The reward of earning money
At some point most teenagers at least think about getting a part-time job. It’s good for parents to think about what work and money mean in their family before that day arrives.
What is your stance on tweens and teens working? When our kids were young I planned to encourage them to get a part-time job as early as possible. I thought they should learn all those important life lessons that can only come with working. I also thought it would give them an advantage in the marketplace when they finished school.
Now that our teens are old enough to be working, I’ve changed my mind about part-time work.
The nature of work
The thing about work is that you have to put in effort in return for some sort of payment.
When tweens and teens start work for the first time, they have to learn lots of “work” skills that you can’t pick up at school. There are things like working in a team and following instructions but being clever enough to adapt when needed.
They need to learn to talk to people from all sorts of ages and backgrounds. They need to understand punctuality and how to present themselves. Then there’s the art of problem solving and sticking at a task until the end.
In most states in Australia, young people can start working after their 13th birthday. But most employers prefer to wait until they are at least 14 years old.
There’s a helpful article on The Kids Are All Right about work for 13 year olds. When they’re starting this young, jobs for family friends or as sporting referees can give them some experience and some cash.
Our eldest got his first job when he was 15, working at his dad’s work. It was a jack of all trades job that he’s still doing now that he’s in uni. It’s been the right amount of work to fit around his study schedule, sport and music.
It’s led to some other jobs too, that have been better paying and more rewarding. The bonus has been that he’s learned a lot of those skills needed to be a good worker. He’s learned to be a useful employee wherever he goes.
Our second child has talked about getting a part-time job for a couple of years. He’s just turned 16. A few years ago, I would have been hassling him to find work. Now I’m more laid back and think the best time for teens to get jobs is when they feel they need more money than they have. And are self motivated to get out there and look.
One thing I hadn’t thought about when the kids were younger was how much work Year 12 was. With this teen now in Year 11, I just want him to find a balance that works for him.
I know he’ll have to give up a sport or something he enjoys to fit in a job, and really, he’s the only one that should have to make that sacrifice.
Our youngest does a lot of sports training and doesn’t have any time to work. But the desire to shop is driving a need to earn some money.
This is where one aspect of the modern world of work can come into play for busy tweens and teens.
It’s the sharing economy and the power of social media micro-businesses.
To fund her more lavish lifestyle, this child of ours bakes cupcakes to sell at her father’s work. She can make $40 or $50 in one day after she covers her expenses. She’s also had a few special orders that have brought in a bit more money in one big hit.
The good thing about the sharing economy is that our kids learn that they have skills and resources that others will pay for. It turns a hobby or interest that they enjoy spending time doing, into a profitable micro-business.
As I wrote in my article on teaching our kids to be entrepreneurial, this is going to set them up well in the modern workforce.
One other thing I have learned in the last year or so is that kids who don’t work in high school can still get jobs after they leave school.
It’s not true that employers won’t take on 18 year olds who haven’t worked. It’s harder, but not impossible. And the lessons learned in getting that first job will set them up well for later on anyway.
Before your child starts a part-time job
Some important things to do before you tween or teen starts working are:
- Open a bank account. I think all kids should have a bank account once they start high school. They’ll learn to manage money, work on their saving skills, and experience what it feels like to run out and have to wait or go without something. Young people can have their own bank account once they turn 12. With mobile and internet banking it can be a great way to move money around the family without using cash. Once they turn 14, they can also get a debit card which means they can make their own online purchases. This is another great skill for them to learn.
- Get a tax file number. Every worker in Australia needs a tax file number or their employer will to take out more tax. Most young people don’t earn enough to pay tax, so it’s important to get this sorted before they start working. You can get a tax file number once your child is 11 years old. Just download a form and get your child to take it in to a post office for the identity checks.
- Have a talk about time management. A job is one more thing to fit into life, so it’s important they understand the commitment they’re making. Ask how they’re going to have to keep up with their school work and any other expectations you have. Sometimes teenagers can get caught up on the “money” side of a job and not realise the “work” part that has to come first.
- Decide if you’re going to charge board. In my article on money, I explained how our kids pay a quarter of what they earn in board. Throughout life your kids are going to have to pay for accommodation and food. I think learning that they can’t spend everything they earn on the latest xbox game, or a fancy shoe collection is an important part of growing up. The beauty of having a percentage rate is that you don’t have to renegotiate how much board they pay when they start earning more. And at some point it will be cheaper for them to move out than live with you, so you shouldn’t have a 40 year old lawyer still living at home.
- Be clear what they can do with their money. Are you expecting them to save some of their money, or can they spend every cent after they’ve paid board? Our approach is that what’s in their bank account is their’s to spend. Provided they follow our rules about what they can bring into the house. Our kids have all learned to be better savers by having full control of their own funds.
So my new approach to part-time work is that I think it’s a great idea, but I’m not going to push them to work while they’re still at school. Once they leave school, it’s a different matter, but that’s a conversation for a later article.
What do you think? Do you have rules around your tweens and teens working? I’d love you to share your thoughts…