What are the things I should know before I hit 20?

I’m so aware that as a teen, I can’t know everything I should.

I heard mentioning of IRS, w9, Tax return, ETC.

I have no goddamn clue.

School doesn’t teach…

I was advanced enough to ask for mentors, and write an incredible ebook

(if you wanted to check it out)

So… tips.

Looking for life lessons, eh? 90% of success is showing up. An additional 9% is about using effective communication to relate complex ideas and concepts to others in a way that is both succinct and allows people to understand your intent with no difficulty.

Like this: I don’t understand what you’re asking, and you need to explain it better.

The IRS is the government department handling federal taxes. Inland Revenue Service. A W-9 is a form for requesting tax information. Often people hired as contract workers or free-lance will use them. A tax return just means the 1040 or 1040 ez and other forms that you need to turn in every year to account for your earnings for the past year.

Are you concerned about filing for the 2013 tax year?

Internal Revenue Service, actually.

If you’re employed, your employer is required to give you a form in January, which details what they paid you in the previous calendar year, and the various taxes and other withholdings which they took out of your gross pay. You then use that form to help you fill out your tax return (which is a 1040 form).

In most cases, you have to fill out and submit your 1040 form to the IRS by April 15th. If you wound up having too much federal tax withheld (which can often happen, especially if you don’t make a lot of money), you may get a refund from the IRS after you submit your form; on the other hand, it’s also possible that you didn’t pay enough income tax, and you’ll have to pay the IRS when you submit that form. Depending on the state in which you live, you may have to submit a similar set of forms to your state, to account for your state income taxes.

If you’re an actual employee (rather than a freelancer or contract employee), the form which your employer gives you is called a W-2 form.

How embarrassing.

Here are mine:

  1. You are not invulnerable, regardless of how you feel now.
  2. If you smoke, stop NOW before the permanent damage is done.
  3. If you drink to excess, back off NOW before the permanent damage is done.

Being free of addictions gives you more time to devote to improving your life, your work and your relationships. You’ll also feel so much better in the morning by waking up rather than coming to. Also: cancer, diabetes, liver damage, respiratory illness and heart disease are really not a barrel of fun.

  1. Travel to other countries as much as you can. It broadens your outlook on the world.
  2. If your parents never taught you this, everything you do in life has a consequence. The good news is that you pretty much get to choose if those consequences are good or bad by considering what they might be prior to taking any course of action.


  1. File a return every year, without fail.
  2. Don’t cheat. They may not ever catch you, but you’ll know that you’re a cheat and a liar by doing it.
  3. Use the easiest tax return form available for your income level. At your age, that’s usually just a one-page form that you attach the W-2 form from your employer to. As you get older and make more money and acquire things like a mortgage, medical expenses, stocks, etc., you may want to either take a tax prep course or go to H&R block and have them prepare your tax returns.

Hmmm. There wasn’t a link to your book in the linked thread, so I have no idea what kind of thing you’re looking for. But before you turn 20 you should know:

Google is your friend (unless they’re asking for information).

Lazarus Long had a list.

Be Prepared.

Your house should have a first aid kit, a fire extinguisher, and a smoke alarm.

Your car should have a first aid kit, a fire extinguisher, and one of those dealies that can cut seatbelts and smash windows. A jack, spare tire, and lug wrench are also nice. Ditto flares or reflective triangle warning signs.

Cars need maintenance, especially regular oil changes.

When in doubt, keep the receipt. Have files so that you can find the receipts when the XXX dies three days before the warranty expires.

How to start a fire, and how to use one for cooking.

How to do your own laundry.

And more.

Let’s move this over to IMHO.

General Questions Moderator

Learn to fill in forms. By this I mean, don’t learn just how to write in the spaces - learn how to provide information to the people who are trying to help you - eg, get a bank account, apply for various insurances, apply for jobs(!). I guess it’s a subset of Ravenman’s note about using effective communication.

It’s the society we live in - it’s how it works. We co-operate. Why schools don’t teach this and other specific life skills are a puzzle to me.

Start contributing to retirement accounts as soon as possible, whether it’s a 401(k), 403(b), 457, IRA or whatever else is appropriate and available in your area. You’ll gain a lot simply through the long period of time the money has to grow, although it does help to invest wisely.

Learn to change a tire.

Start building credit as soon as possible.
One of the best things my Dad ever did for me was co-sign for a credit card in my name when I was 18 and then tell me “Listen asshole, this is NOT for you to go party with, it’s not for piazza, it’s not to impress a girl. You take this and once a month you buy a pair of socks or underwear or jeans and then every month you pay if off early without exception.” When I went to get my first home loan the loan officer actually said “Wow!” when she checked my credit.

Yes, when get job. Invest in 401k. Ideally, you want to at least put as much as your employer will match you. But heck, even if you can’t bring yourself to do that, $20 a paycheck can’t hurt either. It’s free money dude!
The better your ability to see further down the road, the better off you’ll be in your mid life and beyond years.

The fact that you’re even asking about this is a great start. You’ve gotten some great advice here already…put it to use. Good luck in your future.

Nothing ever goes up anyone’s ass “on accident” and everybody knows it.

About 20% of people are reptilians.

— Robert Heinlein, Time Enough for Love

Master only one of those by age 20. You have another ten years after that to master all of the rest.

Learn to feed yourself. Every single person should be able to take simple ingredients and make something edible. It doesn’t have to be gourmet, it just needs to be edible at this point. Later you can learn to cook but for now you need to be able to feed yourself because sooner or later you will need to do it.

When it comes to financial and professional success, determination, perseverance, and a willingness to play by the rules are about 1,000 times more important than smarts.

One of the most useful things you can ever learn is how to file your own paperwork. Get a bunch of folders, one for each area of your life that generates paper (mortgage, utilities, credit cards etc…) and file away everything you receive in date order. Seriously, you will not believe how useful this will turn out to be.

Don’t smoke.

Don’t smoke.

Pay off your credit card in full every month.

Start saving for a pension.

(P.S. If the sole purpose of this thread was to advertise your book, make sure the link works.)

Apply the Micawber Principle (from Dickens’ David Copperfield):

“Annual income twenty pounds, annual expenditure nineteen pounds nineteen and six, result happiness. Annual income twenty pounds, annual expenditure twenty pounds nought and six, result misery.”

You need an understanding of pre-decimal British currency to fully understand the quote, but I’m sure you get the idea.

Know how much you earn, how much you have to spend, and live within your means. If you start getting into debt (apart from major things like cars and houses) you are spending more than your disposable income. The monthly payments to pay back your debts will further reduce your disposable income. It’s amazing how many people - of all ages, I might add - don’t grasp this simple fact.