If you are a high school senior your inner desire for independence is beginning to emerge. Your ability to move out of your parents’ shadow and be your own person is going to be tied with your financial independence.
If your folks are still buying everything for you or giving you a steady allowance, they are stunting your financial growth. It’s time to lay claim to your own financial independence.
If you don’t have a job yet — get one. You are never going to be able to manage your own money if you don’t have any of your own money to manage.
Many young people shy away from working because they or their parents feel it will hurt their marks at school. As long as you are not involved heavily in extracurricular activities you should be able to handle up to 15 hours a week. From my research and observation teaching high school students, academic performance begins to suffer around the 15 hour per week mark depending on the student.
Some students can push it, but go 20 hours or more and marks begin to fall off a cliff. If you’re still living at home our own, you don’t need to work that much — but still work. You may even find that holding a job with reasonable hours will improve your academic performance.
You know what they say, “if you want something to get done — give it to a busy person.”
If you’re too busy with other extracurricular activities then earn money working in the off-season. The point is to get a job that provides your own income so you can build your own financial wealth and independence.
The ideal job should be in an area of interest that you can enjoy or at least tolerate. Take your time. To employers you are a valuable commodity — cheap, student labour. Don’t waste your time looking for the one that pays the most — focus on finding the job that might provide some opportunity for advancement.
Look for one you wouldn’t mind doing for more than just a summer or year. You don’t have to make a career choice here, but if you don’t mind it, chances are you’ll do a decent job so that they will want to keep you on. This way, while everyone else wastes time searching again and again for a job they’ll hate, you’ll be cashing in from your steady paycheque.
Stay at your job for a few years and you will soon know the operation inside out. That knowledge is worth something and could get you paid even more. I know countless students who stayed with a job all the way through high school and were offered a career position when they graduated. Some took it, others didn’t, but at least they had options — and we all know options are good.
It is not uncommon for businesses to offer scholarship programs or bonuses that help contribute toward the costs of post-secondary education for loyal, valuable student employees. So get a job, but just don’t jump at the first one that comes up or one that your friend works at. Make sure it works for you — it could be a very rewarding, long-term relationship.
Even if you are fortunate enough to have people that support you and pay for everything — you still need to go out and earn your own money so you can understand its true value.
Financial independence can never grow out of a constant state of financial dependence. If you already have a job — awesome, you have taken the first step toward independence. Now you are now ready to take the next step and begin discovering how rich you really are.
Gregory Cawsey is director of business and financial literacy education at John F. Ross CVI. He can be contacted at www.gregcawsey.com and on twitter @gregorycawsey.