Personal Finance

Summer jobs for kids offer valuable teaching moments

This is the summer of emancipation.

Finally, my husband and I no longer have to pay for swim, band, drama, academic or any other camp for our children.

In an effort to provide them with enriching opportunities, we put our three kids in various summer programs for years. Fortunately, we could afford the fees, but I can’t lie: I was looking forward to when we’d be freed of these costs.

This summer – at last – all of our kids are old enough to work. My 21-year-old, who is going into her senior year at college, has an internship with an organization that advocates for grandparents raising their grandchildren. My 18-year-old son is a lifeguard at a community park. And my 15-year-old is working in a summer youth job-training program. For the first time, she’s about to get paid!

Can I get a “hallelujah” and an “amen”?

Although I’m grateful they will each be earning some income, my husband and I will also use this opportunity to teach them about money and work. Here are the five financial lessons we are passing on to our children this summer:

▪ There is no such thing as play money. You ought to make sure your teen or young adult takes his or her pay and puts it into different pots. They aren’t earning money just to play around. Introduce the concept of an emergency fund. Talk to your children about your values and, if you believe in giving back to your church or community, about setting aside some money to be generous to others.

I love the concept of the “Money Savvy Pig,” which was created by the financial literacy group Money Savvy Generation (msgen.com). This piggy bank has four chambers: Save, Spend, Donate, Invest.

Whichever teaching method you choose, it’s essential that young adults learn the merits of saving from their paycheck before spending any money. Now is also a good time to get them to appreciate the costs of things by requiring that they help pay for items they will need in the fall for school. For example, our older daughter and our son, who will be a college freshman in the fall, have to pick up the tab for their textbooks. Our youngest has to set aside money to help pay for her school wardrobe. They all have to tithe on their income.

▪ You’ve got money. Oh, the joy of working children. Now when we go out and our children beg for stuff at the store or ask for things at the movie concession stand, I can say – with probably more glee than I should – “Sure, you can have that, honey. You’ve got money.”

In other words, don’t pull out your wallet. And watch how much less they want or “need” when they have to pay for things themselves.

▪ You’ve got an uncle. When they get their first paycheck, sit down and talk with them about taxes. But don’t just couch it as, “Mean old Uncle Sam takes a big chunk of your money.” Have a discussion about why we pay taxes – even if you disagree. Explain FICA and how this insurance goes toward paying for the Social Security and Medicare programs.

▪ Speak up for yourself. Help your teens or young adults become the kind of employees who push through the toughness or craziness that can come with any job.

If they have a difficult supervisor, teach them to stay respectful, even when they feel they aren’t being respected.

Talk to your children about speaking up for themselves if a situation seems unfair. I was so proud of my son recently. There was a situation on his job that he didn’t appreciate. He communicated his concern, following the chain of command, and his supervisor immediately corrected the problem. I never got involved and only found out in a casual conversation with his boss. She praised my son for the way he handled everything.

Afterward, he and I talked about how well he managed the situation and how that’s exactly what he should do again in the future. I added that not all supervisors would respond the same way but that he should still speak up for himself rather than suffer in silence.

▪ Be grateful. Not all summer jobs are wonderful experiences. Your children may come home complaining. Venting can be good for the soul, but you should also remind them how fortunate they are to be working at all.

Seriously, I’m loving this summer. No more camp fees; the children are earning money in work situations that give us an opportunity to reinforce some key financial lessons. Win-win-win. Fun-fun-fun.

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