After my blog post last week, I got this great letter from a reader. She agreed to allow me to share her question and my response. You may resonate with her, and as she did, feel better after you read what I had to say. If you missed last week, read the article below this one.
I read the article about teens working. I have read other articles with similar information. The part that I have trouble wrapping my mind around is this: once an adult, the child will forever be an adult. There is a short period of time where the child can just be a child. My son, 15 years old, schools 11 months out of the year 5-7 hours a day pursuing his bachelor’s degree while finishing his high school requirements. He participates in speech and debate, Moot Court, Model UN as well as organized sports. He has plenty of friends through those activities and is honestly very happy. So, am I a bad parent for not making him get a job? (He does do some landscaping when jobs are sent his way and he is required to do chores and he gets no allowance.) Is my perspective wrong? Should I pull him from his studies or activities that he loves so that he can work at the ice cream store up the road? I am not being cocky, I really need to know.
Thanks for asking such a great question. I can hear in your “voice” the struggle you are experiencing.
It sounds like your son is a very motivated and driven young man. To be working on a Bachelors degree at 15 years old is very impressive!
There are two main reasons I suggest a job for teens. One, it teaches them accountability. As an employee, they are required to be at a certain place, at a certain time, doing a job that requires work. The responsibility that goes along with that gives them a good indication of what life is about. Two, with the funds they earn, they can learn how to manage money wisely. They can start to save, invest, give back, spend and understand budgeting.
Having said all that, I believe your son has the first reason down to a science. Given what you have shared with me, he has a total understanding of being accountable and responsible. This is a non issue for you.
As far as teaching him about money, he does need some way to understand smart money management. I know you plan on purchasing the online money school, which will be a great asset for him. I’m hoping he enjoyed the book and learned a ton. This will give him a definite edge when he gets out in the world.
But, like playing tennis, until you go hit the ball, you can’t really know what it feels like to play the game. You can read and study, which will help you with strategy and rules, but until you get on the court, it’s hard to “feel” playing. So, I’m not suggesting he get a job at the local ice cream store, just for the sake of getting a job, but I do suggest he somehow gets some money in his “hands.” How? Here’s an idea I’ll run by you…
Come up with a figure that you spend on him every month, not including food. Calculate what you spend on clothes, sundries, the activities you mentioned, play money etc. At the 1st of the month, give him that amount of money to budget for the month. Let him experience paying cash for these items and budgeting the money himself. If he runs out of money before the end of the month, let that be a learning experience for him.
You can also include him in your household payments, if this is something you wish to share with him. Take the opportunity to teach him with everyday situations. Whether it’s making him shop for a sale or negotiating a purchase, these daily experiences will help him understand that money management is the key to wealth. It’s not what you make that makes you wealthy, it’s what you keep.
Perhaps he can find a job that pertains to what he is studying. This way it becomes both work experience and income.
He obviously has a great work ethic and is very bright. You have done a great job in exposing him to some wonderful opportunities! As he learns the ropes to being money savvy, he will be well on his way to success!
I hope this helps.
She responsed with feeling much better and understood my point and suggestions.