Home About Archives RSS Feed

The Independent Investor: Child Labor: An American Tradition

By Bill Schmick
iBerkshires Columnist
Child labor has been given a bad rap around the world and deservedly so. However, all child labor isn't necessarily bad. I for one have benefited greatly from my youthful work experiences and I bet you have too.

The words "child labor" evokes visions in our minds of wretched children working in filthy factories or dangerous coal mines with little to eat and even less compensation. The universally accepted definition of child labor is the "employment of children in regular and sustained labor." Most countries ban that kind of child labor, but what about other forms of labor?

I had my first paper route at 11 years old. By the following year I was also delivering Sunday papers, waking up at 4 a.m. and working until noon. By my 14th birthday, I was working at Duff's, my neighborhood drug store in Philadelphia, serving soda and making change for the neighborhood after school. During the summers, I worked even harder: cutting lawns, bagging in supermarkets and even hauling hot roofing tar up two stories on occasion. I always had money, was rarely bored, made OK grades in school and received a fabulous education that I could have never obtained in school.

In the U.S., you can legally get a job at 14 as long as you work no more than three hours a day (18 hours a week during the school year or past 7 p.m.). Youths of any age can deliver newspapers, perform in radio, television, movie or theatrical productions; and baby sit or perform other minor duties around a private home. In the agricultural sector, kids can work as young as 12 years old during non-school periods. But by the age of 16, America's youth can work without restrictions or parent's consent.

In this country, there is a long tradition of kids like me, dating back to the last century. The jobs of our youth often teach us skills that are with us our whole lives. Some of the things I learned were simple things like filling out applications and more complicated skills like interviewing, working responsibly and how to get along with co-workers and, of course, the boss. Since my father started his underage work life in the coal mines near Altoona, Pa., (until he was trapped in a cave-in), my early working career seemed comparatively easy.

My daughter, Jackie, followed in the family footsteps, first as a snowboard instructor at 13 years old (almost 14). She was the snowboard director by the age of 17, managing almost 50 instructors on the weekends at a local ski slope. She credits her early work experience for giving her confidence and independence, an MVP status among her high school peers and a developed sense of responsibility that continues to this day as a new mother and as an executive at a international public relations company.

Like me, her work life kept her on the straight and narrow in school, away from parties, drugs and poor grades. She also learned the meaning of money and had enough income to pay for her own auto insurance when she learned to drive.

Now, granted, this is all anecdotal evidence. Research indicates that those teenagers who work more than 10 to 15 hours a week do receive lower grades. Many also sacrifice extracurricular activities and friendships they would have otherwise made if they weren't working as hard.

Some teens, their pockets flush with cash, have the means to experiment with drugs and alcohol, which many obtain from older co-workers. Finally, there are many cases where overworked teens spend a lot less time with their families, eating and exercising less than those kids without onerous work schedules.

Many teens' first jobs are in the retail sector such as fast food outlets, restaurants and grocery stores. Often these entry-level jobs are routine, boring and lack positive interaction with adults. It can be tough on a young person, and that's where you can add value as a parent. Encouragement, a sympathetic ear and a little compassion can go along way to help your child through that first rough year or so.

I also advise you to monitor your child's progress. Don't simply take "OK" as an answer for how work is going. And if you don't like the thought of after-school work for your teenager, summer employment is an excellent alternative.

If for some reason your kid doesn't need to earn money, there are always non-profit alternatives to choose from, like selling Girl Scout cookies or fundraising for the Boy Scouts of America or any number of charitable organizations desperate for additional help.

The point is that child labor, American-style, is a major positive in my opinion as long as it is accomplished within the guidelines above.

Bill Schmick is an independent investor with Berkshire Money Management. (See "About" for more information.) None of the information presented in any of these articles is intended to be and should not be construed as an endorsement of BMM or a solicitation to become a client of BMM. The reader should not assume that any strategies, or specific investments discussed are employed, bought, sold or held by BMM. Direct your inquiries to Bill at (toll free) or email him at wschmick@fairpoint.net. Visit www.afewdollarsmore.com for more of Bill's insights.

News Headlines
Figment Brings Art, Music Back to Windsor Lake
Pittsfield School Officials Approve Further Budget Cuts
Clarksburg Opens Bids for Horrigan Road Repairs
Mount Greylock Building Project May Take on Parking Lot
Cheshire Grants Use of Elementary School For Summer Programs
North Adams Adopts 'Age-Friendly' Strategy
Berkshire County Rx Round Up Set for April 29
Berkshire Orthopaedic Associates, BHS Holding Meet & Greet Event
St. Stan's Announces Third Quarter Honor Roll
MCLA Holding 25th Community Day of Service

Bill Schmick is registered as an investment advisor representative and portfolio manager with Berkshire Money Management (BMM), managing over $200 million for investors in the Berkshires. Bill’s forecasts and opinions are purely his own and do not necessarily represent the views of BMM. None of his commentary is or should be considered investment advice. Anyone seeking individualized investment advice should contact a qualified investment adviser. None of the information presented in this article is intended to be and should not be construed as an endorsement of BMM or a solicitation to become a client of BMM. The reader should not assume that any strategies, or specific investments discussed are employed, bought, sold or held by BMM. Direct your inquiries to Bill at 1-888-232-6072 (toll free) or email him at Bill@afewdollarsmore.com Visit www.afewdollarsmore.com for more of Bill’s insights.




@theMarket (227)
Independent Investor (309)
April 2017 (5)
April 2016 (2)
March 2017 (8)
February 2017 (8)
January 2017 (6)
December 2016 (2)
October 2016 (1)
September 2016 (9)
August 2016 (5)
July 2016 (7)
June 2016 (7)
May 2016 (5)
Currency Federal Reserve Deficit Oil Interest Rates Retirement Greece Debt Ceiling Housing Banks Debt Stimulus Markets Metals Commodities Pullback Taxes Congress Selloff Stock Market Energy Jobs Europe Euro Wall Street Bailout Recession Rally Europe Election Crisis Fiscal Cliff Japan Stocks Economy
Popular Entries:
The Independent Investor: Don't Fight the Fed
The Independent Investor: Understanding the Foreclosure Scandal
@theMarket: QE II Supports the Markets
The Independent Investor: Does Cash Mean Currencies?
@theMarket: Markets Are Going Higher
The Independent Investor: General Motors — Back to the Future
@theMarket: Economy Sputters, Stocks Stutter
The Independent Investor: Will the Municipal Bond Massacre Continue?
The Independent Investor: Why Are Interest Rates Rising?
The Independent Investor: How Will Wall Street II Play on Main Street?
Recent Entries:
The Independent Investor: Should College Be Free?
The Independent Investor: Tense Times in Trumpland
@theMarket: Uncertainty Descends Upon the Markets
The Independent Investor: Don't Let Romance Blind You to Finances
@theMarket: New Quarter, New Market
Living together is not what it used to be
Independent Investor: Don't Worry, Be Happy
@theMarket: Fed Rate Hike Sets Stage For More
The Independent Investor: Trump's Budget
@theMarket: Mushy Markets in March