Wake Up for Teens: Independent Living Skills, Part 1 of 5

This series of articles and the educational lessons they contain will provide teens a look at the independent living skills they need to survive and thrive. They’ll learn a number of skills, develop a better understanding of adult life, and they’ll locate and learn to use a variety of valuable resources.

Visit my BLOG for the rest of the Activities in this Series. 

While few young people have any direct personal experience of managing an independent lifestyle, some don’t even know what it looks like or that it’s even possible, because their parents and their families haven’t succeeded in the world, so those teens have never had this modeled for them. So these lessons will give them a chance to see, perhaps for the first time, what a productive and successful adult looks like.

In this first activity, youth will learn key terms and concepts, and get familiar with independent living skills and how the activities work. The key resource for this section and the rest of the activities is the Reality Road Map, which provides a visual layout of the key message and the primary goal of the learning experience: to make the connections between education, career, income, and lifestyle.

The activities act like a life simulation, where the student will discover that their level of education will determine what jobs they can quality for, which determines how much they’ll earn, which determines what they can reasonably afford in life. It’s much better to make mistakes and experiment in the simulation than to fail on the street and have to suffer those consequences.

The Reality Road Map shows educational, career, and financial paths in colored circles, that correspond to blue collar, white collar, green for advanced careers, and on the other end of the spectrum, red as a warning for dropping out. Most of the answers needed for the activity are found on the Road Map.


Introduction to Independent Life – Part 1 of 5

Learn about how the working world works.

CLICK to view the Reality Road Map.

Introduction to the Reality Road Map

The Reality Road Map is a colored circular graph showing typical lifestyles in the United States, the education for each lifestyle, and the yearly pay received at different ages. The Map is to be used as a guide in explaining how education, career, money and lifestyle are related to each other. It also graphically shows that all life makes a full circle, and the importance of independent living skills.

The Road Map will help you establish what your goals are and the life you want to make for yourself. It will help you plan your future. It shows what education can do for you, or what happens if you choose to leave school without graduating.

On the Map are five concentric circles: gray, red, blue, white and green. Each circle represents a general level of education and income. You will learn more about these in the upcoming Learning Activities.

The different job classifications and amounts of pay shown in the colored circles were taken from government statistics. The amounts of pay are read in a range: $12,000 to $14,000 or $24,000 to $30,000 per year, for example.


There are four WHITE boxes on the Road Map. Each topic is an important area in building a balanced life. One of these is Mental Health. The other three are:

On the Road Map, what is the age of:
…a high school graduate?

…a college graduate?

…a graduate with a professional degree?

Use your dictionary and write down the definition of gross salary.

What is the definition of net income?

At what age do most people retire?

Look at the GRAY area on the Road Map. Out of an average group of 100 people in the United States at age 65, how many will:
…be rich?

…be financially successful?

…work part time?

…work full time?

…be dead?

What are typical salaries in each of the colored circles of the True Life Chart, for a:

…blue collar worker?

…college graduate?


Explain why you think the color RED is used on the front of the Road Map.

Explain what the GRAY circle means to you.

In the middle of the Map is the statement, Life is a willing servant; once you decide what you want from it, you must bear the responsibility for your Choice – describe what this means to you and what it says about independent living skills: