Most teenagers have a lot on their plates. In addition to school, some kids play sports, join clubs, or take part in theater or band, and some do more than one of the above.
In some cases, that leaves little time for work. If you're a parent, however, it's important to find time for your child to experience what it's like to go to work and make some money. Even working a few hours one day a week could open the door to all sorts of lessons that can benefit kids for the rest of their lives.
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1. Work shows the value of money
In high school, I worked Saturdays at my family business, mostly on odds and ends like stuffing envelopes. I made $5 an hour, which may have been below minimum wage, but after a 7 a.m. to 3 p.m. day, I'd get a check the following week for $33 or so after taxes.
At 14, $33 is a lot of money. I had never lacked for cash when I needed it, but now I had the ability to buy comic books or go to the movies without having to ask. I also understood a little better what it meant when my parents spent $200 to buy me new hockey skates.
While my paycheck was a lot for me, I learned that money wasn't that easy to come by. I also learned that the government usually still takes its bite in the form of FICA taxes, no matter how big or small your check is.
2. Work helps you talk with your kid about money
My 14-year-old will work next summer, at least for a few hours. He has a list a mile long of all the things he hopes to buy.
What he doesn't know is that he's going to be setting aside a portion of each check for investing. I'm going to use his entering the workforce as a way to teach him budgeting and planning.
We could have these conversations (and we do) without him going to work. They will mean more, however, when he learns firsthand how sacrificing short-term pleasure can result in long-term gains (like being able to pay his car insurance when he is 16).
3. Work can teach you what you want
I only had to spend one day loading trucks to understand fully that I didn't want to do that for a living. By working a variety of jobs as a teenager, I learned that I generally didn't enjoy conforming to a schedule, and that while I don't mind a little physical labor, I'm more suited for mental than physical pursuits.
Working also taught me that I had limited tolerance for bureaucracy. I realized I'd be better off at smaller companies or working in start-ups than following a career path someplace more rigid.
Work gets you ready for life
Most of us spend the vast majority of our life going to work (or at least working -- I work from home and don't have to go anywhere). Figuring out what work is like, and what you like about work, is as important as anything else you might learn as a teenager.
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