Summer reading and why The Barefoot Investor feels the jobs we have as teens, are important

As a new year begins I always have a sudden urge to improve what I am reading.  The reading of ACTUAL books becomes my mission.  No more flicking through articles on my phone at break neck speed, trying to take in some new findings on gut health or how the Dutch have the happiest kids in the world.  It is inevitable that, mid article, one of my three children will steal my reading time in favour of some kind of hunger/toileting/first aid need, and I have to carry on raising them none the wiser as to why the Dutch’s offspring are so chipper.

summer readin

Every summer holidays I saunter into a book store with a new found confidence that I can suddenly devour a stack of novels, without any problem, even though my track record for such a thing is completely dismal.  It’s a similar scenario to your night self, you know the one, that cheeky counterpart to day self.  The one that stays up late to binge watch Netflix and devour a copious amount of snacks, leaving poor day self to scull Mylanta shots and coffee to get through their day.  Every year, my summer holiday self, wants ALL the books.  This year, on my annual book shopping sojourn, I stumbled upon the bestsellers stand and was surprised to see a book about investing sitting at number one.

Not one for finding thrills in budgeting I was bemused how a book on the topic nabbed the top spot.  Clearly this chap had found some kind of magical wizardry to get people salivating over spreadsheets.  I grabbed the book and after a flick could quickly see the appeal.  The section on teens and part time jobs transported me back to the days when trying to improve my reading quota didn’t feature and the crucial thing was a summer job to pay for the Dr Martin boots I was desperate for.  The Barefoot Investor, Scott Pape, says that teenagers can get external validation for their talents and can therefore gain confidence.  There are also the invaluable life lessons about tax, bank accounts and superannuation he adds.  Equally, part time jobs can bring out the best in them.  As a high school teacher,  I often catch glimpses of my students in their part time jobs over the weekend and it can be astonishing.  The manners, the maturity and the pristine work uniform.  The latter can be especially jarring, when at school, they may be permanently scruffy and the shirt always untucked.  Or in the ‘tuck, untuck’ form, where the shirt is tucked in at several points and then untucked in another five, a skill in its own right.  The sighting of a student, who normally likes to spend lessons disassembling biros and turning them into pea shooting devices, ripping the cinema ticket of an elderly person and going the extra mile to help them to their seat, is particularly heart warming.   As I see students pouring perfect latte art at the local cafe, enjoying great relationships with fellow colleagues and beaming with self confidence, I see how much pride they have in these part time jobs and the fulfilment as well as the enjoyment that comes from them. 

Of course there are surprising lessons one learns from these part time jobs too.  When surveying friends about their experiences, they mentioned things like their newly acquired knowledge on the length and breadth of the fruit and vegetable family learnt as a supermarket cashier, or the quickest way to get through a bail of jumbled bras.  No doubt Obama can scoop the perfect ball of ice cream after famously declaring he worked at Baskin-Robbins during his teenage years.  A job which he says taught him responsibility and working hard on a minimum wage. 

The most out of the box learning I ever had, was at a work lunch in an arts job that I was lucky enough to land as a young adult.  As another long awkward silence presented itself while we ate, I thought it was polite to offer up some banter.  I filled the conversational void with a compliment about the Creative Director’s beautiful brooch that she was sporting on the lapel of her jacket.  “That’s a gorgeous brooch you have, did it come with the jacket?” I asked brightly.   She stared for a moment, rather stunned and then replied “Ah, no, nooooooo, that is my medal of the Order of Australia”. Cue mortification. Excellent lesson learnt. Be mindful, not all jewellery is created equal.

These jobs teach us about the value of money, about learning to work in harmony with people of different backgrounds and ages, about finding and using our own moral compass, the difference between kohlrabi and celeriac, and in my case, what a medal of the Order of Australia looks like.  Something I might have known, had my reading quota been a little higher in my young adult years.