An Inside Look at Adulting School (Yes, It's a Real Thing)

Imagine a room full of 24- to 28-year-olds. Many still live with their parents. Most are probably still on their parents’ insurance (thanks, Obamacare!). Several are fresh off candlelight vigils being held in the wake of Trump’s election. All are seeking the spiritual crystals or magical incantations that will suddenly grant them the superpowers to pay their credit cards, show up to meetings on time, set their own dental appointments, and maybe even cook their own dinner once in a while.

Welcome to “adulting like a boss”—a summit where even the most coddled millennial can learn to adult.

The summit happened recently in Portland, Maine, and was featured in New York Magazine. The day was summed up thus:

Despite the promise of free food and booze, the mood when I entered the small box-office area to pick up my welcome packet was dour. For the first time in history, Maine voters had split the state’s four electoral college votes between two candidates, giving one of them to Trump. When I sat down in the back of the small, hardwood-floored auditorium, I mentioned the election to my seatmate, a real-estate agent and conference sponsor named Elise Loschiavo. “People are reeling,” she sighed. There had been protests and candlelight vigils in Portland throughout the week.

Still, the adulting had to go on. Attendees, who had each paid $30 for the all-day event, filled up about half of the 100-seat auditorium. A few trickled in late, during the first presentation on time management.

So, the Trump election had one positive tangible effect, at least—it jolted millennials into the real world where they have to pay attention and fend for themselves.

The website actually has a laudable list of goals:

You’re smart and capable – your education just didn’t provide you with all the skills you need.

We know you’re sick of feeling like you’re pretending to be a grown-up and that someone’s going to realize you don’t know the sh%#t you’re supposed to know.

You’re putting together the pieces of the puzzle for successful adulting and we’ve got the pieces you’re missing!

The courses of study include Financial Basics, Health and Wellness, Make-It & Fix-It Skills, and Relationships & Community. You can give the Gift of Adulting in the form of a gift certificate (one month of adulting class costs $19.99; a full year is $180). You can even take the quiz to determine your Adulting IQ. The Yes or No questions include

  • I know how much money I have, and how to access it;
  • I am putting money into an emergency fund;
  • I’m comfortable following recipes;
  • I can hang a picture on my wall (e.g. I know how to find a stud or use a wall-anchor);
  • I file important papers in a safe place; and my favorite…
  • My stuff is basically neat and organized and I usually put stuff away after I use it…or if you prefer, the “I made my bed and cleaned my room” test. quoted a couple of the attendees, who expressed appreciation for the key to unlocking the dark art of adulting:

“Adulting, that’s something my friends sort of joke about, but there’s a definite need right after college for some of these skills,” a 24-year-old attendee named Ethan Palm told me during a break after a presentation on “Why side income is the miracle money solution.” Palm works at a nonprofit, and he came to the conference to network, but he has plenty of friends who need to learn how to adult, he said. “A lot of people feel lost.”

Erin Vogel, a shy, 25-year-old brunette wearing black-rimmed glasses, said she attended the summit because “my mom sent me the link.”

The objective of creating more effective adulting among adults is certainly valuable. The necessity of this course of study, however, is a commentary on the failures of a couple of layers of modern society. As their website notes, the education system increasingly doesn’t prepare new adults for the tasks of running their lives with a modicum of responsibility.

Gone are the days of home ec and shop being taught in middle and high schools. Gone are the days when high schools offered courses on balancing check books, setting budgets, and setting up savings accounts. It’s becoming increasingly difficult to find resume-writing help and interview training in college.

And where are the parents? Having to call the ‘rents at 25 to occasionally ask for money or advice about how to unclog a dishwasher is fairly normal, but how have all these kids grown up not even knowing the basics? When did it become ok to raise a kid who can’t cope with real life? Have we gone so far in our participation-trophy culture that kids never learn to be self-reliant for anything?

No word as yet on whether they plan on offering courses on how to cope when your candidate loses an election.