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Balancing Work Hours and Schoolwork

Teens with jobs actually get better grades, but working too many hours can cause schoolwork to suffer. Learn how to set limits with your child. Plus, two financial resources for young adults.

I can understand kids wanting to work at a young age and funding an IRA. But if 16- to 18-year-olds work 15 hours or more a week during the school year, doesn't that take time away from their studies? My boys are now 9 and 10, and they love to make money. When they get to high school, I am thinking of letting them work during the summer but not during the school year.

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You're fortunate to have children who are ambitious, and you're right to foster their enthusiasm about work. But you're also right that going to school is their primary responsibility. Too much work can not only make Johnny a dull boy, it can also cause his grades to suffer.

Research by Laurence Steinberg, a professor at Temple University in Philadelphia, has found that teens who worked fewer than ten hours a week during the school year actually got better grades, on average, than kids who didn't work at all.

And the kids learned other things as well: how to find and keep a job, how the business world works, how to manage both money and time, and how to get along with other people.

On the other hand, teens who worked more than 20 hours a week tended to "disengage from school," Steinberg found. Their grades began to suffer and the children had less contact with their parents.

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So the kids need to strike a balance, and your idea is a good one. Have them start with a summer job and limit their hours if they want to continue working during the school year.

Working ten hours a week is sufficient for sophomores, and 15 should be the standard for juniors and seniors -- with the proviso that if their grades suffer, you will ask them to cut back. If, however, they seem to be able to handle it, you could allow them to work more.

Financial resources for young adults

I'm in my 20s, and the most common advice I come across when reading about investing or retirement is the power of compound interest when you start saving early. Can you recommend any books or Web sites that will get people my age off on the right foot?

Start with the Starting Out channel at Kiplinger.com, plus a special publication from Kiplinger called Success With Your Money, available online or on newsstands. It's a step-by-step guide for people in their 20s, 30s, 40s and beyond that will help you make the most of your money at any age, and make a seamless transition to the next phase of your life.

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