As the mother of two middle schoolers, at this time of year my thoughts turn to how to keep them busy over the summer. While we have a family vacation planned and they’ll go to a few camps, I also like them to learn something new over the summer. Given my job as a financial planner, that typically involves learning a life skill or two related to money. Here are a few ideas I am considering for this summer.

  1. Start a business. My son has always been very entrepreneurial and eager to make money. In years past, he’s had a lemonade stand or sold our garden vegetables. He recently convinced us to get chickens so he can sell the eggs. To help him understand the economics of his chicken business, we are making him track all his start-up and on-going costs and he’ll need to reimburse us for these costs by giving us eggs, before he gets any to sell for a profit. He’s also going to do a market research study of what cage-free, organic eggs sell for to understand the competition and help him decide how to price his eggs.
  2. Talk to adults who have careers they are interested in. My son currently wants to be a video game designer when he grows up (as do many boys this age) and my daughter wants to be an interior designer. My son recently interviewed the father of a friend of his who runs a video game company. I might have him interview another person in this field or someone in another career he’s considering. I’ll have my daughter do the same. The scope of the interview is job duties, education required and typical compensation.
  3. Learn about budgeting and spending wisely. Put the kids in charge of a meal (or two or three!). Have them plan the menu, develop the shopping list and then shop for the necessary items, while staying within a suggested budget. Show them how to analyze cost per unit to determine the best value. They can then prepare the meal (perhaps with your help). This teaches them multiple life skills: cooking, budgeting and wise spending. 

So while I want my kids to relax and have plenty of unstructured down time this summer, I’m hoping they’ll learn a thing or two that can help them down the road.