Preparing kids for their first jobs

Apr 15, 2010 at 11:00 a.m. ET

Once a kid starts to learn about money and what they can do with it, they tend to want more. At first they may think that money is just given to them when they want it (money grows on trees, right), but since it's not, it's time to introduce the idea of "work." Depending on their age, the idea of a job can take many forms, from extra work around the house, to helping out neighbors, to actual, formal employment for older kids.

Teen girl lifeguard

The idea of work or a job is an important concept on many levels for kids. It's not just about making money - it's about best efforts and value and commitment; the money is just the tangible result of all that. It's first introductions to how our local, state, national and international economies run and are intertwined. Setting up an understanding of work early will benefit your child not just in additional coins in their pocket, but also in an understanding of how the greater world works.

First opportunities at home

Whether or not you choose to tie chores to allowance in you home, many kids will one day ask what they can do to earn extra money. It can be a challenge to find age-appropriate tasks that are above and beyond regular responsibilities, but if you can find a few and set standards for their completion, you'll both likely benefit.

Check out our age-appropriate chore chart to help you get started.

Find several jobs around the house and assign a money value to them. Write them down on pieces of paper (with your standards on the reverse) and keep them in an envelope in a handy place. When your child asks what they can do to earn extra money, you can get out the envelope and go over the choices available to them.

Neighborhood help

As a child gets older, "employment" in the neighborhood becomes an option. Babysitting is an obvious choice, but older kids can help out with yard work, snow shoveling, helping an elderly neighbor or new mother with simple household tasks and the like. In these situations, your child can learn about negotiating a rate, and further lessons in responsibility, quality, and commitment.

The benefit of kids starting in these neighborhood employment situations is the kind of supervision it includes. Successes and failures will be had among mostly sympathetic adults - ones who want to see them achieve and succeed.

Formal employment

Older kids - older teens, really - can take on the commitment of a "real" job. From retail stores to fast food to local offices, there are many work options for teens. Kids at this age are usually ready to learn more about balancing work and school and social responsibilities, as well as use of the money that comes from such formal employment.

Get tips here on opening your child's first checking and savings account.

Teens getting their first formal job must take into account schedules, transportation (perhaps paying for it themselves), and communicating with supervisors. Rules for the age at which formal employment is allowed varies by state, so check local laws and other requirements first - but, again, beyond the plain "earning money" aspect, it's learning about how our economy works and how one's actions depend on another's - and affect others, too.

More on teaching kids about money: