A Summer Guide to Kids and Money

By Nick Fisher, Portfolio Manager


As summer is upon us, many of us including myself are trying to figure out what to do with the kids. By now, most of the major activities/camps are scheduled, but what about the rest of the time? I am sure video games, basketball or other activities are at the top of their list, but what else could we be encouraging our kids to do? The research is pretty compelling: they should start a business!

After a relatively unproductive summer last year (and wanting to pull our hair out), Maurissa and I decided to be more intentional and develop a plan with them. This took the shape of brainstorming some money making business ideas early this spring. We figured we would try a few and see what sparked their interest. Fortunately our boys had been bitten by the moneymaking bug last summer (they have been wanting for a little more spending money as Maurissa and I encourage the boys to spend their own money on discretionary items). There is nothing like hard earned greenbacks in their hands after working a full day for the neighbor. The light bulb had gone off!

The boys decided that raising chickens and selling firewood to neighbors was a good bet for their time (and interests). They have been raising chickens and splitting firewood for the last couple months in preparation for this summer and the best thing about this is that both of these require some delayed gratification while the chickens mature and the firewood seasons.

Luckily, there is a vast amount of research and support to help guide us as parents. The following is an excerpt from Bruce Feiler’s The Secrets of Happy Families:

There’s a lot of vagueness in academic circles about children and money, but the research is clear that part-time jobs are great for kids. The Youth Development Survey in St. Paul, Minnesota, followed a number of children from ninth grade through their midthirties to determine whether childhood should be the sanctuary of play and learning or if work can be a productive part of it. The study found that those who work don’t lose interest in school and don’t cut back on family, extracurricular activities, or volunteering. They even become better at time management.

As the survey’s lead researcher, Jeylan Mortimer, observed: The more “planful” adolescents are about their future, the more successful and satisfied they are likely to be as adults. Byron Trott (who is known and Warren Buffett’s banker) agreed. “The most successful adults I know were all involved in business at a young age,” he said. “All of them. Warren (Buffett) believes it’s the secret to success. Your kid has to be involved in business. Warren thinks I’m successful because I had a lawn mowing business, a clothing store, all these different businesses as a kid, so I understood money, even though I never studied economics. What he thinks is necessary for someone to be successful in business is early exposure to business. So if you really want your daughters to understand money, have them open a lemonade stand.”

One thing we have noticed recently is a newfound sense of responsibility. To illustrate, the other day one of our dogs got out and it bolted down to the barn (she has been known to “play with the chickens” and that doesn’t work out so well for the chickens). My son, without hesitation, ran after the dog with more intention than I have ever seen from him. Sure enough he caught the dog and was able to bring her back to the safety of the back yard. Most amazingly, I didn’t need to raise my voice or suggest that he go down there lest he have a consequence. He knew how much time he had spent over the last several months raising those chickens and wasn’t going to let it go to waste.

The lessons of planning, responsibility, budgeting, money management, and a myriad of others will be lessons that are difficult to teach without their entrepreneurial experience. While it certainly has been some work to get the boys going on their business ideas, I can say without hesitation it is an investment that will pay countless dividends over the course of their lives.

When the boys are old enough they will undoubtedly attend Young Entrepreneurs Business Week, the fantastic program that Maurissa and I founded to prepare the next generation of high school students to lead. In the meantime, there will be some days of hard work this summer, followed by the rewards reaped and the sense of accomplishment that goes along with the investment they have made in themselves.