Many kids want to start making some money, and often their parents want them to do so as well. Encouraging your children to earn their own money is a great way to foster creativity and innovation, promote independence, and begin to teach them about key financial skills like budgeting, saving, managing money, and investing.
Here are some suggestions on ways that kids can make money.
Consider tasks that need to be done around your home or at your work that go beyond basic household chores.
Does the car need washing? Are there leaves to rake or snow to shovel? Or can you delegate to your kid a task that you would ordinarily do yourself, like gift wrapping, typing an email (which you can dictate), or making greeting cards?
If you have a family-run business, consider ways to get your child involved that are age-appropriate and would give your child a sense of accomplishment and involvement.
Most jobs are found through word of mouth, so encourage your child to let relatives, family friends, and neighbors know that he or she is in the market for work.
Offering to do odd jobs for trusted neighbors—like yard work, lawn mowing, dog walking, pet sitting, and babysitting—is a great place to start.
Neighborhoods sometimes hold block yard sales where neighboring families can all take part. A community yard sale offers a great way for kids to meet each other and participate. By encouraging your child to sell or donate unwanted items you are also teaching valuable financial skills.
If your child wants to enter the workforce in a formal way, you should be aware of legal limits on the type of jobs your child can hold and the amount of hours he or she can work. For a list of jobs and work hours allowed at different ages, visit the United States Department of Labor's Youth Rules website.
Kids are increasingly showing interest in learning about investing and starting their own businesses. A growing range of educational tools, websites, and investment programs are available, with some organizations even offering camps to young entrepreneurs. Be sure to do your research before deciding on a particular website or camp, to ensure that you choose one that's right and appropriate for your child.
Helping your kid discover creative ways to make money is just one of the ways that you can begin to teach key financial lessons about budgeting, saving, and investing for the future.
Many parents also decide to provide their child with an allowance. Some parents choose to provide a weekly dollar amount equal to the age of the child—for example, $11 a week for an 11-year-old. But how much of an allowance is appropriate really depends on what you want your child to spend the money on. Think about whether you intend to provide money for only incidentals (like to buy a cookie at the school bake sale, in which case the amount will be smaller), or do you want the allowance to cover larger purchases like clothing, toys, and outings with friends? A good rule of thumb is to start out small and as the child gets older, expand what's included in the allowance.
Credit cards are convenient for teenagers and young adults. Also, having a credit card and building a credit history is an important part of financial health in today's world. In fact, having no credit history can make life almost as difficult as having a low credit score. So at some point, your children need to learn how to choose a credit card and how to use it wisely. When used responsibly, a credit card can help your child get out of a financial jam, learn to be a savvy consumer, and establish a good credit score. (Learn more about credit scores in Your Credit Score: What It Is and Why It Matters.)
The problem is, of course, that credit cards are a little too easy to use for impulse buys as well as necessary ones. Just a few mistakes—like accumulating debt that can't be paid back, then skipping a payment or two—can seriously hurt your child's credit score. A low credit score makes it more difficult to get a job, rent an apartment, and of course, take out other loans, like a mortgage.
Even if you decide your child isn't ready for a credit card, don't ignore the issue. Teach your children about credit cards and money management—including budgeting, saving, and being a smart consumer—before they get themselves into financial trouble. (To help your child manage money, see Budgeting: How to Make a Budget.)