I didn’t have a job when I was in high school. In fact, I wasn’t allowed to. My parents always told me that my “job” was to study (and how I hated them for that!). Any money I had was either from gifts or money my parents gave me to buy lunch at school. I did have friends with jobs though, and over the years I’ve reached a conclusion about teenagers with jobs… they spend more!

As opposed to an adult with a job, teenagers generally don’t have many financial obligations. This leaves them free to spend their money as they please, and that’s where it gets tricky. Some teenagers might be wise enough to save up for a bigger purchase like a car, or their college expenses, learn the value of a hard day’s work, and learn to manage their time. As far as the savings go, from what I’ve seen that is a minority. What I’ve usually seen happen is that they are left with an excuse to buy themselves expensive things, or hi-tech electronics. Example: my 16 year old cousin bought an iPhone a month or two after they came onto the market. My first reaction was “what does a 16 year old need an iPhone for? Do they even allow those in school? I didn’t even have a cellphone when I was in high school. What do you need internet access for at every minute of the day?” In response to that, I guess all kids have phones now though and I was reacting based on the fact that I think $100 for a phone (nevermind $400!) is just ridiculous. That’s just me though, if it was up to me I’d still have my tiny little Samsung from 4 years ago, but it broke after I dropped it too many times. (Although after playing with her iPhone for a little while….they really are cool! lol. I’m still not getting one though.)

I think teenagers are more easily seduced by flashy gadgets, commercials with girls prancing around the streets like they have nothing better to do, and the idea that objects can bring you a lifestyle you’ve always dreamed of (I could be wrong here, as many adults are quickly seduced by these things too.) Teenagers are afflicted with the need to belong and to fit in. Well it just so happens that marketers are standing behind every corner waiting to show them what is “right”, and show them what they really “want”. So I think that when teenagers finally have money of their own to spend without their parents weighing in, its no wonder they would play right into their marketing game. Case in point: A friend of mine in high school worked and spent all her money on handbags (mostly Coach), Victoria’s Secret, and clothes.

Now, I think if a kid spends all day working he/she should spend their money as they wish. That’s not quite what I’m arguing about. Everyone deserves to treat themselves, especially since its not the family’s food budget that they are spending (or something like that…I hope!). But what happens when they go off to college, or they actually have to start paying bills? By this point they are used to buying themselves the latest video games, the latest hi-tech toy, the season’s “it” bag…will they be able to afford to keep up these habits along with their new responsibilities? Will they be able to stop spending? Or will they find themselves pulling out the credit cards more often than not?

I really have nothing to base this on, other than a few observations I’ve made about friends and family members that have had jobs as teens. You could also argue that teenagers that have never had to handle their own money don’t learn how to manage it, or don’t know the “value of a dollar.” I actually had a friend in college that was used to the finer things in life. Once she graduated her parents would no longer be supporting her (plus she was about to get married) and so she was worried about keeping up her designer clothes and BMW lifestyle. I guess in that case it wouldn’t have been any different if she had or hadn’t worked in high school, she was already used to a certain standard of living. Yet another friend of mine got her first job in college to help offset the costs (her parents were not wealthy by any means)…and just went a little overboard with her newfound freedom. After not having much of anything growing up, the temptation to spend “all this money” got to her. (Kind of like me with food when I got to college! Eeek!)

So those two stories kind of throw out my whole “hypothesis”, but anyway…

Before I go any further on this tangent, I’m curious to know what others think!

To summarize my thoughts: people that have jobs as teenagers eventually are “trained” to spend more, and on more expensive things, possibly putting them at a disadvantage later in life when they need to “break” these habits to make room for their increased responsibilities.

(phew. what a mouthful!)

Do you think there’s any truth to this? (or am I just full of crap?)

Did you have a job when you were in high school? Do you think it helped to teach you about money management? Do you think it hurt you?