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Economy sees more teens working

By Staff | Aug 17, 2009

With tough economic times many are finding themselves scrapping and saving to come up with extra money to pay bills and some even going to their teen to assist with family expenses.

Barb Wollan, family resource Management Field Specialist for ISU Extension said that there is a pretty good chance more teens have made the switch from working for their own spending money to helping with the family budget.

“There’s no real way of gauging it to know if they are, but it is certainly likely that is occurring more,” said Wollan. “Whether it is paying a family bill or teen’s taking on a greater responsibility or their own expenses.”

Wollan advises that if a teen is going to begin helping with the family budget, that communication with the teen and their parents is crucial.

“The key thing is going to be good and ongoing communication with no assumptions. Talk about things and make sure everyone’s clear,” said Wollan.

According to Wollan it isn’t necessarily inappropriate for teens to pay towards family expenses, however admits that it could be a delicate matter and will most likely work better in families that have always shared responsibilities.

Although teens have been contributing by working for centuries, parents, Wollan said should still not assume that money made by their teenager should be put in their total control.

“No parent should assume that money coming in from a teen be put in their total control,” said Wollan. “They should find something they are willing and interested in contributing towards.

“And when a teen does pitch in either fully supporting themselves of contributing towards family bills, express appreciation, but careful to remain in charge so there is no power shift.”

One way to possibly solve that issue, Wollan said would to have an outsider sit in to help make sure things are fair and understandable.

“The extra support is not always a necessary component, but could be helpful,” she said.

There are many advantages and disadvantages of sending your teen out into the work world.

“Ideally it can be approached as a learning experience,” Wollan said. “When teens are responsible for the money, whether it be for their own clothing or social expenses they learn to plan, which is also a big advantage to giving kids an allowance. They might learn the hard ways sometimes when they run out of money, but they learn to make smart consumer purchase decisions.”

Another advantage to having a teen working, Wollan added is that it is better then learn how to manage small expenses when they’re younger versus when they’re right out of college for the first time making financial decisions

A disadvantage Wollan mentioned to having a teen working and contributing to the family budget would include their inability to save for the future.

“If they’re working and contributing to the family expenses you are sacrificing them from saving money and that could mean eventually graduating from college with tons of debt,” she said.

Another disadvantage of a teen working is if their job begins to affect their school work and other activities, which are all important for personal development, Wollan said during teen years.

Wollan advises teaching teens these four ways to spending money:

  • Spend on need
  • Spend on want
  • Save
  • Share (charitable donations, gifts).

“All four of these are very important and great tools to learn a balanced perspective on money,” she said.

Bridget Murillo, 18 from Storm Lake and a freshman at the University of Iowa is one particular teen that has been working the majority of her high school career and has enjoyed the financial freedom from her parents and the responsibility gained through working.

Murillo says that although she doesn’t contribute directly to her family’s budget, she makes enough money to pay for her own gas, phone, clothes and fun money and also was able to pay for half of her new lap top and most of her necessities she needs to make the move to Iowa City.

“I don’t really ask my parents for anything,” she said. “It makes me independent and ready to live on my own and take care of my own money.”

Murillo has spent her last three summers as a life guard at King’s Pointe in Storm Lake and also as a “checker” opening and closing fields for PSA genetics. Those two jobs give her about 40 hours per week of work.

Murillo advises if you are a teen and are thinking about getting a job to just be careful of how you manage your time.

“Just know how to manage your time and make sure you put school before work,” she said. “I think it’s good for a teenager to work, it makes them more responsible and it has made me more responsible. It gets you ready for the real world.”

Murillo will be attending the University of Iowa majoring in Spanish and pre-med.

Contact Kriss Nelson at jknelson@frontiernet.net

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