3 Things I Taught My Teenage Son When He Got His First Paycheck

Do you remember those days of your first job?  No bills, no stress and all the things you look forward to buying without having to ask mom and dad for money? Empowering, eh? Oh joy.

(BTW, as I was writing this onboard a Metra train with my twins, they told me to indent my paragraphs.  I hadn’t done that before, so I figure starting now is a good time.  Parenting is an amazing two-way street of learning and growing with the right amount of deliriousness to inspire...)

Think about this. Think about how much lower our income was back then (for me it was $4/hr) and we were much happier and less stressed.  Fast forward to today.  What are you making full-time as an adult or entrepreneur?  I’m willing to bet you’re making a lot more...but are you more happier now as compared to your care-free days as a teenager?

If so, it jst proves that simply making more money isn’t the sole solution to money problems, eh?  But let’s save that for another blog post.

Like many parents, we want to provide our children with the best we can.  We don’t want them to have without.  We want them to have what we didn’t have.  Our love for our kids will surpass any sticker price in order for us to give our kids the best.

However, we can love our kids so much, that we can actually disable, even hinder their own personal growth.  As much as I’d love to have my son enjoy the fruits of my labor, I moreso want him to value the fruits of my labor.

As he held the cash in hands from his first paycheck, I not only helped calm his emotion of smelling fresh, crisp $20 bills, but set some realities now that he’s a workin’ man.  Here’s what I shared:

  1. Set Goals - define clearly what you are working towards. Whether it is to one day buy your first car, help pay way through college, or simply get an iPhone or new set of clothes, put it on paper.  Then decide how much of your paycheck you want to help reach towards these goals.  Either establish different envelopes or bank accounts which are labeled/earmarked for these goals.  These are the habits you’ll need to develop in your beginning steps towards a lifelong financial journey.  Now, if you’re not happy with how fast you can reach towards these goals, you just have to simply make more money.  (I saw his mind begin to expand...)
  2. Meet Your Uncle FICA -  “Pop, I got ripped off! My check says I made this at the top of my paycheck but they paid me only this amount at the bottom!”, as he pointed out.  “Son, meet your Uncle FICA! You probably have another ‘F-word’ in mind right now but you should be thinking of another word that begins with ‘T’”, I said. Hello TAXES!  There “gross pay” and then there’s “net pay”.  As an employee, the first thing that gets taken from your paycheck is federal/state income taxes.  That will never change for the rest of your life.  However, as a business owner, the LAST thing that gets taken from your income is taxes.  Decide what situation you’d rather be in later on in your life. (Again, his mind continuing to expand...actually hearing a hamster wheel begin turning...)
  3. Align with a Mentor - If you want to get to the next level and make the most of what you have, you need to earn the time with someone who has been there, done that.  It will greatly shorten your learning curve into a success curve.  They’ll get you to see things that aren’t quite obvious to you yet and save your a lot of time, money and grief.  If you don’t like learning the hard way, a mentor will definitely guide towards the easy way.  But don’t waste their time by not DOING what they share with you, or else, you’ll have to find another mentor.

Lastly, I know he probably had a few ideas of what he wanted to spend his paycheck on.  That’s fine.  So I finished off our conversation saying this, “Money is only a tool that helps you build a wealthy, fulfilling life.  Don’t give it so much power that it later controls and dominates every decision you make. Allow it to help you discover your purpose, your dream...to be in the service of others and being excited to what it brings back!

Just like any parent, I want my son to experience the best of his life...I feel that this will be the first of MANY conversations we’ll have about how to think, feel and manage his money so he can live his life, in financial freedom.

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