We're taught a lot of useful things in school (how to tell time, multiplication tables, how to find—or at least attempt to find—Oklahoma on a map) and some not so useful (geometry). But do you ever wish you'd been taught some real life skills instead? Skills you may have had to learn the hard way, e.g. paying off interest fees on a credit card or paying full sticker price for a car. As an adult you may try to teach your kids these lessons, but wouldn't it be great if they actually taught them in school? Here are some life lessons we should probably learn early, in order to avoid future mistakes.

Relationships matter

And not just our friendships, family, and romantic relationships. Ask multiple people how they landed the job at which they're currently working and you're bound to find at least a few who admit that they "knew someone." As anyone who has ever been on the market knows, securing a job is one of life's greatest stressors. It's like dating, but without the booze and possibility of sex. While the thought of networking may elicit a curled lip or exaggerated groan from most people, it's exceptionally important if you want to establish and grow your career.

You hate traffic too? Let's connect over coffee.

For those of you who'd prefer dentistry without Novocain to entering a room full of people you don't know and attempting to strike up a conversation, there are ways to make it more palatable and effective. The single most important tip for networking is not to exchange business cards or speak with as many people as possible, but rather to find people with whom you can form a long-term relationship. The woman who enthusiastically talked your ear off about her mushroom fertilizer business may have held court for 40 minutes, but it's the man with whom you bonded over a mutual love of ugly dog sweaters for two minutes who may actually be someone you'd want to see again, and could become friendly with.

Make a point to follow up on contacts you meet at networking events: grab coffee or a drink, send them a link to an article that they may find helpful, or simply drop a note to say "hi". Then comes the hard part – building the relationship. Do whatever you need to do to stay in touch with them, whether it's a reminder on your phone or a to-do list taped to your bathroom mirror. People will remember you and will be more open to helping you achieve your career goals because you they know you, not because they met you once at a mixer where you talked awkwardly while guzzling cheap white wine.

Never pay sticker price

Flea markets and craft fairs aside, we tend to think that the prices of most common products and services aren't negotiable. Not so. Even medical services are negotiable (yep, sometimes just letting a provider know you don't have insurance results in an automatic reduction). While rolling into Mark Jacobs and politely requesting a discount on the latest bag probably won't get you very far, one place where you should never pay full price is at the car dealership.

I do my best negotiating online

One strategy for getting the best possible deal on a car involves a little research, but it's well worth the effort. Start by identifying the exact car (or cars), including manufacturing year, you want to buy. Narrow it down to one if possible, but no more than two or three. Check the average value by using Kelly Blue Book so you have an idea of what prices to expect. Then identify several dealerships near you that have the car(s) and request a price from the sales team. Choose the lowest price and send that to yet another dealership that has your desired car. Tell them you were offered the car for that price at another dealership, but if they can beat it by X amount (go ahead, reach for the moon here – the worst they can say is no) then you'll buy it from them. Voila! You just scored yourself a great deal on a car. You can also try this strategy with medical expenses, home repairs, and other negotiable goods and services.

Use a credit card to build up your credit, not as a bottomless bank account

Think long and hard about that purchase before you pull out the plastic

You're probably no stranger to debt, which means you understand the concept of interest. Yes, that nefarious little percentage that ultimately results in paying way more than the original borrowed amount. If you think college loan and mortgage interest is high, a credit card's eye-popping percentage is often three to four times that rate.

To illustrate how much money you'll end up spending if you let your credit card debt accumulate, pretend you have a $3,000 balance on your card and you pay the minimum (say $25 every month). You'll end up paying a whopping $2800 in interest alone before you pay it off. The lesson here? Only buy what you can afford on a credit card, and pay it off monthly. If you hate carrying cash but can't help but splurge when you go shopping, use a debit card. It won't build up your credit but at least you won't be going into massive debt.

Learn how to budget

Speaking of using a credit card wisely, it's also smart to have a budget so you know how much you can afford to spend at a night out with the girls or for rent and groceries. Generally speaking, you shouldn't be spending more than 30% of your gross (before taxes) income on housing. Lifehacker's simple budgeting plan recommends the 20% rule for paying off debt: 20% of your monthly income goes towards debt, 10% to savings, and 70% for the rest.

You can sleep when you're dead

Helloooo wedding photographer

If you find that you're squeezed for cash once all your necessities are paid for, you may want to look into a side hustle. You don't have to be a master at a particular craft; there are plenty of side gigs that require very little skill. If you have an extra room you can rent it on Airbnb; if you enjoy driving you could try your hand at being a Lyft or Uber driver. Dog walking and sitting has also become a serious business, thanks to sites like Rover.com. If you love fur children you can make some decent scratch, especially if you walk or sit multiple dogs at once.

School curriculum has its shining moments, no doubt. Perhaps knowing the capitals of all fifty states will finally come in handy during trivia night at your local watering hole or maybe understanding the true meaning behind Wuthering Heights will help you imbue that blog post you wrote for your boss with true depth. But really, would it be too much to ask to replace calculus with a crash course on how to pay down debt?

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The traditional American Dream may be on its deathbed, but that doesn't mean a core component of the vision can't survive. It simply takes a diverse perspective. People can still believe they can attain their own vision of success in society with hard work, knowledge, and risk-taking. Investing in today's American Dream may literally mean investing money in our modern economy, starting with our infrastructure.

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