Wednesday, July 18, 2018

Working Kids

I'm in Guatemala right now, where young children work alongside their parents selling brooms, hoping to earn enough for a meal by the end of the day. My son is with me. He's a little sad because we've just extended the trip an extra few days and he won't get to work at the store at all this summer. He has his heart set on the next Fallout game, which he would earn with his money.

My boy wakes up in nice hotels each morning in gorgeous Central America, which was kind enough to skip the rainy season for us this year. An impossible number of maids scurry around the hallways, waiting for us to depart so they can expertly clean our room. They avert their eyes when I give them a "buenos dias." There's a free breakfast waiting in the lobby, so I'm pushing him a bit to get up. He declares "I hate my life." It's all a matter of perspective I guess.

He's 13 and when he works for me, he's working under a school sanctioned work permit. If I was a sole proprietorship, we wouldn't need such a thing, but as the store is a corporation, we play by corporate rules. As an official employee of the corporation, and not some slave labor of my proprietorship, he's on payroll and makes minimum wage. This is not charity. I can't afford a wink and a nudge child employee. I need minimum wage work from this kid to afford to have him on.

He does not report to me, which I think is important. He reports to my manager, who provides him tasks appropriate for his age and abilities and the need to get solid work done. He often sorts cards, cleans bathrooms and the game center. During the last shift he worked, he discovered how to use the point of sale machine. You see, there's a chair at the point of sale machine, and if you're the cashier, you can sit in it while everyone else scurries around working. This laziness introduced him to the knowledge economy.

He gets a formal paycheck with direct deposit. The money goes into an account with his name, but it's really a sub account of my personal checking. From there, he gets to keep half, which goes to things like Fallout video games. He should really be taught to save a percentage, but we'll get to that later.

The other half of his paycheck is taken by me and put in his 529 college savings plan. I contribute a modest amount to his 529 plan each month but even a little bit of work by him turbo charges this account. As he gets older and works more, I expect that to accelerate. It's too bad he can't work more as a small child and less as he approaches adulthood, the compound interest would be fantastic.

Will he one day run my store? Why would I want to entangle my loved ones in such a mess. I've got plans in place so if I die, the store isn't a burden, so why would I want to burden them while I'm alive? If he comes to enjoy the work during his teenage years, reaches his potential in school and elsewhere, and gravitates back towards the store, then sure, why not. Parents just want their kids to be happy, generally within the framework they believe happiness arises. If that means running a game store, well I think you might be a fool, but I'm not going to deny your happiness kid.

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