Teaching Teens What Earning a Living is Like

Kids learn a lot as they move through life. There’s school work of course, but there’s also the many lessons they learn from their parents and families. And then there’s life — as kids grow and bounce from one experience to another they learn all sorts of valuable lessons about life that will benefit them forever. But one of the lessons kids don’t learn is how to make money, even though it’s one of the most basic and valuable things we can ever teach them. Like so many things in life, experience is the best teacher here. You can explain to a kid what earning a living is like, and they can even study about it in books or on the web. But until they get out into the world and actually experience it, they’ll never truly learn it.


There are three ways a teenager can earn a living, and as they do they’ll learn how to earn an even better living later in life when they can combine that experience with a relevant education.

Part-Time Jobs

Part-time jobs are always the preferred way to introduce teens to earning income. It’s a tough job market overall, but there are jobs for teens, and the experience they gain from working now will give both experience and some job references to put on a resume or job application in a few years when the stakes are higher.

Check the following link for 7 easy part-time jobs ideas from BeingFrugal.net.

Not all employers will hire kids under 16, so they’ll have to dig harder. Some restaurants will hire young teens to bus tables and other light jobs.

Starting Their Own Business

Learning how to run their own business is one of the most valuable income earning lessons a teen can learn. Many adults today are or are becoming self-employed due to the lack of jobs in their career field. A teen who learns how to run his or her own business will carry a major advantage into adulthood.

Self-employment for teens can be simple, such as babysitting, tutoring, pet sitting or cutting lawns. It can reach higher levels if a teen is particularly computer savvy. The possibilities are endless, so the earlier a teen starts, the greater the chance of self-employment success in adult life.

Working Online

One aspect of earning a living that wasn’t much of a consideration when most parents were kids is the internet. Not only are people making a living on the internet, but that looks to be the wave of the future. There are people making a living directly from the web (selling products and services, running blogs, etc.) but there are also people selling their services to various web organizations, and increasingly, people working from home on the internet.

Most kids are well acquainted with the internet as a source of entertainment, buying, and social media interaction. But the more experience teens have with the productive side of the web the better prepared they’ll be for earning a living in the future.

Getting them prepared for this often starts with getting them their own computer. Since computers will be lifetime traveling buddies, it might be worth getting them a good laptop that they can keep and use for several years. Look into getting them one of the best laptops for college, that way you don’t have to buy them a new one when they go off to college. You’ll have enough expenses of all sorts at that point so it will help to have the computer covered in advance.

Armed with their own computer they can begin to look into ways to make at least a little bit of cash online. They can do this by having their own blogs or websites, but having ads on Youtube accounts, or even buying and selling on Ebay. This will be their future so it’s never too early to start.

Teens learn several things from earning their own money. Most obvious, they learn how to make money, but they also learn the value of money, how to manage their money, how to deal with people in a business or employment situation, and a lot more. They learn what to do — and what not to do — on a day to day basis. And when they enter the full-time job market as young adults, whether it’s after high school, trade school or college, they’ll be better prepared to face it and to work it to their advantage.

Are you encouraging your teen age children to find ways to make a living?

Photo by orphanjones.

About the Author

By , on Apr 28, 2013
Kevin Mercadante is a professional personal finance blogger, and the owner of his own personal finance blog, OutOfYourRut.com. He has backgrounds in both accounting and the mortgage industry. He lives in Atlanta with his wife and two teenage kids and can be followed on Twitter at @OutOfYourRut.

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  1. Kelly says:

    Good advice. I always babysat when I was younger and continued to nanny into my teens and college years, but I think that if I worked a number of different kinds of jobs I would have learned more about how business’s work. I’m a firm believer in having kids earn their own money by holding down a job or else they may not learn the value of a dollar nor good work ethic.

    • Kevin says:

      Hi Kelly, I think you also develop a certain amount of self-reliance when you hold jobs. You have to learn to get along with bosses, coworkers and customers, and then how to budget your paycheck. If you don’t learn those skills, you’re at a disadvantage when you enter work on a full time basis later. I’m guessing you learned at least some of this from babysitting as well.

  2. When I was younger, I was always coming up with some way to make money. I had my grandparents buy me clay so I could make figurines and resale them, I had my mother paying me to give her foot massages, I even figured out if I sent my Nana a letter via mail (she lived 5 minutes from me) that she’d send me one back with money. Once I had learned the value of money, I couldn’t get enough of it and now that I am older and have a legitimate way to earn an income, I am much more responsible with it.

  3. I feel like every teenager should be required to have at least one job in high school and one while in college (minimum). Not only is it good for your resume, but it is good for life lessons. If you work as a nanny or as a pet sitter, you don’t learn anything because you are working for someone who is biased towards you like a family friend or a neighbor. Teens need the experience to work under a real boss that isn’t biased or affiliated outside the office to know what they are doing once they get into the real world. I am a junior in college and currently work two jobs, quit my last job that I held for three years in January, and have two internships under my belt and a paid internship this summer and its astonishing and aggravating to see how many of my friends and peers have never held any positions like that before. Schools should buckle down and have some sort of requirement so our generation doesn’t grow up to be useless, financially illiterate, couch potatoes. (Sorry for the rant, got on a roll there!)

    • Kevin says:

      Hi Morgan–I’ve heard from some people who work in job placement offices in colleges who have said that at least part of the reason for high unemployment rates among college graduates is that so many of them have never held a job of any sort by the time they’ve finished school.

      An employer is reluctant to hire a 20-something who has never worked, had a boss or managed a paycheck. I think this might come back and bite some of your non-working friends hard.

  4. It seems that learning lessons the hard way, without too much damage, is a sticking point in financial education. Hard balance to strike, as a parent.

  5. I’m definitely going to encourage my kids to start a business or work online in some form. They can definitely learn to be responsible at a young age! One of the bloggers I’ve known for a long time started his site when he was just 17! Wish I had started then!

    • Kevin says:

      Hi Cat–I wish I started blogging when I was 17 – but the internet hadn’t even been invented! But I do feel that working different part-time jobs had a major impact on my future. You learn so much about earning a living and dealing with people, even from a crappy part-time job.

  6. I agree with you, kids can learn about much more than money by having a job. Things like creating a resume, going on an interview, filling out employment paperwork, opening a bank account, etc. All of that has been at least as valuable to my kids as the money they earned as teens.

    • Kevin says:

      Hi Julie–And having a job and your own money is the best motivator to kids spreading their wings (ie, bank account, etc) and learning the financial ropes of the world. The earlier they learn it the better they grasp it for when it will really count.

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