How to Teach Your Kid About Money — My First Job

The title of this post series — “How to Teach Your Kid About Money” — is not very accurate. A more exact title would be “My First Few Jobs and How I Think They Taught Me Valuable Life Lessons About Work and Money.”

To be honest, there is absolutely no science behind either title; no causation and not a smidgeon of measured data for correlation. Regardless, perhaps my early work experiences can serve as anecdotal evidence or lessons can be gleaned from them. At the very least, perhaps my own reflection will help to remind me that life lessons are always there for the picking if I’m willing to stop, think, and savor.

My First Job: Newspaper Delivery Boy

This isn't a picture of me, but this is exactly what I wore. Later, I started to use a red wagon to carry the newspapers as I couldn't hold all 80+ newspapers in my pouch. In the winter my parents drove me around.
I started my first job as a newspaper delivery boy for the Vandalia Drummer in Dayton, Ohio. I picked up the job by taking it over from one of the neighborhood’s kids, although I still had to be interviewed to get hired for the job. I was 10.

The job required me to deliver a newspaper weekly and collect “subscription fees” monthly. In reality, the subscription fee went to me in full as payment for delivering the newspaper weekly. If I couldn’t collect the monthly fee — either from a stingy neighbor, missed delivery, or lazy collections — then I was the only one losing out and had no real recourse other than being a nuisance.

My territory was limited to only my neighborhood — I think about 80 or so houses — and I was allowed to collect $2 from each address each month. Therefore, my total monthly paycheck was possibly $160. Given that I held this job in 1989 or 1990 that’s about $250/month adjusted for inflation.

I don’t remember how long I held the job, but I remember moving around the age of 13 to a new neighborhood so it may have only been for two seasons. Also, I vaguely recall the winter season hitting Ohio and my parents getting tired of driving me early in the morning once a week to deliver the paper.

Lessons from my First Job: Newspaper Delivery Boy

  • If working for tips, make sure the customer values/wants the service/product. Many of my addresses didn’t want the newspaper and often wouldn’t pay me when I came around to collect (to a 10 year old cute red head, I know, the gall of some people!). In other words, find work at the most overpriced restaurant in town and/or generous patrons.
  • Reward those that help you. I should have given my parents some gas money.
  • Contract over hiring. Only hire/employ talent for aspects of your business that are directly part of the bottom line. If it makes sense to contract out any aspect of your business that isn’t directly connected with your business, do so.
  • Start saving as a kid. If I have saved my monthly $250 for a year rather than blowing it on video games I would have doubled my money by the time I was 30. In fact, it could have doubled to a sizable $18,000 deposit on a house! Think of all your childhood money gifts — birthdays, holidays, religious rites of passage, school graduations. That’s a lot of money! As a parent, I plan to teach my children the importance of saving with guaranteed incentives — if they save half their income I’ll double it when they are 18. If I place that money in a Certificate of Deposit the chances are the balance would nearly double on interest alone.

Next time, my second job — house chores.


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