Jeff and I had an interesting and animated conversation this morning about the things we did to make money when we were kids. Jeff, at age 11, decided he wanted to buy a horse. His mom said "no horse" but encouraged him to save up the money himself if he really wanted a horse that badly. So he did. Among the many odd jobs he had was janitor at a daycare center and buying used dryers out of the classified ads in the paper, cleaning them up and reselling them for a profit! Soon enough he had money for his horse! A pretty big goal to accomplish at such a young age.
When I was 15, I walked into a brand new daycare center that opened up not far from my house. I told them I was a sophomore (true) so they assumed I was 16 and old enough to work there (not true). But I got hired anyway, and was thrilled to be making $3 an hour. I started in September and worked every day after school 3-6 p.m. taking care of two year olds. In December I got a raise to $3.35. That month I got my biggest paycheck (for working a few extra days on the weekends when the center opened up for "holiday shopping" daycare) and it was $181. I was so happy! Over the course of that year, I saved up $1300 and treated myself to a trip to Ohio to visit my cousin and a week in NY with my dad. From the point I started working I never asked my parents for extra money - I had my own money and when it was gone, it was gone!
Jeff and I have a lot in common in that we both started working at a young age (I started babysitting at age 9), and we both continued to work and make money through adulthood. We both worked our way through college and at times, held multiple jobs to make ends meet.
So, it's a bit discouraging to see kids now not taking jobs or working at all until they're out of high school. Sure, there are still a lot of high school kids who work, but the majority of my kids' peers (my kids included) do not have jobs, and therefore, their "spending money" is all from the bank of mom and dad. My kids argue that they don't have "time" for a job because they are involved in after school activities. I disagree. Evenings, weekends, days off school - all good opportunities to make money!
My son came up with a wonderful business idea the other day (ok, I helped a little) - scooping dog poop in other people's yards for money. Who wants that gross job? I'd pay a kid to do it (except mine does it for free! LOL). He was so motivated by the possibility of making enough money to buy an iPod touch, that he came up with a pricing program, designed a flyer......and then did nothing. He had a garage sale where he made a little over $100 and then decided he didn't really want to pick up poop. Besides, he had just figured out how many yards he'd need to scoop to earn the money, and had no intention of continuing the "business" after he made his haul. I explained he should keep doing it to generate regular income and he just looked at me like I had two heads.
When my girls get paid for a babysitting job, the money burns a hole in their pockets. It's all about spend, spend, spend and no saving. Sure there's always a few bucks for Starbucks or a Frosty at Wendy's on the way home from school, but no budget for gas or car insurance. Hm.
Of course, the natural consequences of this is that mom and dad don't finance their frivolities and they go without. Car runs out of gas? Take the bus! No money for the game tonight? Too bad. But that's not the point. What I'm trying to figure out is what motivates kids. What makes them WANT to work hard and earn money? What ever happened to the satisfaction of working hard for something and finally being rewarded with the actual object or activity?
I know that once I started making my own money, I NEVER wanted to "be without". I was always game for a way to make extra money too. At one point in college, I had my regular job, was babysitting for a few select families and also cleaned three different houses in order to bring in extra cash. And I still had time to have fun! Imagine that!
I think kids are also pretty choosy when thinking about working. Everyone wants a glamorous job, but there are far more unglamorous jobs out there just waiting for a worker bee. I knew as a high schooler that I had no desire to work in food service. So, I set my sights on daycare and it worked out wonderfully. I had a job I enjoyed and I had extra money.
When I started babysitting I made 50 cents an hour! I was thrilled to make a couple of dollars an hour when I got older. I never made more than $3-4 an hour but my kids make upwards of $10 an hour to do the exact same job. Sure, I'll allow for inflation, but babysitting is a lucrative business! When my girls come home with $60 in their pocket after a few hours of making chicken nuggets and watching TV, I don't think that's anything to turn your nose up at.
I believe part of the problem is that kids don't value money like they used to. We live in affluent suburbs where no one thinks twice about a child wearing designer clothes, taking several after school classes at hundreds of dollars a month, or playing club sports at thousands of dollars a year, that the almighty dollar is but a pittance. I've heard my kids say "it's only $10" or "wow! $50 is cheap!" and I think, $50 buys groceries for a few days at least! I admire "saving up" for a goal, such as the coveted iPod touch, but when I think about all the other things we need to spend $300 on, it seems so trivial - $300 for a music player with a webcam and WiFi? Big deal. And that's why kids need to make their own money and purchase these things themselves. Because when they work their butts off for months or years to make the $300 they need to purchase this coveted item and then accidentally leave it on the bus, or get it stolen or drop it and break it, they might realize the value of a dollar - or three hundred dollars - and think twice about what's really important. And how hard they're willing to work to get those things.