First Job—Life Lessons

Summer vacation will be here before we know it, and for parents of teens that may mean that your child is gearing up for a summer job — for some, their first experience in the workforce. Whether they’re going to work at a summer camp, selling tickets at a neighborhood movie theater, blending smoothies, or bagging eggs, arugula, and Pop-Tarts at the local grocery store, a first job has the potential to leave a lifelong impression and teach young adults valuable lessons that will serve them throughout their working lives.

Let's take a look at a handful of them: 

1. Attitude is Everything.

While a first job can be exciting—a taste of adulthood, extra pocket money, etc.—it's usually not riveting work. Many of the jobs offered to teens are monotonous or menial. Sure, we all hope to lead careers that we are passionate about and work at jobs that we enjoy, but the reality is, sometimes work is work, and chances are at some point in their lifetime, your child will end up working at a job they don't like for a paycheck they can't live without. What they can control is their attitude. A little positivity goes a long way!

 2. Budgeting—a fundamental skill that we all need to master.

That first paycheck is undeniably thrilling. Will they splurge on the expensive jeans that have been calling their name? Treat themselves to a movie night out? Pick up every single nail polish color from the drug store shelf? The world is full of things to buy and the temptation for your kids to spend those summer paychecks faster than they earned them is strong. 

That said, your child's first job is a fantastic time to set them up to be a smart budgeter. Sit down together before their job begins and talk through financial goals. What are they saving up for? Back-to-school clothes? For college? To have spending money throughout the coming school year? Putting goals in place ahead of time and teaching them to know their “why” can help ensure those goals stick.

3. It's never too early to start thinking about your future.

A first income is also a great time to stress the importance of planning for the future. Your typical teenager may not be considering retirement just yet, but this time in their life is a great opportunity to introduce the idea. Whether you help them to set up a Roth IRA or teach them the concept of a 401(k) by matching their contributions to their college fund, take advantage of this special moment as a learning opportunity.

4. Welcome to the world of taxes.

Remember that iconic line from the popular TV show, Friends: "Who’s FICA? Why’s he getting all my money?"  While the prospect of a paycheck is exciting for a first-time employee, your kids may be in for a shock when their first payday comes and taxes are taken out. Yes, the reality of taxes is a buzzkill, but it's also an important lesson. After all, they'll be paying taxes for the rest of their lives.  

Bonus tip: Their job is not your job.

As parents, we all strive to ensure our kids are successful in whatever they are doing, and that includes wanting to see them do well at work—even if that work involves scooping ice cream or making French fries. While it’s important to support your kids and encourage them along the way, remember that their job is not your responsibility. If they are sick, they need to learn how to call in and let their bosses know. If they sleep through their alarm clock and miss a shift, the consequences are theirs, and theirs alone. Explain why sometimes mistakes have real consequences. Of course, giving them some encouragement is great, but try not to let their job stress you out.

 I believe in the power of a strong financial foundation. Gaining real-world experience is a great way for kids to learn the basics of personal finance. If you're the parent or guardian of a young adult and you'd like to give them the gift of a financial foundation, don't hesitate to reach out to me. I'd love to continue the conversation and share additional ways you can set your kids up for success.