In school, my father was always the slowest one in the pack. He was also the slowest one of his siblings. Unlike him, most of his siblings g
He showed no curiosity in education and he was forever a mediocre factory worker and minimum wage fellow. He always thought that school was hard but schooling in the United States was pretty easy to me.
The problem for me was affording college, which led me to seek a minimum wage teen job.
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EVERY TEENAGER NEEDS A CRAP JOB
That’s how you scare them straight hahaha.
My dad didn’t allow me to work part-time. This is an example of where I think my parent’s lack of education and awareness hurt me.
Related: Saving Money For College Does More Than Pay Tuition
I applied to a few part-time jobs under his nose when I was a sophomore in high school to help out and save for college.
I applied to a bunch of boba tea chain places popping up like mushrooms in San Francisco at the time.
(FYI, boba cafés are the Asian-American equivalent of a job at Starbucks or McDonald’s to another regular teenager anywhere else.)
Unfortunately, when they called my number for an on-site job interview, I was out and my dad picked up. He found out and immediately told them I was not allowed to work anywhere.
He said, “she has to focus on her education” and hung up the phone.
Instead of being happy that his daughter was willing to work for a buck, he concluded that I went behind his back and applied for work.
He was very angry with me and my mother to a lesser extent.
Given that I was a minor, another small teenage fish in the hiring pool, there was no way I was going to get jobs if there was no parental approval first.
I know that sounds odd to American parents who typically encourage teen jobs, but to my parents, my education was a lot more important than putting food on the table.
Related: The 11 Perks of Growing Up Poor
My mom didn’t go above 4th grade (that’s what she told me) so she didn’t know what it entailed to give permission.
Education > Everything Else
Education was the most important thing to not end up like them. So I can understand that…but still at 16…I wanted to scream back that, “it’s just high school…a medicore one at that.”
I could have passed with both hands tied behind my back and my eyes scrambled out by tweezers.
As long as you half-ass the assignments, scrape by on exams, be deaf and blind like I ALREADY was (we couldn’t afford glasses or healthcare) you can still get by with a B average.
It’s a public freaking high school in one of the worst performing areas with the worst funding — teachers WANT to pass you for statistical reasons. More funding for the
What I needed to learn was real time management skills, which a teen job could have taught me.
I couldn’t converse with my parents to express any advance feelings. I immigrated when I was between 3rd grade.
It’s just another symptom of immigrant families – the language barrier gets worst the older you get.
Plus, it’s pointless to argue with an old man with extreme anger and control issues.
I believe it is really, really important for a teenager to go through the rite of passage of working at a minimum wage job.
The minimum wage gig is
Plus all of those possible hours could have netted me a pretty penny by the end of high school.
I was going to save every penny possible. It would have given me a leg up on college AND taught me the valuable lesson of NEVER, EVER ending up in a life working in retail or food service.
Related: 4 Profound Things I Wish I Knew Before Growing Up
Internship vs Crap Job?
By Junior year, I landed a posh-y internship with my friends that paid a stipend.
It didn’t make up for the money I could have made working afternoon shifts but the design and media elements definitely gave me a more interesting teenage “job” than working at a boba cafe.
My parents didn’t even know I had a paid professional gig because they came home from work late. It was the perfect crime!
Related: How I Paid Off $20,000 In Student Loans Working Part-Time
But I would have learned a lot more about life and struggle if I ended up working at McDonald’s or something.
After I graduated from university, I did get into a crappy restaurant hosting gig and I learned the typical lessons of hating your boss, hating manual labor, hating the interpersonal politics, bad hours, bad treatment, lack of advancement etc.
I would have learned: “It’s like that with all jobs but at least get something that pays more than $8/hour to deal with it. :P”
FANTASTIC lesson, but a little too late. I wish I learned those when I was 16, not 22.
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Dave @ Accidental FIRE says
I started working at a retail store when minimum wage was $3.35 an hour. When I put in a 40 hour week in summer, I took home something like $95 after taxes. An that included mopping floors and cleaning the employee bathroom. It taught me how to work for pay and show up.
It worked 🙂
Omg $95?! I mean even with inflation that’s low haha. Good!!
Greenbacks Magnet says
I too worked as a teenage waitress age age 17 making $2.00 an hour + tips. I wrote all about it in a blog post called Lipstick Confessions: Confessions of a Teenage Waitress. Unlike Sabrina the Teenage Witch, Family Matters or Boy Meets World, working as a waiter/waitress was harder than it looks. Yes, I loved TGIF growing up as a kid. However, I never forgot those life lessons along the way. That was my inspiration for saving more money towards my journey of becoming financially free.
xoxo Miriam ?
Ms. Frugal Asian Finance says
Your dad sounds kinda like mine. My dad wasn’t interested in education and is the only one among his siblings to not go to college. Sometimes I wonder if he regrets it or if he feels left out since I know my uncle and my aunt are super close (they’re both well educated and both earned a full-ride scholarship to study abroad at the same university). Sometimes I feel bad for him. Oh well. That’s life I guess.
My parents didn’t want me to do anything other than studying either. But I still had to wash clothes by hand every day when I was in middle school and high school (3rd world problem = not fun!)
Yah that sounds like my dad exactly! I don’t think my dad cared though, school just wasn’t his thing. That’s just how some people are, I’m glad I didn’t get it!!
May be an Asian thing with the focus on education. Then again my immigrant parents had been through one of my elder siblings dropping out of college after a year and half and another getting a two year degree with both ending up working in my Dad’s business before I got my shot at college. In hindsight it’s hard to blame my father that his attitude was I may as well forgo attempting college and just go work with him right out of high school since I’d end up working for him anyway. Didn’t help me that one night during my senior year when he’d had too much to drink and seriously pushed the issue on me at the dinner table in front of the whole family causing my teenage hormones to act up so I told him it would be a cold day in hell when I asked him for a job. Yeah, that pretty much guaranteed no financial help for college from Dad. Luckily between some scholarships and aid I was able to pay for the local university and buy a beater car to get me there that also allowed me to work for gas, spending money, and insurance. I will say, despite the struggles, I never gave up on the degree or getting a job with it because I’d be damned if I’d let my Dad get in an “I told you so.” In the end it worked out for the best. Oh, and the phone thing. Our house phone was the business phone as well, so when friends would call for me if I wasn’t in eye sight and my Dad answered, when they asked if I was there he would just say “No!” and hang up on them. It became something of running joke among my friends, but it did screw with young love and job call backs.
“my eyes scrambled out by tweezers.” too far, too dark…..
Nothing in High School changed me as much as my first job in the restaurant industry. Oh Boy the stories there.
Ooooh do tell =D!!
I had all kinds of jobs growing up and indeed they did teach me that making six figures as a chemical engineer was going to be awesome compared to retail or assembly line factory work. But I disagree that all jobs have similar issues of “hating your boss, etc.” I never had a boss I disliked and was never treated badly at any job. I liked going to work as an engineer for almost my entire career.
True but I think it’s by industry too – engineers are pretty chill
Mrs. Sweetspot says
LOL, this didn’t go where I thought. I immigrated here at 15, so I was not a citizen when I turned 16 and all my friends had jobs (and I imagined your story was similar). I applied for a work permit, which at the time was around $200 dollars and had to pay my parents back from my minimum wage crap job at a convenience store (where over the summer’s they had me work night shifts by myself… something I would never do now, but I was so grateful to have a job at the time). From that job, and a few that followed, I learned that I have boundaries and there are things I need to say no to. And yeah, built a lot of character 🙂
I’m so with you on that language barrier though… it’s so hard to have an intelligent conversation when your vocabulary bank is 16 (like, totally!). And my parents don’t like talking in English when they don’t have to.
Wait a citizenship under 1 year?? It took us 9 years to become official citizens!!! It wasn’t until 1 week before I applied to fafsa I recall :O
Mrs. Sweetspot says
Nope, I was on a visa and elegible for a work permit. We got our green cards a few years in, but took me 15 to become a citizen.
freddy smidlap says
i worked at mcdonald’s and used to commute about 25 miles to do it because my home was so remote. i had a great time doing it. i did this for a couple of years, met a lot of girls, and even dated my boss for about 6 months. about half of us were college bound back then unlike the fast food work of today.
LOL dated your boss?
I know of a prolific venture capitalist that doesn’t invest in companies unless the founder(s) have had at least one crappy job in their lifetimes. Fast food or manual labor are his favorites. Some of his attitude toward that came from his experience working in Silicon Valley with overly entitled new graduates who had poor work ethics. While I understand the value of a great education, I also understand his stance. You learn a lot of “street smarts” when you work in crappy jobs as a teenager.
Holy moly really?!?!!? That’s amazing, highly discriminatory BUT amazing!! Hahaha
Yeah, working a crappy job is a rite of passage. I worked in my parent’s restaurant and I know it’s hard work. They worked way more than 40 hours/week and never get any vacation. A family restaurant is a tough business. I gained valuable cooking skill when I worked there. It wasn’t a bad experience.
I also did a couple of internships. They were good too. We’ll encourage our son to work in high school. Everyone needs to go through a few crappy minimum wage jobs and learn basic money management skill.
1000% believe the family restaurant hustle is tough. Our favorite Chinese family diner is open 7 days a week, amazing food and service but you can see the stress on the owner’s face all the time. Are you guys moving to Hawaii after he graduates high school or before?
Joe @ Retire by 40 says
Hawaii will be after Junior goes off to college. I think stability is good for kids.
Greenbacks Magnet says
Totally agree. I had so many friends that worked at shoes stores and food places in order to pay for their cars, that I knew I wanted my own money too. Making my own money taught me responsibility, budgeting, and the value of a $1. I do not take that for granted.
The Luxe Strategist says
I’m glad I was a free-range kid in lots of ways. I thought I should start making my own money when I was 14. It was telemarketing, the only job I could get hired for. I quit the first day, then went back the second day. Then quit again! When I was 15 I was fired from my counterperson job at a pizza joint.
Most of my jobs in high school and college were menial, and they taught me a lot, probably more so than my white-collar jobs. They taught me how to act in a job, how to deal with people, etc., and that for some people the menial jobs aren’t just a summer job.
LOL teenage Luxe was such a diva :O why were you fired?! Was it for eating….pizza? Cause I understand xD
Moriah Joy says
My mom always let us work summer jobs, and I was her child that somehow got away with working during the school year. I had a nice job that pays more than I’m making now, but I still didn’t learn anything about money until afterwards… I wish I would have. I’d be in a much better financial position now. I’m sorry you didn’t have that opportunity! But it sounds like your parents were trying their best, even if they didn’t get everything quite right.
My parents didn’t think they did anything wrong so I think they did try their best! I did take after my dad’s frugality so I should thank him for that 🙂
I had my first job right out of high school!! It was at a school uniform company and I had to pack uniforms for school sales. I worked long hours during the summer since the sales were happening in August before the school year started. I was getting around $5 an hour and the job really showed me what working long and tough hours was really like. I got paid every other week and was getting close to $800 with all that OT.
Although the job itself wasn’t that tough, it was a grind to get through that work. My grit was tested early in my young life.
Did you ever apply to Quickly? Those chains were growing a lot in SF!!
I applied to…it was either Purple Cow or T Pump..Quickly’s was too cheap and I didn’t want to stand behind a crap product LOLOL (really)
It really must be an Asian thing. I was not allowed to have a job during high school and ended up being a cashier at a deli in college followed by research jobs.
Now that I have a daughter I may have to assess whether she should get a job or not
Greenbacks Magnet says
But…but…but..that really sucks. I get it. You want your kids to focus on school, but working also builds character. It also puts money in your empty pockets. I understand why parents would not want kids to work though. School is important. I say if the kiddies can’t work, then teach them finances and show them the bills and what you invest in so that they know what to do and how to save when they finally do start working.
That’s just my 2 cents ?
Financial Orchid says
My first paid gig: $3 for typing out hw for classmate in 6th grade.
First high school gig: piano teacher for $30/hr O_O With that rate for a minor, in the safety of your own home, no parent would object – in fact they were big advocates of teaching younger people piano, or tutoring.
First out of high school gig: standing around airport, smiling, and pointing direction to restrooms $10/hr O_O. Boss at the time called me “Rover, woof woof”. 18 y/o me wasnt sure if I should be offended. I guess they just saw me as a kid.