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Summer is an annual rite of passage for children and teens, many of whom are eager to say goodbye to classrooms and daily lessons for a few school-free months between grade levels. Paid jobs can be a great way to fill their time and learn valuable life skills.
Punctuality, dependability, networking, communication, problem solving, money management, and financial literacy are all strengthened as children begin to earn their own money. Working with people outside the home helps them navigate relationships in different settings. They may have to deal with challenging coworkers, the demands of a schedule, and keeping customers happy.
Whether working for someone else or being their own boss at the corner lemonade stand, guiding your child as they take their first steps into the workforce is a powerful opportunity for first-hand learning. Here’s how to get started.
Buying something with their own money is a memorable accomplishment for any kid. Employment helps build a strong understanding of the value of money and what it takes to be a successful earner, a fundamental building block to financial literacy. Before you can learn to manage money, you first need to know how to get money.
Once kids are earning, parents can coach them on how to spend and save so they don’t squander their hard-earned cash. It’s also a great time to help them reach milestone goals, allowing them to plan ahead for large or special purchases, and how to stretch their earnings to last between paychecks.
“When we focus on financial education, we’re preparing young people for their careers and for earning income throughout their lives,” says Laura Levine, president and chief executive officer of Jump$tart Coalition, a nonprofit organization committed to youth financial literacy. “But it starts with real practice.”
Earning their own money makes financial lessons relevant to real life. But Levine stresses that it requires effort. Parents need to make sure they talk with their children about apportioning their money into savings, spending, and giving, she says.
Quick tip: With each paycheck, encourage your child to split their money into savings, personal spending money, and giving. Giving can be as simple as putting some money in a donation box.
The skills kids learn through jobs will stay with them as they grow. The more successful they are developing a solid work ethic, self confidence, and the ability to work with others, the better their chances are of getting higher-quality jobs and earning more money in the future.
First jobs can also help teens discover lifelong passions, or figure out things like whether they prefer working outdoors instead of in an office or at the mall, notes Liz Frazier, author of “Beyond Piggy Banks and Lemonade Stands: How to Teach Young Kids about Finance” and executive director of financial literacy at Copper Banking.
“The key is aligning their work with their interests and talents,” Frazier says. “Although it probably won’t be a dream job, if this is their first job experience, ideally it should be a positive one. Teach them the basics so they can succeed in their job: be on time, be respectful to customers and colleagues and work hard.”
Depending on your child’s age and maturity, and your family’s needs and comfort level, there are a multitude of jobs available for youth.
Quick tip: CareerOneStop, a website run by the US Department of Labor, offers a search feature to find youth jobs, career advice, and training assistance in your area.
For the youngest children, jobs at home or with neighbors are a good start. For tweens, look to things like lawn care, dog walking, or selling crafts. Traditional work begins to open up for older teens, especially in retail and restaurants.
We’ve broken a few ideas down into age sets:
By age 16, many teens may be driving, and they can work longer and later hours than younger kids. Youth ages 14 to 17 are restricted to work that isn’t considered hazardous by the US Labor Department.
Fourteen- and 15-year-olds have greater restrictions than 16- and 17-year-olds. There are exceptions for farm work. High school students will benefit from increased responsibilities and the independence gained by earning their own money.
Quick tip: Hireteen is a teen jobs resource that lists many employers and has job ideas for ages 12 to 19.
Internships are short-term jobs designed to give real work experience. They can be paid or unpaid. Ask around at schools, nonprofit organizations, local businesses and city offices, or try an online internship finder.
Does your child have a passion for sports, outdoor recreation, theater, or academics? Look for a summer camp built around those interests. They often hire teens to help plan and supervise activities for younger campers.
Restaurants may have several positions for teens, including hosting, waiting on customers, bussing tables, and washing dishes. Look for on-the-job training and a reasonable schedule.
This can be a fast-paced position. It requires good people skills for interacting with coworkers and customers, plus a knack for attention to detail.
Being a babysitter is good for a wide age of teens, but older teens will be able to watch younger kids for extended periods and later into the evening. They can build their credentials by completing a babysitter class through the American Red Cross that includes basic first aid.
Lawn care is something teens can do at first for family and neighbors, then branch out as you gain experience and dependability. They’ll learn to negotiate a rate of pay for each job, and experience the rewards of being their own boss. Plus, they get to spend time outdoors.
For tweens and young teens, work in traditional employment settings may be more limited. But with creativity and a little hustle, they’ll be able to find meaningful opportunities. State and federal laws limit hours, times of day, and the type of work they can do.
If they’re great at a particular subject in school, or gifted with an instrument, consider having your child work as a tutor for classmates or younger children. It’s a great way to further develop skills they already have, while also lending a hand to someone who will appreciate their know-how.
Dog walking, pet sitting, and helping at a local animal shelter are great options for youth who enjoy working with animals. Busy pet owners will be grateful to have help exercising their dogs. Spread the word that this service is available by talking with neighbors and passing out flyers.
From raking leaves to pulling weeds, keeping a yard tidy and healthy is a non-stop job. Kids can build their own business by doing yard work at home or for neighbors. Negotiating pay upfront is key, and of course so is showing up on time and do a great job. Hard work will pay off with repeat business and referrals.
There’s always demand for babysitters, and tweens and younger teens are a great resource. Whether it’s being in the house to help with the kids while their parents are at home doing other work, or watching children on their own for short periods of time, babysitting can be a great way to earn money.
Kids can indulge their entrepreneurial skills by making items and selling them on Etsy. The platform requires parental supervision and guidance for teens between 13 and 17, but it can be a fun and rewarding way to turn their passion and talent for creating jewelry, clothing, artwork, soaps, and other items into a small business.
If your kid loves to cook or has a talent for baking, they can turn their culinary skills into a side hustle. They can work in small batches and sell to friends and family, or even set up a table at a local farmer’s market. Check with local officials to find out if there are any restrictions you need to be mindful of, or any permits required.
Younger children can do extra jobs around the house, or chores for neighbors. They’ll need more guidance and supervision than older kids, but will benefit from having responsibility for tasks and earning money while they do it.
This is a time-honored tradition for young entrepreneurs. With guidance, kids can learn how much ingredients will cost, what they need to charge to make a profit, and how to interact with customers and make change. Check with your local officials about any regulations like the need for a permit.
Are there extra chores that need to be done around the home? Consider offering them to your child as a way to earn money. Maybe it’s matching all of the socks, or organizing the dishes, or washing windows. Look for ways your child can pitch in around the house, and pay accordingly.
Pulling weeds and raking leaves are things kids can start doing at a young age. It gets them outside and helps you keep your yard in good shape. Offer support and positive reinforcement.
Have your child create and tend to a vegetable garden. When it’s ready to harvest, you can buy salad ingredients from them. Or if they plant a flower garden, buy a bouquet from them when the blooms are ready to cut. They’ll learn about plant growth, and the responsibility of taking care of something as it grows.
State and federal laws regulate the hours, times of day and type of work available to youth of different ages. Broadly, these regulations are in place to protect them from hazards and exploitation, and apply to children 14 and over. Farm work is an exception. Twelve- and 13-year-olds can work in agriculture with parental permission. Kids 11 and under can work on their family’s farm.
While younger children can’t be officially “employed,” they can still do jobs like babysitting, tutoring, pet-sitting, and yard work.
Quick tip: Learn more about protections for youth workers through the Labor Department’s YouthRules! website.
Once your child is earning money, you’ll be able to start teaching them important lessons about how to manage it so it lasts from one paycheck to the next.
“When they’re adults, they’ll get bigger paychecks that will have to last longer and they’ll have to use it for more important things,” Levine says. “But the thing that remains the same is the mindset of that preparation to say, ‘Here’s how much I’ve got and how long I think it needs to last me so that I make decisions accordingly.'”
If your child has financial responsibilities, like paying toward their phone bill or gas for a car, have them create a list of the money they have coming in and of what they owe.
During this process, it’s important to let them take the lead, according to John Li, co-founder and CTO of Fig Loans.
“Ask them to name their expenses, stepping in minimally to help as necessary,” Li advises. “Teens learn best through experience, not lectures. Let them set their own savings goals, and then review their spending money, helping them adjust their budget to their changing needs.”
You might also consider opening a custodial IRA, which will allow you and your child to place money into a tax-free retirement account.
Jobs help kids learn skills they’ll need to be successful earners as they mature and become independent adults. As a parent, you can take an active role in that when your child starts working by teaching them lessons about budgeting, spending, saving, and giving. Doing so will help set them up for financial stability as they move into jobs with higher wages and more responsibility.
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