Teens, Money, and Who Pays for What

Most parents want their kids to understand how to manage money, but they don’t often provide their kids with an education in “money smarts. ” Most teens don’t really get it because whenever they need cash, their parents hand it over.  But what happens when a teen gets a part-time job? I recently heard from a 16 year old who just got his first job and is shocked and resentful to learn that his parents expect him to start covering some of his own expenses. Read on….

“… I have to pay for my $200 contact lenses if I want to keep wearing. And they are going to charge me for gas and stuff. Geez! I don’t even know how much I’m making yet and they’re already making me go broke talking about ‘Welcome to the real world!” I am not 18 yet so they shouldn’t treat me like it or I’m going to act 18. Let me continue being 16 and having a childhood. What ticked me off the most is them talking about saving and budget. HOW? paying two bills and $200 contacts?  I get a job and all of a sudden you guys don’t take care of me any more? My mind is heavy and I don’t know what to do.”

Heavy Mind

Dear Heavy,

Part of the problem is your assumption that “No way should I have to pay for any of my expenses!” Obviously your parents have a different point of view. You are 16 and I’m pretty sure you don’t appreciate being treating like a child, yet, when it comes to contributing to your own expenses, you do want to be treated like a child.( “Let me continue being 16 and having a childhood… “)

You’re going to have to calm down before you talk with your parents. Sounds a little weird to have to be calm to talk about what is upsetting you, but calmness is key if you want them to hear you.

Follow these steps…
1. Find out exactly how much you will be taking home from your job each month. (That’s different from what you earn since taxes are taken out of paychecks).

2. Make a list of all the expenses your parents want you to be responsible for (contact lenses, gas, “stuff”) and add them up. What does the math tell you? Can you afford to pay for your contact lenses and your gas, etc. or not?

3. Meet with your parents. You might say something like this, “I’ve been thinking about what I can do to help pay for some of my expenses. I’ve written down how much I will be earning each month and how much the contacts and the gas cost each month. Here are the numbers.”

4. Show them the math.

5. Then you might say, “I want to contribute some of what I earn to pay my expenses, but I would also like to have some left over for spending money (so I don’t have to ask you for any) and also for saving. What do you think is a fair monthly contribution that I should make to my expenses?”

6. Close your mouth and listen to what they say.

Click HERE to read more from Annie Fox. “Written by Annie Fox

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