I still remember my first "real" job. No longer just a babysitter or mother's helper, I had a W-2 and a time card. I wasn't even 16 yet, but I enjoyed the feeling of maturity and independence that having a job gave me. The $4.25 an hour wage didn't go far, but the thrill of having my own money to spend was enough to keep me working throughout my teenage years.
If you have an ambitious teen who's able to juggle high school, activities and work, help him make smart financial decisions with those first paychecks. These five financially savvy tips will get you started.
As a young teen, my parents encouraged me to save 10 percent of my earnings. When I was closer to college, however, my spending rate increased dramatically. As you discuss finances with your teen, ask him what financial goals he has. Is he saving for the latest phone, a car, college or a rainy day? Some teens will need to spend most of their money to help their families or pay for various expenses, but everyone should save some money, even if just a few dollars each paycheck.
It's important for teens to spend money and develop healthy spending habits early. I encourage my daughter, who earns quite a bit of money babysitting, to buy items for herself that I don't deem necessities. Teens will develop a sense of independence and responsibility as they pay for some things like school fees, social events, gas money or clothing. Encourage teens to bring some of their own spending money on family vacations or shopping trips so they can learn how to shop and spend wisely.
It's never too early to develop philanthropic tendencies. By encouraging your teen to share some of his hard-earned money, you're teaching a lifetime lesson of generosity and selflessness. Teens can share money in simple ways like buying holiday gifts for siblings, donating a few dollars to a charity or treating a friend to lunch. Being able to part with money to help others teaches teens that money is not the most important thing in life.
Consider a checking account
If your teen is making a lot of money and wanting to spend it in more sophisticated ways, consider letting him open a checking account. Having a bank account allows teens to have a debit card and begin practicing being more responsible with money. When one of my nieces went to college, she was so inexperienced with money that, if she needed to buy something, she would call her mom to ask how much money was in her account. She quickly learned to manage things herself, but learning earlier wouldn't have hurt.
No matter how much money your teen earns, it's important to keep track of it. A simple ledger or spreadsheet is easy to use, or you can introduce your teen to programs like Mint which help track income and expenses. Learning these skills as a teen will make it more likely that your child will have good financial habits throughout life.
A teen is the perfect age for a first job. Once your teen is hired and the paychecks start rolling in, help him manage that hard-earned money well.
Amy M. Peterson, a former high school English teacher, currently lives in Oregon with her husband and four children. She spends her days writing, reading, exercising and trying to get her family to eat more vegetables.