Should I let my high schooler get a part-time job?
Questions about kids and money keeping you up at night? This series answers them so you can get some sleep.
Once your kid turns 16, he is legally old enough to get a steady part-time job, rather than deliver newspapers or pick up the occasional babysitting gig. For many of us, an after-school job was a rite of passage.
It helped us develop a good work ethic and imbued us with a sense of personal agency that money given to us never could. It introduced the concept of payroll taxes (ouch!), and was a swift education in dealing with the “real” world (quirky coworkers, irritable customers, demanding bosses). You might see the value in letting your kids have that experience as well.
If your kid has to work to help support your family, that’s one thing. But if you have the luxury of choice, consider these factors: Given the escalating academic demands of college-track school work these days, not to mention extracurriculars, a job may take away those precious after-school and weekend hours that your kid needs to do homework—or even just catch up on sleep.
If possible, nix the afterschool job, and encourage your kid to work during the summers instead.
In fact, one study found that high school students spent nearly an hour less doing homework on the days they worked at part-time jobs. Why take the chance that your kid’s grades will suffer? It could have long-term consequences—say, not being admitted a coveted college, or falling short of qualifying for a lucrative scholarship—that outweigh the benefits of a job stocking groceries or waiting tables.
If possible, nix the afterschool job, and encourage your kid to work during the summers instead. That said, an odd job here or there during the school year isn’t going to put a divot in his GPA.
If your kid does need to get a job during the school year, limit the hours he works to 15 per week—including weekends. More than that and, research shows, kids become less likely to get a college degree. Keep tabs on when big projects or tests are coming up, and check in with your kid to make sure his work shifts won’t interfere with his studies.
Make it clear that a portion of your kid’s paycheck should go toward college savings, rather than clothes, electronics, and Chipotle runs. Help him look into opening a Roth IRA. (Check out my book Make Your Kid a Money Genius (Even If You’re Not) for much more on why and how to do this.) And, if your kid feels he’s impressed his boss, suggest that he consider asking for a college recommendation. Many college admissions officers value real-world experience.