enter all the information and follow the filing instructions. It’s still going to cost nearly $500 – and there will be additional notary, filing fees and other fees based on what state you’re in, but still, this could be a tremendous savings compared to the average cost of a divorce.

Of course, if your “divorce” is from a business associate and not a spouse, things are just as complicated. You may need to file a partnership dissolution agreement and – wouldn’t you know it? – you can draft that important document on LegalZoom as well.

Other similar sites include: RocketLawyer ($39.99/month), 3StepDivorce ($299) or even JustAnswer (the pricing on this service is anywhere from $1 to $74 per month).

5. The stuff none of us ever want to think about

Ethos lets you shop for and purchase life insurance and get same-day coverage.
Ethos lets you shop for and purchase life insurance and get same-day coverage.

Ever stop to think about what happens to all your stuff – even your countless digital accounts and loyalty points – when you’re gone? Most of us would rather not imagine it and that leads to huge problems after a person passes away, including an estimated $60+ billion in lost or unclaimed assets each year.

I’ve written entire columns just on this topic alone before, with sites and apps like Clocr, Legacy Concierge and Everplans. For a fee ranging from around $10 a month to more than $300 a year, these sites securely store your most sensitive digital information related to emails, bank logins, stock holdings, insurance, digital property, subscriptions and social media. It also lets you pass down this sensitive information to people you trust – like a will for your digital life.

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Speaking of a will, I know you don’t like thinking about it – neither do I! – but a legal will is something you just have to have these days. It can be a pain to draft, with weird legal quirks depending on your state and other hoops to jump through, which is probably why two out of three people in America don’t have one.

Ethos (iOS) is an affordable option here that lets you apply for it 100% online. It uses more than 300,000 data points online to determine your eligibility for life insurance policies, so you don’t have to go through any medical exams. If you qualify, you get offered a term or whole package starting as low as $8/month. It also lets you tailor your policy to fit your budget and your needs and you can even get same-day coverage.

Lantern (free starter membership, $149 one-time premium pre-plan fee) is an end-of-life planning playbook that tackles everything from final wishes regarding healthcare to will preparation and managing accounts. It lets you pre-plan (start for free!) by storing documents on Lantern’s online hub, which serves as a sort of home base for the roadmap of your final wishes. Helpful prompts walk you through the entire process.

For that last will and testament stuff, one go-to here is called Trust&Will. It streamlines guardianship, legal will and trust planning with simple questionnaires that you can knock out in about 15 minutes. A simple guardianship filing costs $40, with a full legal will (including health care wishes, final arrangements, gifts and other requests) priced at $160. It offers live support help seven days a week to answer questions, so you’re never left in the dark.

Jennifer Jolly is an Emmy Award-winning consumer tech columnist. Email her at jj@techish.com. Follow her on Twitter: @JenniferJolly. The views and opinions expressed in this column are the author’s and do not necessarily reflect those of USA TODAY.

This article originally appeared on USA TODAY: How to adult: These apps teach the life skills college didn't cover