Earning a Living: Teaching Middle Schoolers About Money

By middle school, most children are old enough to understand about earning money directly. Though too young to get a regular job in most states, they can work for pay in a handful of areas. 

Earning an Income

Babysitting is a traditional source of income for middle school students, and a good way to help learn responsibility. In the current babysitting market, your child should consider taking a class in babysitting safety and/or infant and child CPR. “Mother’s helper” positions are also now in vogue, where a middle-schooler watches an infant or toddler while the parent is still in the house. 

Yard and Lawn Care is another traditional job for kids. Enterprising youths can make this a year-round gig, with lawnmowing in the spring and summer, leaf control in the fall and snow shoveling come winter.

New Media requires an adult to take in and track payments, but your middle-schooler can generate and record content, then post it on sites like YouTube or iTunes to collect advertising revenue. 

Entrepreneurship isn’t just for adults anymore. The Internet provides endless business opportunities your kid can run safely from home. 

Getting Paid

Whether your child gets paid directly, or through you, that payday is an opportunity to teach basic budgeting and some of the realities of earning a living. Sit down with your child’s earnings and a spreadsheet, then walk through these steps.

Start by pulling out a percentage you’ve agreed to ahead of time. Put it in a savings account for college spending and track the interest it earns. Some families also pull out additional “taxes” for short-term savings and charitable gifting.

Make a budget with what’s left, categorizing your child’s planned spending with his earnings. Sample categories include entertainment, shopping, food/snacks and clothes. Remember to include an “overruns” or “miscellaneous” category for unexpected spending. 

Track the actual spending and compare it to your child’s budget. This is a great opportunity for teaching the difference between plans and reality. Use it to teach fiscal discipline, and also about changing a budget when it doesn’t match expectations. 

Paying For Grades

Middle school is likely the first time your child will see the traditional A/B/C format of report cards, and some families choose to pay their children for getting good grades. The research jury is out on whether this is a good or bad decision, and it’s a subject complex enough to fill libraries. If you do choose to pay your child for grades, consider running that payday through the same process as other paychecks for your child. If her grades are good, she’ll have one more lesson to prepare her for adult life. If the grades are bad, at least your child will get the budgeting lessons he’ll need to make it on a smaller income. 

(Photo by JMR_Photography)