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Should Teens Learn About Money by Working for It?

Q: I'm a retired teacher and I always made a point of incorporating discussions about financial concepts such as saving and the benefits of working during school years, into my classroom. But I look around now and I see kids expecting their parents to pay for everything. Is there value in teaching kids about money through working?

A: I'm in favour of young people working during their high school years as long as it doesn't affect their top priority: school.

School is their work right now, so homework, school activities and studying for tests must come first. However, considering a child's overall education, there are a lot of long-term benefits, over and above the money, to having a part-time job.

These include getting hands-on experience dealing with people, developing interpersonal skills, learning about work-related responsibility and commitment, and gaining knowledge and skills that can be listed on a resume or scholarship application.

A part-time job can also help teach young people the value of money. Shopping with your own hard-earned money is a lot different than having Mom or Dad lay down the plastic.

When teenagers have been given the opportunity to learn how to manage money as they grow up, chances are they'll be more motivated to develop and follow a budget when they first experience the demands of the real world.

Before encouraging a teen to get a job, parents need to consider how much time and energy it will take on their part, as well as their child's, to handle school and work successfully. Consider if the teen is organized and can balance competing demands on his or her time from teachers, friends and family.

Determine what kind of work arrangement might be suitable with the household schedule, transportation needs and family expectations.

Many parents understand how to support their teen's formal learning at school. However, not as many know how best to help their teen learn responsible money management.

Before handing out resumes, a child needs to agree that school comes first.

If they are rushing through assignments, or not studying enough for tests because of work, it's time to reconsider the work commitment. Working part-time needs to make sense for a child--and not just for the dollars and cents.

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