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What Can I Do Once I Turn 18?

Yesterday was my 18th birthday. Woohoo! Finally legal. Like most other people, I had been eagerly anticipating becoming an “adult” under the eyes of the law. While I didn’t feel any different, I could now do a lot more for myself than I could just 24 hours before. Here are the first four things I did on my 18th birthday:

1. Open a Bank Account

If you haven’t done so already, now’s the perfect time to open a bank account. Having a bank account makes keeping track of your finances more convenient and keeps your money safe (and it’s necessary for the other steps).

Most major banks are FDIC insured. What does that mean? It means that your money is perfectly safe, even if the bank were to get robbed or experience some other financially damaging event. There is a limit to this insurance though, $250,000 per bank. If you’re starting off with upwards of $250,000, make sure you keep the FDIC insured maximum in one bank and then deposit the rest in another insured bank.

Having a bank account doesn’t just keep your money safe, but is also essential for most actions involving your money. While the rise of blockchain has caused some people to favor holding their money in cryptocurrency wallets, a bank account is still needed for depositing paychecks, applying for loans, getting a debit card, and investing, to name a few. Mobile banking has made all of these things much easier, as they can all be done in the palm of your hand.

To add the icing on the cake, many of the banking giants offer new account bonuses in the form of cash rewards. They usually require you set up direct deposit or have a minimum amount in your account, but some banks, like Chase, don’t require either.

2. Apply for a Secured Credit Card

Lines of credit don’t just appear out of thin air. Like most things in the adult world, they require time and effort. Unless you’re one of the lucky few who had their name put on a parent’s card as an authorized user before 18, you need to build your credit. That’s why the first thing I did was put in an application for a secured credit card.

For those who don’t know, a secured credit card is essentially a credit card with training wheels. You deposit a minimum amount (which varies per card) which the company can use as collateral. That collateral amount sets the limit for the card. The credit card companies know that in the event you fail to meet payments, they always have your initial deposit, ensuring they don’t lose money.

The main difference between secured and unsecured cards, aside from the initial deposit, is the interest rates. Due to your nonexistent or poor credit history, companies are going to charge higher interest rates on a secured card, with an average of about 17.75%. For reference, the average interest rate for ongoing cardholders with decent credit sits near the 15% mark.

There are plenty of cards to choose from. Normally you’re going to want to look at the interest, any benefits for opening an account, as well as any annual fees. Personally I despised the idea of paying to spend money, so any card with annual fees was an immediate “no” from me. With that criteria sorted, I was mainly just looking for a card with a good rewards program. I wasn’t concerned with the interest rates as much considering I never planned to allow my account to accrue any.

The card would be used for something like gas or groceries and then immediately paid off. I was going to treat it like my debit card basically, swiping it for the necessities and nothing else. That way I could never lose control of my debt. If I only spent the money I had, I would never run into a problem with paying back money I owed.

By the time I had finished my research, there was only one clear option: the Discover it® Secured Credit Card. Remember how I said I was looking for the best rewards on a card? I think I found them. With this card, Discover gives you 2% cash back at gas stations and restaurants (with a limit of $1,000 each quarter. While already rare for a secured card, it actually gets better. They match every dollar you’ve earned from your first year with NO limit. Of course, 22.99% variable APR isn’t the best in terms of rates, so I see why they wanted to offset it with some benefits.

That being said, I highly recommend that anyone who has poor or no credit opens a Secured Credit Card. Building a good credit score is necessary if you want good interest rates on loans, access to the best credit cards, insurance discounts, and so much more. Considering the time it takes and the benefits you can reap, it is best to get started as soon as possible.

Disclaimer: I am not associated with Discover in any way. My opinions are my own. Please consult a professional and/or do your own research before choosing to open a new line of credit.

3. Increase Sources of Income

I know what you’re thinking. “But Antonio, I didn’t need to wait until 18 to apply for a job.” Good for you hypothetical person I made up to prove a point, good for you. Even if you’re already employed by the time you turn 18, it never hurts to look at new opportunities.

Being a legal adult means certain career options have opened up to you. Want to serve your country? Join the military. Want to serve your community? Become a police officer. Want to be awesome and save lives? Become a fireman (or woman) or an EMT.

Aside from government jobs, opportunities for higher paying positions in your field may have opened up as well. If you work as a busser, you may be able to work as a server now (depending on your state’s labor laws). Who knows? You may even be able to become a sales associate for a certain family-owned company (shoutout to FarmFreshtoYou).

Aside from the traditional 9-5’s, you can also become a freelancer now. Uber, Postmates, Grubhub, Fiverr, etc. all provide opportunities for supplemental income. The cool thing with these is that their profitability is limited only by how much work you put in. If you really like doing Ubereats or a similar delivery service, you could put in 8 hours a day just like a normal job.

In another league of its own, you can also do ecommerce. You can take advantage of the whole “being 18” thing to either build a brand or begin selling on websites like eBay, OfferUp, Amazon, etc. This is definitely more oriented towards being a side hustle, but with enough commitment, it could definitely become a full time job. Even if you don’t plan to sell things as a source of income, having access to services like ebay or offerup can help you snag deals on items you already wanted, so it’s a win-win.

4. Open a Brokerage Account

“An investment in knowledge pays the best interest.” — Benjamin Franklin

It’s no secret that one of the quintessential tools for wealth-building is having a brokerage account. With one, you can trade ETFs, Index Funds, Stocks, and Options. While there are many trading platforms to choose from, I went with Robinhood.

The signup process was next to effortless. All I had to do was put in my email and choose a password. I had to submit a picture of my ID to verify my address and my SSN to verify my identity. It also asked about my investing experience/goals. If you inform Robinhood that you are an intermediate or advanced investor with 1+ years of experience, it offers options trading in addition to the platform’s default services.

Don’t lie about this though, as options aren’t for everyone. The community of r/WallStreetBets has shown plenty of nasty losses that would discourage any inexperienced investor from making the same mistakes they did. As with anything related to personal finance, do your own research or speak to a professional before making any decisions.

The convenience of being able to trade on your phone in combination with the beginner-friendly interface makes Robinhood ideal for new investors to learn on. It has a Discover feature which includes simplified information about various options trading strategies for beginners, and even a probability estimate to show you how likely the investment is to profit. Regardless of the prediction, please be certain to make a decision off of more than just the computer-generated margin. It can’t guarantee anything.

For those of you not interested in options, Robinhood also offers a free stock to new accounts, and offers another each time someone opens a new account from your invitation. They basically pay you to start investing, so why not?

Other platforms also offer different bonuses for signing up, but I’ll go into greater detail on those brokerages here.

18 year-olds may not be ‘adults’ just yet, but they are in the eyes of the law (well, sort of). At the very least, everyone should know what options are available to them once they cross the threshold into the real world. I understand a lot of people at this age aren’t focused too much on retirement or their financial future, and would rather do things that are of greater interest to them. Eventually though, they’ll hit a point in life where money starts mattering, and this post will be here.

Whether you’re on top of it at 18 or needed a few years to realize the importance of your financial future, you’re probably reading this because you wanted to know where to start. Well, if you’ve got this far, the only step left is to take action. Good luck!

Should You Use Pre-Workout?

Back in April I began to seriously work out. I’m talking six days a week, in addition to two hours of practice per weekday and a job on the weekends. When I told a few of my friends, they were shocked, and asked if I was using pre-workout. I had heard of the stuff before but figured it was more of an accessory, so I never got into it. Now that I’ve been struggling to keep up that six days a week workout routine, the idea of that caffeinated motivation has become much more enticing. As a result, I did a little research to see if it was worth all the hype.

What Is Pre-Workout?

Since it’s conception in 1982, pre-workout has had one main purpose: to help you get a better pump. The performance-enhancing benefits are often attributed to whatever proprietary blend the company has, but you’ll notice a couple main overlapping ingredients: Caffeine and Creatine. There’s a bunch of other “ines” I’ll elaborate on later, but those two are responsible for most of the effects felt from pre-workout. This can come in the form of a pill (though I’ve never seen one) or more commonly a powder.

What’s In My Preworkout?

While most sensible human beings would mix this powder with milk or water, I’ve seen a trend called “dry scooping”. This involved dumping a serving (or several) of the powder directly into a person’s mouth because it was supposed to make the supplement work better?

Word to the wise, it didn’t, let me explain why. The trend landed several people in the hospital, some with minor issues breathing, others with full on heart attacks. In one very tragic case, a fitness influencer even suffered near-fatal brain swelling as a result. So what on earth is in this powder that can cause these negative effects, and why would people take it anyways?

Here are the most common ingreditens:

  • Caffeine – I mean, do I really need to tell you what caffeine does? It is the main agent in keeping your fatigue at bay and is often a main reason gym-goers buy the product for. The only issue is with how much is actually in a scoop of pre-workout. Some brands have as much as 300 mg per serving! That’s three cups of coffee! For even the most avid coffee drinkers, high doses can still cause chest pain, anxiety, vomiting, and much more. After frequent consumption, higher and higher doses of caffeine will be required to feel the same effects. Even though it may be harder to feel the effects after a while, the dosages still impact your body, so make sure to not lose track of how much you consume.
  • Beta-Alanine – It increases levels of carnosine in your muscles. This helps control lactic acid production, which you feel by not feeling the burn. Lactic acid is responsible for the burning sensation you feel while finishing a set as well as the soreness you feel after. 2-5 grams daily is the recommended amount, anything greater than that may cause skin tingling. Aside from that though, there are no reports of other side effects.
  • Creatine – It may help muscles make and circulate adenosine triphosphate (ATP). This compound aids in muscle contractions, which you’ll feel the most when doing explosive movements. While some may experience slightly more water retention, creatine has no negative health effects.
  • Branch Chain Amino Acids (BCAA) – These essential amino acids: l-leucine , l-isoleucine and l-valine are important for protein synthesis, but not naturally made in the body. In other words, these just help your muscles repair themselves better after the workout.
  • L- Citrulline – Its main function is the production of nitric oxide, which helps your blood vessels to expand, improving blood flow during your workout. Too much of this can result in headaches though, as increased blood flow reaches the brain just like any other organ.

So Should I Be Taking It?

I found an interesting excerpt from the conference proceedings of the Annual Scientific Meeting, November 2nd – 3rd, 2018. Feel free to read the rest, but I found one line particularly interesting:

“…consumption of pre-workout supplements does not significantly increase performance.”

If the supplement doesn’t do much to help performance, the risk really isn’t worth the minimal reward. In a mix like pre-workout, there’s always the possibility that you have a negative reaction, since there’s no way to know exactly how all of the compounds will interact with each other once in your system. If you’re taking this risk just to increase your bench by a measly 2.5lbs, you do you, but I wouldn’t.

One ingredient in particular, caffeine also poses the risk of dependency. The widespread usage of it just makes reliance on the substance seem like the norm. According to the Journal of Caffeine Research, “In the United States, it is estimated that 80% to 90% of children and adults consume caffeine regularly.” Of this population, 28%, or a little over 8.2 million people were estimated to have a dependency. I get it, some people just need that extra kick to get their workout going, but don’t rely on a compound for motivation. As cheesy as it is, I think motivation should come from within. Not to mention motivation from within doesn’t have any of the side effects that pre-workout has.

So to answer the original question, no. If you need that caffeine boost, just drink a cup of coffee. If you want creatine to be a part of your diet, mix it in a protein shake. The benefits can be reaped individually without the risk that a pre-workout compound poses. While it may seem like a good idea to have everything you need in one scoop of powder, it is neither cost effective nor wise.

I am not a professional by any means, and this is not medical advice. Please consult your doctor before taking any supplements.

The Self-Awareness Drought: Are You Missing This Vital Skill?

What is Self Awareness?

Self Awareness is a word that most of us have all heard of before, but what does it actually mean? As defined by the Oxford Dictionary, it is the conscious knowledge of one’s own character, feelings, motives, and desires.

By practicing self-awareness, you’re able to analyze your emotions instead of blindly reacting to them. You can look at the deeper reasoning for why you do certain things and change the behavior if its unhealthy. The benefits don’t just stop there though, as people with high levels of self awareness are shown to also have better relationships, competence, communication skills (Sutton, Williams, & Allinson, 2015) , and fulfillment in their lives.

Unfortunately, this is a relatively rare skill that people possess. Research has shown that while an astounding 95% of people think they’re self-aware, in reality, only 10-15% really were (according to a study done by organizational psychologist Tasha Eurich) . To put that in perspective, that means only roughly 1 in 7 people are truly self aware. Luckily though, this can be a learned behavior.

What is Self Awareness Theory?

Self-awareness theory is based on the idea that you are not your thoughts, but are instead observing them; you are the thinker, separate and apart from your thoughts. We exist separately from them, and can live through days without paying attention to our “inner selves”. When we do choose to pay attention to our “inner self,” we compare ourselves to our standards of correctness. According to the theory, there are two primary outcomes of comparing ourselves against our standards of correctness:

We either “pass,” finding alignment between ourselves and our standards or “fail,” by finding a discrepancy between ourselves and our standards (Silvia & Duval, 2001).

When we find a discrepancy between the two, we find ourselves with two choices: to work toward reducing it, or avoid it entirely. When faced with a significant discrepancy that will take a lot of consistent and focused work, we often avoid the extra effort and simply don’t bother, refusing self-evaluation. This is because we evaluate the feasibility of changing our standards before doing them.

If we believe there is a low chance of success, we tend to blame external factors, essentially using it as an excuse to not to self-evaluate. A major step towards learning self awareness is becoming conscious of this thought process, as you need to overcome it in order to experience any sort of meaningful changes to yourself.

What Does Self-Awareness Look Like?

Just recently I was faced with a situation which forced me to take a really hard look at myself. I was rejected from every college I applied to. There’s few things more humbling than getting rejected by eight colleges back to back, even your safety school. I had never thought of any world where I didn’t go to college that coming fall. I understood it was a possibility, but I always thought “It would never happen to me.”

Me

Yeah, well, it happened to me. I felt like a massive failure, embarrassed every time someone would ask me “So what college are you going to?” With that question, I would then spiral into a feedback loop of telling myself I was a fraud, my life wasn’t going to go anywhere if I didn’t have a degree, and a whole bunch of other negative stuff. I receded into myself for months, depressed and embarrassed.

One day during that summer, I had a sudden realization: I have always had a very traditional definition of success, and that’s what has been holding me back. I’ve never really considered rejection because my family approached the concept of me getting in to a good college as a definite, unshakable fact. So when it happened, the first thought in my head wasn’t, “Oh well, I can just apply for Spring,” it was a panicked, “How could this have happened?!”

Now, I understand that I am not as invincible or as exceptional as I originally believed, and I’m alright with that. In situations where rejection is a possibility, like at a tryout or application, I now take a moment to remind myself that it is possible for me to fail, it will happen every now and then, and that’s just a part of life.

That One Friend

I get that college isn’t for everyone, so that example may not click with some people. But you know what will? Seeing self-awareness exercised in a relationship. I couldn’t find a quotable statistic in my 30 seconds of research on relationship statistics, but I think we all know at least one person who couldn’t keep a partner to save their life. Let’s say this person is named Jenny.

Jenny has a hard time sticking with the same person. She always feels like her boyfriend does not put as much effort into their relationship as she does. When she gets this feeling, instead of communicating, she starts arguments to get them to break up with her.

The night she started the argument that nearly ended in her breakup, she gets a text. He says, “If you push away everyone that cares about you, you’re going to end up alone. ” This made her take a step back for a second, but then she realized he was right. Jenny thought about why she acts this way, and recognizes that she does it because she saw her parents arguing like that before they divorced. She didn’t know any other way to act, so she imitated the only example she saw.

Now that she’s much older, she realizes that their relationship was dysfunctional long before they separated, and she needs to avoid replicating those behaviors. She spends time talking to her partner when there is an issue, as opposed to immediately reacting based on her emotions. These conversations allow both of them to understand how they affect one another, and give them a solid idea of where they can improve in the relationship. Jenny and her boyfriend are well on the pathway towards building something much more long-term.

The “Reasons” Guy

Similar to our friend Jenny, I’m sure most people know someone who really needs to make a change they just seem to refuse to make. You know, that guy that always talks about building a business but always has an excuse as to why it can’t happen yet? “Yeah man I lost all my savings for the business investing in dogecoin, so it’ll be a while before I can afford to get it started.” Bummer, what a perfect way to put that business off for a while longer though. Or perhaps a friend that just won’t dump that abusive partner, “What if I hurt their feelings? But I love them!” Do you really care about those things? Or is being alone what you’re really afraid of? Both of these people have one main thing in common:

They don’t want to leave their comfort zone.

The Reasons Guy always has an excuse to stick to their routine. Let’s call this person Bob.

Bob works at an office for some big company worth a bunch of money. He hates the job, often daydreaming about quitting and opening his own flower store. The salary he earns is more enough to afford the startup costs of a small business, however, Bob spends years at this cubicle job. He knows he could go to the bank and start applying for the loan he needs to get is tarted, but there’s just so much paperwork, he’d need to find time after work, he’s never written a business plan, and eventually he would need to quit. This just seemed like too much for him, so Bob resolved that he would only pursue his goal once once he was ‘ready.’

It wasn’t until his midlife crisis that Bob understood his problem. With the help of some self- awareness techniques, he recognized that he is scared to face unemployment if his business fails, so he made up reasons to keep himself from taking that final step.

Bob understands that obstacles are not an excuse to stop pursuing your goals. Whenever he feels himself trying to make an excuse, Bob directs his thoughts of “It isn’t the right time” towards making it the “right time.” The only way he could accomplish his dream is if he makes the uncomfortable choices necessary. He understands that there is never a perfect moment, we have to create our own opportunities. Bob accepts these risks and puts in his two weeks, now focusing on turning the flower shop into a reality.

Hopefully that made it a little easier to understand what self-awareness looks like in some fairly common situations. I know these three examples didn’t cover every way self-awareness can be used, but I did my best to convey the powerful effect it can have on self-improvement. Without this skill, I would have probably become a self-fulfilling prophecy, as my low sense of self worth would lead to me settling for a subpar life. Jenny would still be caught in a cycle of failed relationships for much of her foreseeable future, and Bob would be spending the rest of his life in white-collar purgatory.

How Can I Increase My Own Self-Awareness?

Well you’ve come to the right place my friend. With a PhD in ‘Googling It’, I can gladly assist. Activities like yoga and meditation are shown to have resulted in a range of improvements, including less stress, greater mindfulness, enhanced resilience, and even greater job satisfaction (Trent et al., 2019).

For those of you who like to look up “Best ways to…” I regret to inform you there is no objective “best” way to work on your self awareness. Choose an activity that you enjoy though, as mindfulness practices aren’t something you just do once and then forget about. Like any other skill, learning self-awareness takes commitment and discipline.

Overcoming bias and an unwillingness to receive feedback are two things that also need to be worked on in order to improve. This can be achieved by asking for honest opinions on your character by those around you. This step cannot be done alone, as it is impossible for us to evaluate ourselves without some form of cognitive bias.

Don’t mistake their opinions for facts though, just try to understand what the common threads are between each person’s opinion of you. At the end of the day , how you feel about yourself is most important. Nobody has to live in your head except you, making you a uniquely qualified expert. I mean, have you ever heard a doctor listen to medical advice from a toddler? Of course not, so just take what they say with a grain of salt. You’re the professional here.

Now that you have a rough idea of what self-awareness is, what it looks like, and how you can cultivate it, the next step is to implement it. I wish you guys luck, wherever you are on your self-awareness journey.

Hopefully you found the information in this article useful.

What was the first major time when you practiced self-awareness? Let me know in the comments, I (and future readers) appreciate it!

The Beginning

In case you missed the title, this is the start of the greatest blog of all time. My name is Antonio Todd, aka, The Toddster. As of writing this, I have just recently graduated high school with plans to start college in the Spring. I have a passion for physical fitness, financial literacy, and personal growth, so that is what most of my writing will be about.

Why Now?

I’ve been interested in making something like this for the past few years, but I was either too busy or simply not motivated enough. Today I finally decided to take the leap and commit to this project. What better time to start something new than during my gap semester?

What’s the Plan?

While I’m getting this started, expect a new post each week. As I write more and more, I’ll create a separate page with all my blog posts so new visitors can get caught up, but for now, just tune in to the home page for my most recent article. Thanks for visiting!