There are a few things that I wish I would have known before my teenager entered the workforce. Now that I know, I’ll share them with you.
I will not forget the day that my daughter, Emily found out that she would be a member of the next group of new hires at her favorite fast food restaurant, Chick Fil-A. She was so excited…and we were excited for her.
We were excited that she would learn about responsibility and the value of the dollar earned. We knew that she would encounter all types of people in front of the counter and behind the counter, as well. She would learn to schedule her time and budget her money and we looked forward to hearing all about it along the way.
Emily was mostly excited about the money.
We did not realize, however, that having a teenager in the working world may cause life to become more difficult for all of us at times.
There are a few things that we would have liked to have known , so that we could have been more prepared. There are a few things that probably should have been put into writing and perhaps even signed by our working girl.
You live and learn…and then you make adjustments so that when the next teenager enters the workplace, you’ll be more equipped. Right? Then you share what you’ve learned to save others the heartache…and that is where you come in.
Advice for parents of working teens.
Decide together how many hours and days will be acceptable for your teen to work. Be specific when you talk about school nights verses weekend days, as well as summer hours. Have a calendar of events posted in a visible place that allows them to be responsible for asking their manger not to schedule them when relatives are visiting or other family activities are happening. One year, Emily almost missed a family vacation to the beach over Labor Day weekend because she forgot to tell her manger ahead of time that she would be out of town. She spent several hours on the phone and in the restaurant trying to get all of her hours covered for that long weekend.
Encourage some type of giving. Help your teen choose a charity that they value and encourage them to give a designated amount out of each paycheck. They can set it by percentage..or they can decide upon a set amount. Even $5 per paycheck to something they believe in, can become $130.00 by the end of the year, allowing them to see the impact of their giving. If there is an organization that they are already involved in like their church youth group, or Young Life, that is a great place to give. Or maybe they want to give to an animal shelter or Children’s hospital, or help to sponsor a child. There are so many great opportunities for giving.
Mandate (encourage in the strongest sense of the word) automatic savings. As soon as the paperwork comes home for the direct deposit, help your teenager designate a dollar amount from each paycheck to go into a savings account. My suggestion is to have the savings account at a separate bank. It is much too easy these days to transfer money from savings to checking in the check out line at Target. By having the money in a different bank, they have a better chance of really building their savings long term.
Emily worked at Chick Fil A for about 3 years. Had she consistently saved just $25 per paycheck, she would have had more than $1500.00 in her savings account without even having to think about it. Of course, your teenager will be saving money for specific things along the way, but this will be extra savings.
Encourage them to budget their spending…especially if there is a discount given as an employee. If your teen works at a video game store only to spend their entire check on games…or a shoe store only to have more shoes…it may not be a good fit. Using the envelope system that so many financial experts talk about may be the best way to help teens budget their spending. Of course, teenagers, do not have many bills to pay if any, however, there were several times that by the end of the week, Emily would have no money left for gas, because she had already spent it on new clothes or dinners out with friends.
Ask your teen about work, about the friendships that are being made and about things that happen outside of work involving co-workers. There may be older kids or even adults that are working alongside your teen, influencing their thoughts, and actions. This can be both good and bad. Also, ask about the customers and if anything funny or interesting happened. Emily loved to talk about the difficult customers, the funny things people would say at the drive thru window….and about what new thing she learned to do.
If allowed, visit your teen at work. And I don’t mean, if allowed by your teen. The first few times I visited, I took photos. After that, I just casually acted as if I really wanted a chicken sandwich and truly forgot that she was scheduled to work. By visiting, I was getting to know the other teammates and managers, and they were getting to know us. And truthfully, Emily enjoyed seeing us and sometimes she would take her break while we were there so that she could join us for lunch.
I believe that by teenagers entering the workforce at an early age, they learn to manage their time, prioritize their school work and begin to understand the concept of earning money and the cost of living.
I’m thankful that all 3 of my children will have this valuable opportunity…and even my daughter sees the value in it now. She works while she’s in college for her spending money. She budgets for things like concert tickets and eating out and she saves for things like travel and a bicycle. She’s had several years to practice and she’s finally getting the hang of it!
What other advice would you give…from your own or your child’s experiences?