Managing Your Money

Snowbirds are back. Winter coats are put away. After a long tough Canadian winter, summer is finally in sight. As my children wrap up their last few weeks of school and start preparation for exams, the discussion of summer plans has been hovering around us. My oldest daughter is 15 years old and says she’s “too old” for summer camps. My response – “Perfect! Get a summer job!”

Teen employment in North America has shown a steady decline since 2000. Up until then, over 50% of teens (aged 16-19) were consistently employed during the summer. Since 2000 the teen summer employment rate has dropped as low as 25%. There could be many reasons for this, such as more teens attending summer school. There also may be fewer low-skilled, entry-level positions. But I suspect one aspect of this decline has to do with the changing “parenting styles” in recent decades.

In my day, I was grateful that my parents bought a home computer for the family. Today almost every teen I know has an $800 iPhone and a fully paid monthly plan! And even worse than that, I know of parents who get their teen’s hand-me-down phones every time a new model comes out. Seriously!? I don’t mean to start a rant, but we keep hearing about this young generation of entitled kids and teens. Whose fault is it? Whose job is it to teach children and teens about working for what you want, about the value of money, about the pride in buying something with your own hard-earned money? What is it that teens learn when they are provided with all the latest and greatest stuff…a sense of entitlement!

The companies and marketers of today are smarter than ever.  With the influence of social media, they have the perfect network to make people believe that they “NEED” the latest and greatest of everything – from fashion, to cars, to vacations, and especially technology. If adults are susceptible to this influence, imagine the impact on teens. And from my observation and experience, this generation of youth are relentless. When they want the latest and greatest stuff, they just don’t let go. Why not put that motivation to good use?

With rates of anxiety and depression among teens being at their highest levels ever, and emotional health levels being at all time lows, how can parents help? I don’t claim to be any kind of expert on parenting or psychology. Many books have been written at length on the effects of technology and social media on teens, on setting proper boundaries, and curbing the sense of entitlement. I will suggest that the idea of teens getting a summer job can positively affect many aspects of their lives.

When a teen earns minimum wage, in Quebec that’s $12.50/hour, it would require 64 hours of work to accumulate enough to buy that $800 iPhone (or whatever gadget they covet). For a kid who has never worked before that’s a lot of hours of hard work. All of a sudden that hard earned iPhone becomes a trophy of success. Most teens learn quickly that earning their own money gives them a freedom to make their own spending choices, and that can be very motivating and empowering to them.

When my 12-year-old wanted a pair of $300 running shoes that I was never going to buy, he was motivated to go door-to-door in our neighborhood offering to rake leaves. He even recruited some friends and paid them to work for him. For younger teens, babysitting, yard work, and housework are great opportunities to start earning money young. Many libraries have summer programs where even pre-teens can do volunteer hours. This can be a good way to initiate the idea of summer work.

Aside from a summer job providing an opportunity to get real life financial education for teens, it can also build valuable work experience, time management and communication skills, and in today’s tech-obsessed society, a constructive use of free time over the summer. And most importantly, when teens work at part-time jobs, they learn how capable and self-reliant they are, they develop a sense of responsibility and independence, and all of these things contribute to an increase in self-confidence and self-esteem.

When I started working part-time at 15, my dad had me start a monthly savings plan. This simple act created a strong savings habit which has served me well. When children and teens are taught the benefits of savings at an early age, they are far more likely to have good saving habits throughout their lives. Whether a person turns out to be a “spender” or a “saver” is often determined by their early learning experiences with money. No matter how much a teen is making, it’s a great opportunity to start a small investment plan. Not only will the teen be left with something to show for their hard work once the rest is spent, but it’s also a great way for them to start learning the basics of investing.

So rather than having your teen spend the summer sitting at home playing video games or taking hundreds of selfies to get the perfect shot for social media, create the incentive for them to go out and make some hard-earned money. And if you decide to hire them to work for you, in your business, or around the house, make sure to pay them fairly, and not overpay them. Overpaying a teen for work only sets them up for disappointment when they get into the real world.

Lynn MacNeil, F.PL. Vice President, Investment Advisor, is a Financial Planner with Richardson GMP Limited in Montreal, with over 24 years of experience working with retirees and pre-retirees. For a second opinion, private financial consultation, or more information on this topic or on any other investment or financial matter, please contact Lynn MacNeil at 514.981.5795 or [email protected]. Or visit our website at

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