Just about every financial expert under the sun has pointed out to parents that the cost of a college education is skyrocketing, that general expenses are going up as income and job availability has gone down, and that kids have high expectations when it comes to what they can spend and buy. Understandably, parents are trying to find ways to give their kids what they need (and some extras, too) without breaking the bank. The answer in many families is to get kids into the workplace and have them earning their own “green” while still in school, but this route isn’t for everybody.
On the one hand, encouraging your child to get a job means that he’ll have his own paycheck coming in. He can put the money he earns into things like his college savings fund or use it to cover his own interests and social activities. This can ease the financial strain on you if things are tight, giving your child more leeway to save, spend and, perhaps most importantly, invest. Many kids feel a solid sense of accomplishment when they are able to pay their own way.
You also have to look at the experience having a job while in school provides. Jobs give kids the chance to develop real-life skills such as time management and organization, and they get to see how businesses operate and to network, learning workplace etiquette. They get to practice tasks such as developing and submitting resumes, too. This will be valuable in just about any subsequent jobs your child gets. Often, jobs force kids to apply concepts they are learning in school, as well. Operating a till, for example, gets your child to use basic math on the fly.
From the financial education perspective, the money your child earns from a job while in school can be beneficial because it gives your child experience with cash flow. Allowances give this experience as well, but the amount kids earn from jobs usually is bigger than a typical allowance and is therefore a big step up in terms of financial responsibility. Having a job also lets you walk your child through things like payroll deductions, retirement accounts, and taxes, opening up discussions about gross versus net income.
Of course, it’s not all good. Time spent at a job is spent away from friends, family, and extracurricular. Multiple research studies have shown then when the number of hours work exceeds the 15-20 a week range; grades usually slip at least a little. That doesn’t mean your kid will start failing classes all over the place, but it can make the difference between a GPA that qualifies for scholarships and a school of choice and one that doesn’t. In some cases, income earned from a job also can affect qualification for general financial aid, and some families find that it is actually to their child’s financial benefit not to be working.
Then there are the sheer logistics problems. Kids that work need a way to get to their job, and if they don’t have their own vehicle, you’ll be acting as chauffeur or figuring out other transportation options. If your child can drive himself, there are still factors like the cost of gas and insurance to consider, especially since those can eat into a paycheck fast.
The arguments on both sides of the work-while-in-school argument clearly are strong. Ultimately, whether your child should work comes down to what your child can handle and what circumstances your family has. Whatever you decide, it is a decision that you and your son or