I’ve often wondered why people have such radically different relationships with money. Certainly the way their parents handled money impacts how they handle it but I believe there are other things that also affect how each of us deals with money. I think that there is a strong correlation between people that worked as young children and those of us who choose to save as adults.
I started earning money when I was pretty young. I would earn small amounts of money helping neighbors with chores when I was between 7 and 10 years old. I learned to love the satisfaction of helping someone and getting something in return. By the time I was 10 years old I was dying to have my own paper route. I didn’t fulfill that dream for another two years, but when I finally did start earning money from a paper route, I was thrilled. Unfortunately, I didn’t save a cent of it. Every month I would go around and collect the money from each customer and then, after I paid the newspaper company, would then proceed to blow every last cent of it. At the time it didn’t appear that I learned anything but I did. I learned that in order to have the things I wanted, I needed to work hard for them. After about a year of having to wake up early 3 days a week to deliver newspapers, I decided that I wanted more so I started delivering an afternoon paper as well. I had to deliver the afternoon paper every day. I can still remember the weight of all those newspapers hanging on my shoulders as a 13 year old kid. I would pack my cloth newspaper carrier as full as I could and then carefully get on my bike and start pedaling. More than a few times I had to walk my bike around until the load was a little lighter. On those hot summer days, I can remember wishing that I had chosen another type of work, but no matter how badly I wanted to quit, I kept going. I had a responsibility to deliver those newspapers and I took it seriously.
In the summer months, on top of delivering newspapers in the morning and afternoon, I would also mow lawns in the neighborhood. I had a route that wound through my neighborhood and during the peak of the season, I would mow about 6 lawns a week. I must have pushed that lawnmower at least 50 miles each summer going from lawn to lawn. I can still feel the heat of the pavement as I pushed that lawnmower up and down the hills around my neighborhood. Unfortunately, I was also cursed with terrible grass allergies. I had to take a pocketful of Kleenex in order to make it through each lawn. By the time I was done with the lawn, my eyes were red, my skin itched and my nose was running like a river after a tropical storm. It was pure misery, but I never dreamt of quitting. If I wasn’t mowing lawns or delivering newspapers, I wouldn’t have had any money to spend and would have just sat around the house.
All these years later, I don’t yearn to mow other people’s lawns or deliver their newspaper. I yearn for the day that I can sit back and make money without lifting a finger. It only took me 30+ years to realize that what I really want to do is work smarter, not harder.
I have to disagree. All of my friends who had jobs in high school are now struggling with money (age 30). All my friends who never had a job until they graduated college are very successful and are on track to retire early. I think that encouraging kids to work devalues education and study time, which will more than make up for lack of a few hundred dollars earned with part time jobs.