I’ve spent a lot of time and effort teaching my son basic personal finance concepts such as working hard to earn money, saving for the things you want, and getting the most value out of your hard earned money. I discovered recently that he’s in need of a lesson in how being part of the labor force works, especially as he begins his sophomore year in high school and may be contemplating getting his first part-time job.
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As a fifteen year old, there aren’t a ton of job opportunities. We looked around a little bit at the beginning of summer, and found that most employers require job applicants to be sixteen. We recently revisited the subject of a part-time job when I noticed a big box electronics retailer, which he had expressed interest in working at, had a â€œnow hiring!â€ sign hanging from the side of it’s building. At some point in the conversation, he mentioned two points that surprised me:
- He didn’t want to work during the school year
- He didn’t want to work just a couple hours a day
These two statements made me realize that we needed to sit down and have a father to son talk about how part time jobs work.
- You Can Have a Job AND Good Grades: He went on to elaborate that he didn’t want his grades to suffer because he had a job. It was an admirable statement, but it simply does not fit with his use of time over the last few years. What he really meant was that he didn’t want to give up the several hours a day he spends online playing games with his friends. I worked 30 hours a week my junior and senior year and still managed to graduate in the top ten of my class.
- Take The Hours You Can Get: I worked at a restaurant and sometimes had to open the kitchen at 6:00am on weekends. There were other times I had to work late and close the restaurant. Sometimes I got 3 hour shifts, other times they were seven hours in length. It was inconvenient, and cut into social time with my friends. But those negative feelings all disappeared when I got my paycheck.
- Expect Minimum Wage: There’s a reason why employers hire high school students: They’re cheap labor. The bad news is you’ll be lucky if you earn a rate higher than minimum wage. The good news is it will still give you more money than you’ve ever had in your life.
- Having A Job Is Worth It: Look, I know I sound like that crotchety old man that claims to have walked up hill both ways to and from school. But trust me, besides all the great life lessons you don’t care about right now, you’ll be glad you had a job in high school for the following reasons:
- While many of my friends only got the use of a car when their parents allowed them to, I had my own car I could use whenever I wanted (assuming I wasn’t grounded from it).
- I always had the money to put gas in that car to be able to go where I wanted to go
- I went to countless concerts and movies
- I was able to create a great music collection that I still listen to over twenty years later.
The point is, high school can be some of the best years of your life. You’re old enough to have the freedom to do a lot of things, but young enough to not have a lot of financial responsibilities. It will likely be a long time before you have the kind of discretionary funds that you have during these years if you play your cards right.
Now, what was that about getting some job applications?