Raising Teens

A site for parents of teens striving for sanity

Category: Money issues

Should teens get a job?



Olivia got her first job  at 14 as a  bag person at Publix Supermarket. She could only work 10 hours a week, but she was excited to be working and making some money for herself. As years went by, she gained more hours and loved working with friends and making new ones.

Where we live Publix is the grocery store a lot of teens get their first job because management is so flexible with the hours and extremely considerate of students’ school and family commitments.

When Olivia turned 18, she became a cashier and could work a lot more hours  since she was an adult.  She was thrilled when they gave her a raise and  she was allowed to participate in their 401k.

Working at Publix  taught Olivia about customer service, working with difficult people, managing conflict and resolving it. It was such a great way for her to get a taste of working in the real world and learn about responsibility and accountability.

Working also allowed her to pay for things that she wanted that were not a necessity and more of a luxury, such as manicures, hair color change,  new shoes and clothes.

When Olivia went off to college this year, her dad and I told her we didn’t want her working but focusing on college so she could graduate on time in four years.  At home she had worked for five years and now her workload was about to get harder. We wanted her to focus on school, but said over  Christmas break and summer break, she could work at Publix to make some money.

I have to admit, initially one of the reasons we wanted Olivia to get a job was to keep her busy and out of trouble during her high school years. Well, that clearly didn’t work because she still found time to get herself in trouble.

Now, my son Matthew is another story. He is 15 and we have tried to get him a job at the same Publix Olivia had worked as a bagger, but we are not having any luck. Funny though, I am not as eager for Matthew to get a job as I was for Olivia. Could it be because teenage girls  spend a lot more on themselves than boys?

I have family members whose kids have never worked — ever!  Wow!

I started working at sixteen to pay for my car and car insurance. When Olivia got her car, she worked to pay her car insurance just like I had done. She needed to realize that in life, if you want things, you have to work for them — whether it’s an A in a class or a new car or a David Yurman ring. You earn what you want, nothing is given to you and you are not entitled  to it.

I am curious, do any of you moms and dads encourage your teenage daughter or son to
work? If so, why? If not, why not?

Why your teens should buy holiday gifts


My son came home from college with a suitcase full of holiday gifts for the entire family. He actually put thought into each one. I was shocked. But while I thought it was nice, my younger son felt bad. He hadn’t bought anything for any family members. The thought hadn’t occurred to him, which upset me. I want my children to be thoughtful, especially with each other.

During the last few weeks, several of my friends have asked about how to handle family gift giving.  Is it necessary for teens to give each other gifts and give parents gifts?

Ask a teen what they want for the holidays and they can rattle off a list in a few minutes. It likely includes something electronic and expensive. But ask them what they plan to give others and the list is much shorter — if it even exists.

It can be tough to teach children the value of giving in a season when they’re surrounded by messages about the value of getting.

Here’s the thing: Your teen will likely get more out of the act of “giving” than the sibling who receives the gift. While you might want to offer to help with shopping, teens need to do the giving themselves, even if funds are running low.  They can always make gifts like chocolate chip cookies or a picture frame. They also can do extra chores around the house or neighbor to earn money if necessary.

While giving to charity teaches them to be caring, I feel like giving to their siblings or parents or grandparents  teaches them family is important and worthy of their thoughtfulness this time of year. It sets them up for a lifetime of being charitable towards each other. I still remember when  my little brother who was so annoying to me  bought me a paper doll book when I was young. It didn’t cost him much and I was thrilled with it. Today, my brother still comes through with gifts he knows I will appreciate.

A few years ago, my children set a price limit on how much they would spend on each other. It wasn’t much but at least they all focused on giving rather than just receiving. It’s amazing how much you can get for $5 when you put thought into it!

By adolescence, young people have the capacity to think and act independently from their parents – to give conscious attention to giving.  Okay, so maybe we need to nudge our teens to put down their iPhones, take out their earbuds and think about what they are going to give their annoying brother or sister. I tell my teens that best gifts show the person that you know them well and want to make them happy. All it takes is some thought.

A friend of mine doesn’t agree with me — at all. She believes her teens should spend their time and money giving to charity rather than each other. While I understand her perspective, I believe showing generosity for others begins at home.  To me, the lessons you teach your children about being thoughtful toward family are as important as those about being thoughtful to strangers in need.

What are your thoughts on teen gift giving to family? Do you encourage it in your home? Do your kids buy you holiday gifts?


Should teens have part time jobs?

teen working

(Editor’s note: Today our guest blogger is Liz Greene)

As a parent,  you make decisions for your kids based on nothing more than your gut feeling and a good dose of common sense.

However, once they hit those freewheeling teenage years, things start to change. Suddenly, they’re making a lot more decisions for themselves, and you’re just holding on, hoping they’ll accept your guidance. One of the biggest choices teenagers face is whether or not to get a part-time job.

As a teen, I had a part-time job as a server in a retirement home. At the time, I loathed my boss and the rules he made.  Now, years later, I realize how much I gained from those months in the service industry.  I learned to cooperate in a work environment with people I didn’t necessarily get along with and I learned how to  figure out a way to hold washed plates so I didn’t get burned. Most of all, I learned with any job you can always find a silver lining; mine being the relationships I built with the senior residents.

I feel like every teen can benefit from getting real life work skills. But before you give your teen the green light, take these pros and cons into consideration.

The Benefits

Work skills serve teens well in college and prepare them for careers in adulthood. Time management, problem solving, communication, working under pressure — these are all soft skills that look fantastic on a resume or college application and are great to get at a young age. Furthermore, the right job may provide networking possibilities that set your teen on the path to a lifetime career. Working teens meet new people and have new experiences – creating positive memories that last a lifetime.

Earning money enables teenagers to learn how to effectively manage finances. Even if they’re only using their paychecks to bankroll their own expenses, they learn to budget between clothes, entertainment, and bills. These new-found skills instill confidence, a sense of responsibility, and independence.

The Drawbacks

Can your teen handle it? Unfortunately, there can also be negative consequences to teen employment, such as reduced time for homework, less school involvement, and increased stress.

Having a job can also negatively affect a student’s grades. Students who work more than 20 hours a week have lower grade point averages than students who work fewer hours per week. For those same teens, research shows that substance abuse is higher – partly because older coworkers can lead them astray.

How Parents Can Help

Sit down with your child before they apply for employment and discuss the pros, cons, and responsibilities of having a job. Come to an agreement on how your teen will use his income, whether it be helping out with family finances, saving for college, or for fun. This will help to avoid future conflicts about money.

Teach your teen how to manage demands made on his time. This is a necessary skill that will serve him well in adulthood. The teenage years are a good time to learn to use time and resources wisely.

The truth is, a part-time job can be a wonderful experience for teenagers – as long as it’s paired with the right parental guidance. It’s not easy to let your kids loose into the world of employment, but the benefits are numerous. It would be a shame not to let them get that leg up into the world of adulthood.

Liz Greene is a writer and former preschool teacher from Boise, Idaho. She’s a lover of all things geek and is happiest when cuddling with her dogs and catching up on the latest Marvel movies. You can follow her on Twitter @LizVGreene



Why is prom so expensive?


My son, a sophomore was asked to the prom by a foreign exchange student. He turned her down. I wasn’t happy about it because I don’t condone hurting anyone’s feelings and I felt like she should get the American prom experience. But when he explained the expense involved, I understood his reasoning.

Tickets to prom these days can cost more than $100 a piece. And then there’s the $150 to rent a tuxedo and the expense of a dress for the girls. With girls, you also have the hair and nails expense and usually some new makeup. And then there’s the corsage.

And of course, there’s the transportation cost. These days, kids chip in to rent party buses so they don’t drink and drive. I’m all for not drinking and driving. And then, many of them stay overnight in a hotel room. That’s more money out the door. And professional prom photos are more than $100. By the time you’re done, prom can cost more than a thousand dollars.

ABC news reports the cost of going to prom — the perfect dress or tuxedo, a limo, and pre-dance festivities — has risen to a nationwide average of $1,139. That figure represents a 5 percent increase from the $1,078 in 2012 that American families who have a teenager attending a prom spent on all aspects of the dance.

That’s outrageous!

My son, who spends his own money on entertainment, explained to me that he’s just not willing to shell out big bucks when he’s only a sophomore and for a girl he likes only as a friend. I get that.

What surprised me was a VISA survey that found the families that could least afford it, spent the most on prom. Single parents spent more than married parents. According to Visa, on average, parents plan to pay 59% of prom costs, and their teens will cover the remaining 41%.

The worst part of the trend is that the expense of prom is expected to continue to rise.

There are parents who have come up with ways to rein in the costs.  It takes a lot of budgeting and pre-planning.

Here are a few tips from Time Magazine:

  • Shop for formal wear at consignment stores or online. Many outlets rent tuxedos and formal dresses and accessories.
  • Have make-up done at a department store’s cosmetics department or enlist a friend to help.
  • Split the cost of a limo with other couples, or simply drive.
  • Take pre-prom photos yourself and have the kids use cell phones for candid shots at the events.
  • Work out a prom budget in advance and set a limit for how much you will contribute. If teens want to spend more, encourage them to earn the money first.

Like most parents, I’m a sucker for prom. I want my kids — when they are seniors — to experience the high school rite of passage. So, even with the high price tag, I’ll encourage them to attend and chip in to pay. But that doesn’t mean I can’t complain about the cost. Right?

Do you have your teen on a back-to-school budget?

Ugh. Back-to-school shopping with teenagers. What a nightmare!

I’ve been trying to figure out the best approach to shopping without feeling like I’ve just become the major stockholder in American Eagle Outfitters. The way I see it there are a few different strategies — let your teens blow as much as they want on back to school and call it a day, give your kids a set amount to spend and let them figure out how to allocate it, or take inventory and buy only those items needed. Of course, there’s also the buy nothing approach and let them wear clothes that are too small (seems like some teen girls already use this strategy!)

Some friends of my friends give their kids allowance throughout the year and make their kids buy all their new clothing with their own money. I’ve never tried it but if you have, let me know if it works.

This year,  I went through closets, made a list and went to the mall. The only problem was my teens and I had a very different idea of how much a pair of jeans should cost. Me: “Why spend $60 on jeans when these jeans from Target fit you so amazingly?” My daughter: “You’re kidding, right? I know what you’re doing…”

Turns out teens and parents see shopping VERY differently. Capital One Financial Corporation did research and found that parent and teens mostly agree on which items they need to buy for the new school year, but they have very different expectations on how much they’ll be spending on back-to-school purchases. Us parents are WAY more realistic about what stuff costs. Only 41 percent of teens expect their parents will spend more than $100 on back-to-school shopping, compared to 68 percent of parents who expect to spend over $100.

Then there’s the battle over needs and wants. Over half (57%) of parents surveyed by Capital One say that they have discussed the difference between needs and wants with their teen. Yet only one-quarter (26%) of teens report that they have discussed the difference between needs and wants with their parents. I’m going to admit, I’ve had this discussion many times with my teens.  Just last week my daughter told me she needs a thong bikini from Victoria Secret. “It’s the only thing I can possibly wear to school under my white shorts,” she tells me. My quick response:  “That’s a want!”

I thought I’d share tips from Capital One for how to teach their teens good money management skills:

  • Make back-to-school shopping a family affair – It’s a great opportunity for teens to learn valuable hands-on lessons from their parents.
  • Do your homework – Talk to teachers in advance and try to get a list of required school supplies so you can buy in advance (maybe even on sale.)
  • Crunch numbers together – establish a budget – Determine how much you’re able to spend in advance and stick to the amount.
  • Consider having your child contribute – Capital One’s survey suggests that many teens are prepared to help pay for back-to-school shopping. Discuss how much they may contribute and work it into the budget you develop.
  • Make a list – Prepare your shopping list in advance. Try to distinguish between “needs” and “wants” on the list and prioritize the needs first.
  • Shop smart – Make sure you shop around for the best price and the best quality and use coupons when possible. Even if you don’t plan to shop online, encourage your teen to look at prices online to see how they fit with the budget before you head to the store.

Readers, I’d love to hear how you handle back-to-school shopping? What’s worked for you and what hasn’t?

Using the Jonas Brothers to teach teens about saving

Has your teen ever asked you to buy him an overpriced pair of sneakers? Or how about a ticket to a ridiculously priced concert?

How do you get a teenager money lessons and get them to stop relying on the Bank of Mom and Dad?

My friend Harriett Brackey Johnson, personal finance writer at the Sun-Sentinel, discovered  a noteworthy personal finance tool: A teenage crush. Harriett used her twin daughters’ obsession with the Jonas Brothers to teach her girls the concept of saving up for what you want.

Her daughters’ wanted to see the boy singers in person. In an article on the topic, she writes: “No ordinary concert tickets would do. They wanted tickets way up front, tickets that would cost triple digits. That’s when their crush started working for me.”

Harriett told her girls that if they wanted those tickets, they’d have to save up for them. And they did.

“The girls simply decided to save every cent that they earned babysitting during the entire summer and spend it all on one purchase, the triple-digit tickets. I didn’t have any problem with it. Because I figured out that allowing kids to spend on something that might seem frivolous could be an experience that teaches them something.”

She says: “They set a goal. They saved. They reached it. So they splurged. Is there any better purpose for money?”

As a parent, I haven’t always agreed with how my teen wanted to spend his or her money. But if it helps teach the concept of saving, I guess I need to back off and let them follow the formula Harriett lays out:

Set a Goal. Save. Get a reward. Repeat.

Harriett found when the weekend of the concert came, her daughters had so much fun. Because when you wait and you earn it, the enjoyment is much greater.

I really think she’s right. I think teens appreciate a purchase more when they save up for it?

What has been your experience with the save and spend concept?

What Teens Can Learn About Money From Mistakes of Pro-Athletes

Your son thinks he’s going to be the next Le Bron James? What a coincidence, so does mine!

Will I be using this to my advantage? You bet I will.

Here’s my strategy for teaching him a financial lesson: I plan to tell my son about the recent post on TheSportsCommentary.com that said, “While the life of a professional athlete seems like one of overflowing luxury and rock-solid fame, it has been well documented that within five years of retirement, as a result of divorce, unemployment, or bad business decisions 60% of NBA players and 78% of NFL players find themselves on the brink of bankruptcy or flat broke. 

Next, I plan to use the strategy suggested by Dr. Robert Lawson, a youth financial wellness expert.  He wants us to teach our teens that it’s not how much you make that ultimately determines your financial success in life but rather, what you do with what you make. (As an added bonus, as part of this lesson, I plan to dig up a photo of a destitute athlete standing by the side of the road in his former uniform with a “Will Work For Food” sign.)

Mr. Lawson tells of a professional athlete who had earned over $52 million in his career. However, because of poor investment decisions and real estate deals gone bad, this player was on the verge of filing for bankruptcy. 

I’m not sure who Lawson is referring to but there are lots of other examples:  Baseball slugger Jack Clark had 18 cars and owed money on 17 when he went broke. Scottie Pippen lost $120 million in career earnings due to poor financial planning and bad business ideas. Former New York Mets and Philadelphia Phillies star Lenny “Nails” Dykstra was a success on the baseball diamond, but in his 2009 bankruptcy filing, he owed more than $30 million to creditors.

As part of my strategy, I will show my son the recent reports about the $7.6 million home LeBron plans to buy and the rumors of a $49 million home, and I will hint that LeBron could become broke some time in the future.

Then, I will follow Lawson’s advice and tell my kid that a person who earns an average salary say of $40,000 a year and invests wisely and develops a good savings habit can wind up with more money in the end than a multi-millionaire NBA star who doesn’t handle his finances wisely.

Lawson offers a few more tips to teach your teen to handle money.

  • Cash is king—not credit. 
  •  Learn to set aside a portion of everything you earn. Always pay yourself first.
  •  When you pay cash for something that means you won’t have to worry about bills and interest payments that come due each month.
  • When you miss a payment, it just makes things worse because you get charged additional fees and adds to your debt liability.
  • When you put something on a credit card that means you’re going to pay more for it in the long run.

The next time my son heads outside to shoot hoops, I’m ready with my offense. Do you think my strategy will work?

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