Growing up isn’t easy. And it doesn’t help that the only measures we have for how good or bad we’re doing are our friends and the media. It looks like everyone’s doing better than we are.

What we don’t see is that everyone is actually freaking out and making all the same mistakes.

Wherever you stand, growing up and becoming an adult is inevitable. But how can you really tell how well you’re doing?

You look at the most common characteristics. What do all adults who seem to have it together have in common?

Once you come up with some commonalities, you check to see how many of those also apply to you. The more you can check off, theoretically, the more “adult” you are.

Below is a list of 17 things that you apparently have to do to become a real adult. Can you be an adult without doing all of these? Sure. But just about every adult has these in common.

How many have you done? How many can you check off in the next year or two?

1. Move out on your own.

Rents are continuing to grow, and the barrier to buying a house is larger for emerging adults than it used to be. But living under your parents’ roof makes you a dependent, which is literally the opposite of an adult.

It’s perfectly reasonable to crash with Mom and Dad while you’re getting things together, but you need to find a place without them. It’s a necessary first step into adulthood.

2. Support yourself without family help.

A lot of people in our generation are able to move out, but then still need some help to foot the bill. That’s okay! Just don’t let it be permanent.

People who develop habits of dependence aren’t the ones you would deem fully functional adults. Or people you’d want to hang out with.

So your next step to becoming a real adult is to find a way to support yourself entirely by yourself.

Sometimes this is easier said than done, and if you need a side gig to help you pay the bills, The Penny Hoarder always has something good.

3. Have a career, even if you’re going to change it.

There’s no reason to be stuck somewhere you hate. But the general mindset around a career is having an occupation where you can become something more.

Some of the best advice I’ve heard over and over is that you know you’re growing up when you start thinking in years instead of in months.

When you think about your future in terms of a career, you’re heading in the right direction to becoming a real adult.

4. Get reliable transportation.

Real adults are reliable. If you have any obligations, you need to be able to get there (and on time!). Otherwise, you’ll have problems.

For many, this means being able to afford a car. For some it might mean getting a bike. For others, it could just mean a train/subway pass.

Keep in mind that reliable doesn’t mean fancy. You don’t have to be rolling in the dough to be a real adult and show up on time. But you should be able to move from point A to point B without a hiccup.

5. Pay for all your own insurances.

Becoming a real adult means paying for things, and it means caring about the things you pay for enough to protect them.

If you don’t know what kind of insurances are right for you, it’s better to ask an agent than to fake it. But in all cases, make sure that everything from your property to your life and health are protected.

6. Buy something that costs more than [$15,000].

Eventually we’re all going to have to make a major adult purchase. Maybe that’s a car, a house, graduate school, a business investment, a huge vacation, or something else entirely.

Becoming a real adult, it seems, lies largely in dishing out large sums of money for prudent purchases. And of course, being able to save up for those purchases is key.

The number $15,000 is arbitrary, but the point is that a real adult can decide what they’ll want or need, save for it, and follow through.

7. Settle down.

You shouldn’t stop having fun and enjoying new things. But all adults begin to settle into a career, or a relationship, or hobbies, or something.

Real adults probably aren’t out partying till 3am or skipping around from job to job. They want different things.

Settling down, in some capacity, is a necessary step. To what capacity is up to you, but pick something to settle into for the long-term.

8. Trade out your t-shirts for dress shirts and blouses.

T-shirts are great, because they’re relatively cheap and can be used for just about everything. But they also tell the world you don’t care.

Adults tend to care. They tend to want to appear a certain way, and over time invest in clothes that send the right vibe.

Upgrading from t-shirts isn’t even that expensive! A few good button downs and a couple pairs of slacks, and you’re almost there. Putting effort into your wardrobe tells the world you care, and that’s a big step in growing up.

9. Own at least 1 pair of super nice shoes.

As you get older, you’re going to get invited to nicer outings, company parties, black tie events, and more. You’re also probably going to be expected to dress better at work.

And no matter what you wear, you’re going to need shoes. So invest in at least 1 pair that are really nice and really comfortable. For women, that might mean a pair of Manolo Blahnik pumps (preferably on sale). For men that might mean a pair of Cole Haan or Harris oxfords.

You’re not going to wear these every day, but they’re needed and go with most things.

10. Keep up with current events that aren’t viral.

It’s one thing to watch a video that Facebook’s put in front of your face for the 6th time that day. It’s another thing entirely to read Vanity Fair every month. And that different thing is intent.

Part of becoming an adult is making an intentional effort. We all have a duty, in some form or another, to participate in the world around us. And it’s your duty as an adult to involve yourself in however small a way in our world.

11. Take care of a pet.

Pets can be adorable, yes. But they also teach you responsibility. They teach you to think about something other than yourself.

Plus, it’s a lot easier to learn how to take care of a pet than it is to learn how to take care of a child. That easy practice will probably be good for your future.

12. Get a credit card, try not to use it.

As an adult, it’s crucial that you build up a decent credit. Otherwise, you’ll be in trouble.

Building a credit is basically building trust with anyone who might loan you something. You need it to get a house, a car, an apartment, and just about every other big ticket item.

So start with a credit card. Most companies, like CapitalOne or whichever bank you use, offer a starter card to help you build up a credit.

Just having a card will help you out, so don’t go crazy. It doesn’t miraculously give you more money. It just offers a line of credit that you can use should you get into an emergency situation, with the stipulation that you’ll back whatever you borrow (with interest).

If you think you can trust your spending habits, it’s a good idea to use your credit card to buy gas or groceries, and then to pay it off ASAP. What you don’t want to do is max out your card and start accruing interest. That’s how you get into crippling debt. You don’t want that.

13. Learn how to fix stuff.

Becoming a real adult is largely becoming independent and self-sustaining. Thus, everyone should learn how to fix basic things, like a leaky faucet or a dead car battery.

Is it a crime to call someone to help you fix something? Absolutely not!

But the reason should probably be that it’s cheaper and faster to call someone in (like if your HVAC goes out) than to do it yourself.

Here’s a basic guide to fix everyday things that will come in handy.

14. Visit the drycleaners.

Washers and dryers are great, but your adult wardrobe will hold up and look better if you go to the drycleaners.

Could you properly wash, iron, steam, and starch all your clothes? Probably. But you’ll save yourself a lot of time and effort by taking those nice clothes to the experts.

Besides, using the drycleaners is something that real adults just seem to inevitably do.

15. Trade 1 time events for learning.

Concerts, vacations, and other experiences can be wonderful. But they’re probably not going to have a lasting impact on your life. And they likely won’t have any kind of compounding benefit.

Instead of spending all that time and money on experiences, focus on learning. Part of becoming a real adult is thinking intentionally about your future and your personal development.

Learning will stay with you, and it compounds. That means if you spend an extra 2 hours a week learning about, say, your career, over time you will become exponentially better.

That leads to better performance at work and in life, which generally leads to more money, more stability, and more opportunities to do more for more people.

If you want to learn something, Udemy or Barnes & Noble are both great places to start.

16. Wake up every day before 8; go to sleep before midnight.

This isn’t really something that you have to do to become a real adult. Obviously if your job requires different hours, you should follow those different hours.

But becoming a real adult inevitably means falling into a routine and caring about your health. Making sure you get plenty of sleep and still show up to work on time is an important part of that.

17. Prefer drinks that don’t come in 24 packs.

Cold beer is delicious. But so are Manhattans, martinis, wines, and slough of the other thousands of adult beverage options. If you don’t want to drink at all, that’s fine.

Becoming a real adult comes with a big mindset change, though. And part of that is moving from “this is cheap and gets the job done,” to “I like this for its quality and values.”

That applies to drinks, to furniture and homes, and to just about everything you’ll do in your adult life.

There’s no rulebook to becoming a real adult. As far as I can tell, it’s all a crap shoot. But there are certainly commonalities that appear in most adults, just like these listed here.

In theory, the more you’ve done or that apply to you, the farther along you are in your adult transformation. But there’s no reason to judge yourself or to feel less than if only a few apply to you.

Conversely, there’s no reason to feel superior if all of them do! Everyone moves at their own pace. The important part is simply that you’re trying to grow.

Published by Kenneth Burke