All in a day’s work for teens

A part-time job helps cover costs and pro­vides valu­able fi­nan­cial lessons

Money Magazine Australia - - FAMILY MONEY - Su­san Hely

The teenage years are full of mile­stones that come with a hefty price tag. From man­ag­ing their mo­bile phone plan to driv­ing lessons to out­fits for school for­mals to schoolies to univer­sity fees, there are plenty of big ex­penses on the teenage radar.

Of course, one way to help fund their in­creas­ingly busy so­cial life is to en­cour­age them to get a part-time job and save. Two in five Aus­tralian par­ents say their 14- to 18-year-old kids have a paid job out­side the home and nearly half of them started work­ing be­fore they turned 16, ac­cord­ing to a sur­vey car­ried out for the Fi­nan­cial Plan­ning As­so­ci­a­tion (FPA).

I do rec­om­mend a part-time job for teenagers. Of­ten get­ting a foot in the door for part-time work is harder than it sounds. Em­ploy­ers typ­i­cally don’t em­ploy young peo­ple with­out ex­pe­ri­ence. There are some ex­cep­tions, such as McDon­ald's, which takes on young peo­ple from 14 to 16 with the con­sent of their par­ents or guardians.

Find­ing work that is com­pat­i­ble with school isn’t al­ways easy. Part-time jobs dur­ing term time can be de­mand­ing and get in the way of study and other school com­mit­ments such as sport, mu­sic and drama. One of my kids’ friends worked in a phar­macy on Satur­days and at­tempted to take some time off dur­ing her fi­nal ex­ams, only to be abused by her boss and forced to ei­ther work or lose her job.

Sum­mer jobs can be the best in­tro­duc­tion to part-time work. School stu­dents have around six weeks off while univer­sity stu­dents can have three months. It is in­tensely com­pet­i­tive and al­ways a good idea to start look­ing early – of­ten in Oc­to­ber or Novem­ber – for signs in the lo­cal shops for po­si­tions va­cant. Once they leave school and start study­ing, work­ing part­time while they are at uni is much easier.

When my kids got a part-time job, their ap­proach to money changed mon­u­men­tally. They started to use phrases that I hadn’t heard be­fore, such as “That is so ex­pen­sive” and “I’m not pay­ing that much”.

Un­til they started work­ing, they didn’t re­ally ap­pre­ci­ate how much things cost. But they soon came to re­alise that it would take them hours of haul­ing heavy bags of pota­toes out of the fridge at the ham­burger chain or stand­ing at a cash reg­is­ter or serv­ing peo­ple ice-cream to pay for a night out or a new out­fit.

Fre­quently, hospi­tal­ity jobs ex­ploit young peo­ple, not pay­ing them an award wage, let alone su­per­an­nu­a­tion. One of my kids was for­ever on a “trainee” wage at a big fast-food chain. When she moved to a health food shop, the em­ployer was al­ways late with wages – some­times months.

She also worked in an up­mar­ket cafe in a shop­ping cen­tre and was never paid, so she left. She re­turned many times but the man­ager was never around to pay her. Af­ter this ex­pe­ri­ence she re­ally val­ued an em­ployer who paid the award wage and super and was rea­son­able.

Man­ag­ing money from a part-time job is good for their fi­nan­cial aware­ness. My daugh­ter promptly checks her ac­count on pay day to see if she has been paid. She can log into her super fund to be sure the super con­tri­bu­tion has been made.

Teenagers need all the help they can get in be­com­ing fi­nan­cially lit­er­ate. With so many temp­ta­tions com­pet­ing for their money – and now with After­pay al­low­ing them to de­lay pay­ment for goods – they need to be care­ful not to get into debt.

A job can help – but not al­ways.

A sur­vey by ING to co­in­cide with the launch of its Orange Ev­ery­day Youth ac­count found that 71% of teens are al­ready think­ing about how much they’ll need to be fi­nan­cially se­cure in the fu­ture. It found that al­most half of them are sav­ing for the long term and 75% are putting away more than half of their weekly earn­ings.

Su­san Hely has been a se­nior in­vest­ment writer at The Syd­ney Morn­ing Her­ald. She wrote the best-sell­ing Women & Money.

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