By Laura Levine, President and CEO of Jump$tart
As an organization that promotes “financial smarts for students,” the Jump$tart Coalition has long believed that learning about, and gaining experience with, money management shouldn’t begin when you already have money to manage. It really begins with how you earn and acquire that money—and it’s never too soon to start.
Summer is a great time for teens to start earning money, when the responsibilities of the regular school year are at least diminished. In recent years, however, there haven’t been as many summer job opportunities as there are young people who want them, so to find work, they need to hustle. If your teens are still looking for a way to earn money this summer, here are a few ideas.
Keep an Open Mind
When opportunities are scarce, young people should keep an open mind about the type of jobs they’d be willing to take. Sure, they want something fun or meaningful that might lead to the career they hope to one day have; but at this point in their lives, nearly any job will offer valuable work experience—and pay. I was a waitress in high school and college and, while that was never my career goal, I learned a lot about customer service back then that I still apply today.
The quintessential summer job for teens may be through self-employment—whether mowing lawns, walking dogs, babysitting, or watering neighbors’ plants when they go on vacation. To succeed, teens should keep in mind that these jobs probably won’t come looking for them. Parents can help by letting their networks know—through listservs, social media, job sites, etc.—that they have a son or daughter who is willing to work. Adults can also help by screening prospective employers.
Whether looking for employment or self-employment, teens should think about whose need for help goes up during summer months. Summer camps, vacation resorts, businesses in vacation areas, parks and amusement parks, and summer agriculture, for starters. With schools out for most, even stay at home parents could probably use a break now and again. Especially if your teen has a particular talent or skill, they might, for example, offer music lessons to younger kids, tutor, or teach some little ones to swim.
Working at Home
As a parent, I believe kids should have some responsibilities at home, for which they don’t get paid. But, you may be in the position to hire your own kids to do some bigger jobs that earn them a little extra cash, get them up off the couch, and help you out too. I paid my son to touch up marks on the walls with some leftover paint.
Have a Plan for the Money
Before your teens start earning, encourage them to come up with a plan for the money. The plan can be pretty simple—maybe just an allocation between what they spend and what they save—but saving at least some of it and working toward a savings goal, even a modest one, really must be part of the plan. Not only will they feel great about what they’ve accomplished, but they’ll also get some real-life experience in basic money management.
Finally, with some money of their own, there’s no better time for teens to learn about personal finance, as the lessons become much more relevant and meaningful. Our searchable database at jumpstartclearinghouse.org is filled with financial education resources that you and your kids can use at home—especially if they haven’t had or don’t expect to get financial education in school. Many are low-cost or free, age appropriate, and offer fun ways to learn, such as through games and simulations, because, after all, it’s summer.