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Kids And Money: Allowance, Chores, Jobs, And Values

Kids and Money: Allowance, Chores, Jobs, and Values

Can a 15 year old work? What are some good summer jobs for teens? What chores should I pay my children for? Should my children know about the family budget? At what age can a child have a bank account?

After some quick searching I’ve seen these questions asked in many different shapes and forms around the internet. Here at FamilyNinjas, we think these are important questions. Let’s try to answer a few, but then let’s get down to the real important ideas behind these questions that might change the way you approach the topic of money within your home.

Can a 15 year old work? (Or any other age under 18 for that matter.)

To get the legal stuff out of the way, let’s take a look at what the website for the US Department of Labor says:


What is the youngest age at which a person can be employed?

The Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA) sets 14 as the minimum age for most non-agricultural work. However, at any age, youth may deliver newspapers; perform in radio, television, movie, or theatrical productions; work in businesses owned by their parents (except in mining, manufacturing or hazardous jobs); and perform babysitting or perform minor chores around a private home. Also, at any age, youth may be employed as homeworkers to gather evergreens and make evergreen wreaths.

Different age requirements apply to the employment of youth in agriculture.

Many states have enacted child labor laws, some of which may have a minimum age for employment which is higher than the FLSA. Where both the FLSA and state child labor laws apply, the higher minimum standard must be obeyed.


Now, why they mention evergreens and evergreen wreaths I don’t know. There is probably some story about some legal case that we could dig up somewhere, but a few key takeaways that can help us frame up the discussion around kids and work:

  1. There are jobs that kids of any age can work!
  2. If the parents are business owners, then there may be some additional flexibility in the type of work kids can do.
  3. You can start looking for jobs at places of business outside the home, family business, or paper routes at 14 years old – but make sure to double check your states labor laws.


What are some good summer jobs for teens?

This question can actually be more complex than it might seem. I’ve seen a wide range of philosophies here. Personally, I was raised in a family culture where other activities were deemed more important that holding a job during the summer. This was made possible because my parents were educated, hard working folks who provided well enough for our family that we didn’t need to work as kids to help the family budget get by. At the same time, I’ve had friends who came from socioeconomic backgrounds even more favored than mine who held real jobs during the summers between high school grades. Some of these friends paid for their own car, clothes, and saved money for college or other post high school activities.

While parenting positions may vary on this topic, and while in many cases it may not be a parenting position but a necessity for teens to work to contribute to the family budget, here are a range of ideas:

A “Real Job” or a “Passion Project”

Where circumstances permit it might be interesting to think about the long term skills that might be gained from the summer of work. This might also depend upon the personality of the teen and what type of experience might help them in other areas of their life. I recently learned about how a successful entrepreneurial family encouraged their children to do things like create a YouTube channel unboxing toys, or record/broadcast themselves playing video games. Many of you are probably thinking about how ridiculous this sounds, but there is a valid argument for it. While your children might not be able to accomplish every aspect of these activities at different age levels, the hard skills they’d learn in the pursuit might be more helpful long term than a paper route. For example, in order to create a YouTube channel unboxing toys (yes, there are a ton of these) you’d need to have a range of video production skills, presentation skills, planning and organization skills, and other internet technology skills. The same is true for broadcasting video games. In fact, some video games let the players create their own levels. Doing this requires a significant exercise in creativity, critical thinking, and it can yield a lot of excitement when another real person actually plays the level you created or views the video you produced. The challenge here is really helping the passion project be a structured activity with hard goals and objectives as though it were a real job. This might also present an opportunity for parents to team up with their children and work on something together. These are extremely contemporary ideas, but the same principles might be applied to helping your children start a lawn care or car cleaning summer business.

A Quick List of Kid and Teen Job Ideas

  • Jobs at local restaraunts
  • Babysitting
  • Lawn care
  • Trash can curb service
  • Car washing and detailing
  • Local movie theater
  • Newspaper route
  • Tutoring
  • Sell crafts or other homemade goods on Etsy
  • Summer camps
  • Cookie or other baked goods neighborhood delivery (take orders and deliver next day)

I’m tempted to get much more entrepreneurial with this list – if you want more creative ideas and stories of kids and teens who’ve really started their own businesses let us know in the comments and we’ll put something together!

What Chores Should I Pay My Children For?

Paying children for chores feels like a classic tradition of American capitalism. That itself is an interesting question – does this happen in other countries? I leave that for the comments as well. Reality here is most likely some version of parents trying anything to motivate their children to help with house cleaning and maintenance. The opportunity here is much more than that. There is not a yes or no answer here. Even if money is tight, paying children for chores can be a great teaching moment.  But, there are great teaching moments for doing chores when it is expected and not paid, too.

Pick a lesson and use it:

  • Getting paid for real work that you didn’t want to do.
  • Doing chores because the family helps each other, period.
  • It’s not about the chore, it’s about what the child uses the money for.
  • Payment tied to quality of work. In other words, when chores are completed they are graded and paid according to some sort of chart or schedule.
  • Paying for some object of desire with money that is earned.
  • What other lessons did your parents use chores and money for?

What Should the Kids Know About the Family Budget?

When did you find out how much money your parents made each year? Do you remember how much your parents spent at the grocery store? Did you get to pick out school supplies as long as your shopping cart fit with a certain dollar amount?

Of course there are age appropriate levels of exposure to some of these ideas, but I think for the most part we hide more from our kids than may be helpful. Either intentionally or unintentionally. I’m not even sure it matters if your family is struggling to get by, or if you are are the wealthiest family in the neighborhood. Giving kids and teens the opportunity to talk about money and family can give them a tremendous head start and context for what happens when they leave the nest.

What would happen if you took out a whiteboard on a Monday evening and shared a breakdown of the family budget with your 10-17 year old children?What if you made it a game?

  1. Prepare by reviewing your budget as parents and noting the percentages of spending across a few primary budget areas: Food, Mortgage/Rent, Transportation, Savings, Taxes, Charity, etc. This is a primary variable for the age appropriateness of the conversation.
  2. Prepare by going to the bank and withdrawing 100 one dollar bills.
  3. Gather the family around the table and place the stack of 100 dollar bills in the middle, along with envelopes for each of the primary budget areas you selected. You may also want to organize a piece of paper and a pen for each family member. Explain that each month the family gets a certain amount of income, and each month there are certain expenses that come with living life together.
  4. Explain that this income is represented by the stack of dollar bills. And explain what each of the envelopes represent.
  5. For each of the envelopes, one by one, ask each child write down how many dollar bills go into each envelope.
  6. After the guesses were made, walk through each of the envelopes (budget areas) and count out the actual amount (remember the percentages – x/100 that you had noted before the gathering) and see who was the closes for each amount. You may even consider some fun reward for guessing the closest to what’s right.

Admittedly, this exercise might take some additional thinking and adaptation – but what would happen if you did this? How else could you apply this exercise? Where could this family conversation lead? I think that this type of dialog in some shape or form has benefits that greatly outweigh the potential discomfort or drawbacks. To make this exercise sound less ridiculous – this family with children under 10 has an open book policy on the actual figures in their family budget. 

At What Age Can a Child Have a Bank Account?

I remember when my Dad used to work for a bank. It was bring your child to work day, and I have three primary memories: 1) big person cafeterias were so much better than school cafeterias, 2) I got hundreds of dollars that day – in First Interstate Bank funny money 3) my Dad worked on a computer screen most of the time. I also remember when my Dad took me to a local branch to help me open up my first checking account before I went to college and how he tried to keep the clerk from telling me about what floating is related to written checks.

Many banks have kids saving programs that start as young as 8 years old. There are also many programs for teens (13+) to open real checking accounts. Many of these programs today might also have an online banking component to them – which might be helpful for your kids to understand todays concept of cash. Can you believe that most children born today, at least in the US, have a small chance that they’ll never touch cash? (It’s a small chance, but it could easily be done right?).

How These Questions Impact Family Culture…

Here at FamilyNinjas, we didn’t really ask these questions to give you legal advice, (because we can’t…and you should not consider it to be so). Instead, we ask these questions because they present a conversation that a family can have together. It’s a conversation that can define a major thread within the fabric of your family culture. How do your kids view money? How do you view money? How do you want your family to think about money?


“Watch your thoughts because they become your words. Watch your words because they become your actions. Watch your actions because they become your habits. Watch your habits because they become your character. Watch your character because it becomes your destiny. You are what you think.”

– Many sources – from Buddhist Monks to Margaret Thatcher

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