— LET INGA TELL YOU:
I am totally in favor of a high school exit course that every high school student would have to pass to graduate. In fact, mine would be required of kids even before they were allowed to drop out since it would be too scary to unleash them on the general public otherwise. Here would be a few of the required topics:
1. Basic credit card math. Let’s say you rack up $1,000 in charges on your 15 percent annual interest credit card buying In-N-Out Burgers and concert tickets before your parents confiscate the card. If you make only a minimum monthly payment of $15 until it’s paid off, how much would you end up paying back? (Answer: About $2,200. And it would take you at least five years.)
2. Apartment leases. How to read them. Important word here: read. Yes, you really need to (read it). Including the fine print. Especially the fine print.
3. Basic geography. Sweden and Switzerland are not the same country. New England and England are different places. You do not need a passport to travel from Texas to California. Failure to know these facts are automatic fails.
4. Laundry skills 101. Your mom always did your laundry, so how hard can it be? Separating lights from darks isn’t just a plot by washing machine manufacturers to make you run more loads. Clothes have something called “labels” in them recommending washing — and drying — temperatures. If you do not wish your favorite shirt to be reduced to munchkin size, pay attention. Also, when they say “dry clean only,” they really mean it.
5. Laundry skills 210. Dryers. If you have access to one that isn’t in a laundromat there is something called a “lint filter” that needs to be regularly cleaned. The alternative is burning down the house. Easier just to clean the lint filter.
6. Roommate math. Basic. You and three friends decide to get an apartment together that costs $1,500 a month to get out from under the thumbs of your annoying parents. (Free-dom! Free-dom!) What is your share of the rent when a) one of them loses his job at Burger King and can’t pay? b) another one decides it’s cheaper to live at home despite the annoying parents? and c) they’re both, like, “Sorry, dude”?
7. Roommate math. Advanced. Developing the skills to avoid deadbeat roommates: priceless.
8. Survey of world religions. There are lots of different religious beliefs in the world. Misinformation about them leads to a lot of confusion. Sometimes even wars.
9. Internet education. Just because you read it on the Internet doesn’t mean it’s true. In fact, there is a high likelihood it is NOT true. Apply a critical filter to everything you read. (Yes, you actually have one even if you’ve never used it.) Do NOT forward anything that says “Send this to everyone you know!”
10. Scam avoidance. It’s not just old people who fall for these. That “free” ringtone you signed up for? It’s now a hefty (and hidden) fee on your phone bill. Online ads for cheap iPhones or luxury goods? Sorry kids, if it sounds too good to be true, it really is.
11. Payday Loans (aka “Selling your soul to the devil”). Do not EVER EVER EVER set foot into these places. We won’t even go into the math. They are just a truly bad deal.
12. Tax returns. The federal EZ form is really that. You can do it. Yes, you really can! It’s one page! It’s tempting to go to one of those places that will do it for you and even advance you your refund, but be assured that they’re going to take a hefty chunk of your refund in the process.
13. Automobile purchasing. Caveat Emptor. That’s Latin for “Do not believe a word they say,” especially if it is a used car. No, it didn’t really belong to a little old lady who only drove it to church.
14. Dishwashers. You should be so lucky to have one but they come pretty standard in rental apartments these days. Tempted to economize by using liquid dishwashing soap instead of the stuff made for dishwashers? Seriously bad idea. Everybody has to do it once but be prepared to find yourself standing in your kitchen knee deep in bubbles.
15. Survival cooking skills. It’s really expensive to eat out for every meal, even fast food meals. It’s also really unhealthy. When I was in graduate school, we had something called “Po’ Boy Tomato Soup.” (Recipe: pour hot tap water over the contents of six McDonald’s ketchup packets. Stir.) It’s totally gross. Learning to make five basic meals that do not involve Top Ramen noodles isn’t hard. Stay on the outside aisles of the supermarket when you shop and you’ll be fine.
And now…Congratulations! Let the next chapter of your life begin!
— Inga’s lighthearted looks at life appear regularly in La Jolla Light. Reach her at email@example.com