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Becoming Independent

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Independence

Your journey through high school is just the beginning of your independence. You might be looking forward to moving out, being able to stay up as late as you want, and all of the other benefits that being independent can bring.

But, unfortunately, it comes with a lot of work as well. There’s so much to know; how do you manage your money? What’s tax? How do you find a job? What’s superannuation? How do I find a place to live?

Luckily, we’ve developed a whole stack of resources to help you out. And they’re totally free to access, even if you don’t have a Study Work Grow membership.

 

Finding Work

Getting your first job is a huge milestone. But it might be tricky to know where to even start. The first thing you need to ask is ‘am I able to start working?’

The age you can start working depends on which state or territory you live in, and there can also be other restrictions depending on whether or not you’re still at school. If you’re curious, take a look at our blog explaining when you can start work.

Once you start applying for jobs, you’re more than likely going to need a resume to hand out to employers. A resume is basically a page or two of information about you, your skills, and any work and education history. If you’ve never worked before, it might seem like your resume will feel a bit empty. But there are heaps of other things you can put on it, like any extracurricular activities you do, any volunteering experience, or any awards you’ve won at school.

If you need some help putting together a resume, you can try our Super Simple Resume Builder – it’s easy to use and totally free.

Next, it’s time to start looking for jobs. Nowadays there are heaps of places to look for work. You can go online and search on Seek or Indeed, or even keep an eye out on your Facebook or other social media feeds to see if anyone’s hiring. You can browse the jobs section of your local newspaper. You can attend local job fairs, expos or networking events. Or you might even hear of an opportunity through word of mouth.

If all goes well, you might even find yourself scoring an interview. Don’t panic – check out our top 5 tips to ace your interview.

And if your interview is a success…

 

Starting Work

It’s your first day on the job. What do you need to know? There’s more to think about than your duties – pay, your rights and responsibilities, and workplace safety are all important too.

The Fair Work Ombudsman has heaps of great resources for young people just starting out at work. It’s important that you know your rights at work, including how much you should be getting paid, how many hours you should work, your leave entitlements, and more. Take a look at their Young Workers & Students page to read more.

Hopefully your new job is a dream and everything goes smoothly – but if something goes wrong, where do you turn for help? There are lots of places out there that can help you with workplace issues, including being underpaid, being unfairly dismissed, bullying in the workplace, and injury. You can contact the Fair Work Commission for advice, or your state or territory’s Work Health and Safety Authority. The Fair Work Ombudsman also has heaps of great resources and can assist with any issues.

If you’re curious to dive deeper into the world of work, take a look at all of our Work resources, including info about different careers, job application tips, work experience opportunities, and more.

 

Financial Basics

This is a big one. One of the most important things you can learn how to do right now is manage your money – it’ll save you a lot of headaches down the track. But where do you even start?

First things first, you are going to need a bank account. This isn’t as tricky as it sounds. There are plenty of banks out there that offer special accounts for students and young people. Most banks even let you set up an account online – no need to make a trip into town. All you usually need to open an account is some form of identification. This can be something like a driver’s license, birth certificate, passport, or proof of age card.

Then, once money starts coming into your account, what next? How do you avoid the temptation to go on a spending spree? What’s the best way to save your money?

This is where knowing how to budget comes in handy. Yeah, it might sound boring, but people don’t become millionaires overnight – you need to put in the hard work first. And you definitely don’t have to do it alone. There are tons of apps and other services out there that can help you become a budgeting pro.

You can find a heap more resources on budgeting, financial management and more on our Managing Your Money page.

 

Tax and TFNs

Like it or not, once you start earning money, you’re probably going to have to start paying tax. And that’s not necessarily a bad thing – your taxes go towards lots of important public services like roads, libraries and schools. So what’s there to know about tax?

Firstly, you might not have to start paying tax right away – if you earn less than a certain amount a year, you don’t pay any tax at all. As a general rule, the more you earn, the more tax you pay.

As an employee, you don’t really have to worry about a thing. Your employer should be paying tax on your behalf to the ATO. But if you own your own business or want to be self-employed, you’ll need to get into the nitty gritty of tax.

And after the end of each financial year (which is 30 June, not December), you’ll need to lodge a tax return. This is super easy to do online, and your employer should provide most of the information for you. Best of all, you might even get some money back – great to add to your savings.

At your first job, you were probably asked for a Tax File Number (or TFN). This is a unique number that stays with you for life and helps keep track of your tax and superannuation as you change jobs. Applying for a TFN is totally free (and easy), and highly recommended, as having one means you actually pay less tax. You can take a look at the super simple application process here.

Want to know more about tax? Check out our Tax and Your TFN page for more info and resources.

 

Superannuation

Retirement might seem like a million years away, but it’s actually something you need to start thinking about as soon as your start working. Why? Because you’ll be paying superannuation from the moment you step foot on the job.

Superannuation is basically like a big savings account. Your employer is obligated to start contributing to your super fund, no matter where you work or how much you make. You can also make your own contributions (but think very carefully about this, as it’s difficult to get that money back if you really need it). Over your working years, your super will go up and up – and eventually there will be a nice nest egg for you to use when you retire.

You can choose the fund you want your super to be paid into. There are heaps of funds out there, so it might seem a bit confusing, but don’t stress. MoneySmart has some tips on helping you choose a super fund. And you can always change funds as well – but make sure you keep all your super consolidated into one fund, or it can get tricky to manage.

If you want to start your own business or be self-employed, it’s important to learn about superannuation and make sure you’re putting money away for your future.

Get the full lowdown on superannuation on our Superannuation page.

 

Finding a Place to Live

It’s finally time to move out of home! Living on your own or with friends can be super exciting – but it’s also a big responsibility.

If you’re heading off to uni, you might consider living in student accommodation. Lots of universities offer special accommodation just for students, which can be a great way to meet other students and experience all campus life has to offer. There are often lots of options to choose from, including on-campus accommodation or independently managed student housing. Check out our blog on how to find a place to live at university if you’re curious to know more.

You could also move out into a private rental property. This could be an apartment, townhouse or even full-sized house. Realestate.com.au and Rent.com.au are great places to start looking for accommodation to rent near you (or far away if you’re moving to another city). Signing a rental contract is a big deal, and you need to make sure you know what you’re in for. Be sure you know how much your rent will be, if you will need to pay bond (a fee paid when you move in and get back when you move out if the property is in good condition), and how long the contract is for (breaking your contract early can lead to consequences like having to pay a high fee or being blacklisted). It’s also important to know about your rights and responsibilities as a tenant.

Domain has put together an ultimate guide to renting which is packed with useful information.

 

Living as an Adult

As well as all of the above (which can seem overwhelming), there are a few other things you should keep in mind as you become independent.

When you turn 18, you’ll be required to vote in local, state and federal elections. You’ll need to enrol to vote through the Australian Electoral Commission – it can be done online and is free. You can even enrol before turning 18 so you won’t have to worry.

Enrolling in Medicare allows you to access free and low cost health services across the country. You can apply for your own Medicare card from the age of 15. Services Australia has some information on enrolling in Medicare, which can be done online at no cost.

Creating your own myGov account is an easy way to link all of your government services in one place, like the ATO, Medicare, Centrelink, JobSearch, and more.

If you feel like you’re ready to leave school, we’ve put together a School Leaver’s Checklist with some of the top things to check off when you’re ready to venture into the wide world.

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