Five Attributes of Life-Changing Summer Jobs

Take a Pop Quiz!  Suppose you have $100 in a savings account and the interest rate is 2% per year.  After five years, will you have more than $102, exactly $102, or less than $102?  That’s one of three questions used worldwide to test financial literacy.  In the United States, only 30% of adults can ace that test.  That’s the bad news; we are incredibly financially illiterate.  The good news is that we can improve.  I know several obstetricians and have yet to meet one who told me a newborn can answer this interest rate question.  We aren’t born financially savvy.  It’s a muscle we can develop by exercising it.

It seems that it will be a little harder for the current generation to become financially literate than it was for us.  We all learn to speak by mimicking mom and dad, and that’s also where we learn to spend and save.  My daughter is three and the only time she sees me touch physical money is at the farmer’s market and church.  I’m going to have to put her into situations where she can exercise her financial muscles, like a summer job.  Here are goals that I will have for her future summer gigs, along with some examples I’ve seen work well that I hope you will share if you have children or grandchildren.  



Running a business is the ultimate learning by doing activity.  Any age-appropriate enterprise that lets a child see the whole picture of income, expenses, and profit is invaluable. Responsibility for the generation of profit is the #1 way to create financial accountability.  Those dollars left in the bank will be precious and will motivate the owner to use them wisely as they start their financial journey.  A vegetable stand was the start of a great entrepreneurial career for a good friend.


Good Mentor:

The next best thing to being the captain of a business is learning from the captain.  If you can put your young person with a business owner who can share their wisdom, it will rub off.  One of the truths of the universe is that adolescents are smarter than their parents, so I will seek out someone outside of the family for my daughter to emulate.  I had this opportunity with the owner of a limestone blasting company, and the wisdom shared was worth the hot summers of hauling bags of dynamite and shoveling rock all day!


Skill Development:

Ask any employer and they’ll tell you college graduates lack communication skills.  Reps of interaction with adults will put a teen lightyears ahead of their peers who are home playing video games, and those can come with just about any job like food service or customer service.  Or seek hard skills; as a homeowner, I’m jealous of my friend who worked for a builder and got paid to learn the handyman skills I have had to learn at YouTube University.


Viable Side Gig:

I don’t know any recent college graduate who wouldn’t feel better with an extra $5,000 of income.  A summer job can be the opportunity to install an income spigot they can turn on at will as needed.  Photography, furniture flipping, cell phone repair, and car detailing are a handful of gigs that a teen can learn that can become a tool for quick cash if they need it in the future.


Resume Builder:

The least important attribute for a child’s long-term development becomes a little more important around their sophomore year of high school.  Any job can teach something that can turn into a great college essay.  However, if they have a specific career path in mind, it helps to show some initiative for the resume.  Spending one day a week shadowing a dentist, lawyer, etc. is worth missing out on income to build a network and give some experience to write about.

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