Teaching Kids About Work and Money

I was twelve years old when my father drove me to an unfamiliar neighborhood and let me out with a case of aerosol-size cans of fire extinguishers and said, “Son, when you finish selling this case, I have two more cases!” So I went door to door, ringing door bells, selling my wares. My first day I had limited success so I went home and pondered how I could become more effective and hit upon the idea of a ‘live’ demonstration. The next day I was armed with a small pan and lighter fluid. When the lady opened the door I squirted lighter fluid in the pan, lit it and asked, “If this was a stove-top fire, how would you put it out?” She ran and got some baking powder and attempted to dowse the fire. When it continued to burn, I handed her one of my fire extinguishers and she instantly put out the fire. My sales went through the roof!
Here’s what I learned:
  • I learned not to give up. Within every obstacle is an opportunity. In this case I used poor sales as an opportunity to try a different approach. 
  • I learned how to interact with adults whom I had never met. After doing this over and over I found I quickly became more at ease in conversations.
  • I overcame the sense of rejection. Every presentation did not result in a sale. I’d take a moment to think if I could have done anything differently, learn the lesson and move on with the intent to constantly improve…try new approaches.
  • I learned that ‘work’ can be fun! Certainly making my own money was a new experience for me and it felt good! It gave me a sense of confidence. Maybe, just maybe, I could make my own way in the world!
Children learn the concept of work best at an early age. It’s not taught in school but through experience. As soon as you feel your children are old enough, encourage them to get a job. It could be babysitting, mowing lawns, a paper route. 
Don’t pay children to do things that are part of family responsibilities such as taking out the trash, mowing the lawn, cleaning up their room or making good grades. 
Do give them an allowance but include some ‘money rules’ to go with it, otherwise the only lesson they’ll learn is how to spend money….and my experience is that this lesson they learn without any help! Money rules might include:
  • The first 10% goes to helping others through a charity or gifts to their religious organization.
  • Twenty percent should go towards long-term investments. Yep, even at an early age, children can begin to learn about investing. Help them choose stocks they are familiar with such as McDonald’s, Wal-Mart, or Disney. 
  • Another ten percent should go towards long-term savings…call it ‘the unexpected’ fund.
  • They are free to spend the rest as they choose.
  • They should be responsible for balancing their checkbook. 
These money rules apply to both their allowance and job earnings.
Think of the mistakes you made as a young (or older!) adult and figure out how you can help your children learn the needed lessons before they are on their own. It will be one of your greatest gifts.