Question: I am 22 and have $10,000 to use for whatever I want. What could I do? My first reply was to say contribute $3000 to a Roth IRA. If this gets an average of 7% per year and you make 40 contributions of $1.20 each, (in other words, never contribute any more money) you will have just under $45,000 at age 65. In addition, the $3,000 will meet many minimum mutual fund investments. (1-3 funds, depending on fund custodian.)
Use the remaining funds to get a passport and go on an adventure. At 22, you could make $5-7k last a few months, traveling either in this country, or overseas. (Depending on inflation and your chosen lifestyle.) Check out books and stories like http://www.oneweekjob.com/, or volunteerism. If you prefer not to leave the US, there are many ways to learn, earn a stipend, and make contributions to society. Visit this site for more details: http://www.nationalservice.gov/serve-your-community/how-get-involved . A stipend from Americorps can be used for additional education.
If you are not a high school graduate, get yourself to a community college and find a degree or certificate program you can afford. In two years or less, you can graduate from high school, and get an associate’s degree and/or industry certification in order to support yourself with a better than minimum wage job in the very near future. Then do some traveling. With a college degree, or on a gap year between semesters, your can often arrange to take a break for work, love, education, or public service.
This answer is predicated on you not owing any money to anyone personally , and that you “are free to travel”. The reason I say place some funds in a Roth IRA is in reply to a question “Is this is a good age for you to set aside funds for your long term well-being?” Absolutely. Keep a journal and track what you learn. Exposure to people different than you in the US or abroad will only help you get your next job. (A version of this answer was originally posted on Nerdwallet’s Ask anAdvisor page.)
“I think you travel to search and you come back home to find yourself there.”
Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie, novelist.