Cash in hand

Money’s too tight to mention? Not according to the
teenagers who recently told Anita Pati how they earn and spend
their cash.

How important is money to teenagers – and how do they manage on
what they get? A recent survey suggests many young people have a
sophisticated approach to finance, and are also very concerned
about financial security in the future. The study Young Lives, Our
Future was published in June by children’s charity NCH and
Norwich Union and was based on interviews with 13 to19 year olds. A
key finding was that teenagers’ top worries for the future
were “not getting a job” (35 per cent) and “getting into debt” (17
per cent). Almost nine in 10 have a bank or building society
account with three-quarters of teenagers having savings. Parents
and family are very important source of information about money and
three-quarters depend on them for advice.

Teenagers out and about in London told 0-19 about their money
and how they manage it, and their answers backed up this research.
Billie, 13, and Gemma, 14, described their earning and spending
patterns. Billie posts leaflets for three hours on Monday and
Tuesday evenings for her aunt. For this she gets a total of
£10. She also works every Saturday for £15 then gets
£5 from each parent at weekends, who also save £2 per
week for her.

Gemma gets £10 each from her mother and father each
weekend. They also save £2 a week for her in an insurance
policy which will yield £2,000 when she turns 16. Her own bank
balance stands at £800. She thinks it is good to save but has
no idea what she’ll do with the money. She doesn’t have
a job at the moment but is looking: “You can’t get jobs,” she
says, “but hairdressers will sometimes take you on. That’s
what I want to do”.

They get together with friends in the high street usually but
occasionally go swimming at the local lido or to the fast food
chain Nando’s. Some of their money goes in directions their
parents, might not approve of if they knew about it. “I spend it on
alcohol, cigarettes and puff,” she says, giggling. She and her
other friends get older children “or ask adults in the street” to
buy it for them. Vodka and Lambrini are favourites. They tend to
drink in the park or in friends’ gardens when parents are
away. Gemma doesn’t drink or smoke as much as she used to –
“only on the odd occasion now”.

Both girls are happy with the amount of money they get and it
doesn’t cause rows within the family. “The only thing I get
into trouble for is getting in late,” says Billie.

The odd pound here and there is often saved rather than
squandered. Grant, 17, and his sister Becky, 14, were visiting
London from the North West to visit relatives. Although their
parents finance their routine spending, both siblings make a habit
of putting away money whenever they can. Becky babysits every
Friday for her younger brother for £2 then every few months
she will get around £10 for looking after a family
friend’s children. She gets £4 a week pocket money from
her parents. “Mainly my parents buy my clothes so I spend it on
books quite a lot.” She doesn’t get whatever she wants, just
“serious stuff”, but is happy with what she has.

She also has a savings account. “It’s good because I get
interest. I save out of my pocket money and if I’ve got
anything left after I’ve shopped or whatever, or when
I’ve been babysitting.” She puts away about £5 per

Grant, 17, has just finished his AS-levels. He works four hours
every Saturday in a pet food factory which earns him £10 per
week. This is his pocket money. His parents buy clothes and
toiletries for him. “My parents will buy me stuff I really need
like clothes but I have to save up to buy other stuff like computer
upgrades, DVDs and CDs.

“I save up for the biggest stuff – I just went to America and
that cost quite a bit.”

He is comfortable with what he has “although I always want
more”, and doesn’t think his Saturday job affects his college
work. A friend of his was not so lucky though: “He used to do a lot
of work which did affect his school work. He was doing a paper
round so he had to be there in the mornings before college, seven
days a week. He got quite a bit for it – £25 per week. But he
had to give it up in the end.”

Anji, 17, is at sixth form college doing her A-levels. She has
never worked and gets money from her parents whenever she needs
something. “I probably get about £40 per month. When I’m
going shopping on my own I have to pay for my own stuff with the
money they give me but if I’m going with my mum, she pays.
The £40 is for CDs, clothes, concert tickets and stuff.”

Anji is more confident than the others about her income. She
does have a bank account but doesn’t use it. “I’m
thinking of a summer job but I haven’t done anything about it
yet. I would like to work in a shop kind of thing, a CD or maybe a
clothes shop because you’d get discounts. I wouldn’t
fancy waitressing.

“My little sister, who’s 12, gets money too but I
don’t think she needs it as much as older people like me. She
doesn’t go out with friends as much as I do. At her age, they
go round to friends’ houses. It affects people my age more.
Some of my friends say: “I can’t go out this weekend because
I haven’t got enough money.”

Dan, 18, has just finished his A-levels and is financially
dependent on his mother, a lone parent. “I’m looking for a
job before I go to university. I get all my money from my mum but I
need to save up over the summer so that I don’t get into
massive debt at university. I don’t get a set amount per
week, just when I need it.”

He has his own bank account “but that’s just savings. I
don’t have an income so I put in money from what I get on
birthdays or Christmas, or from my grandparents.”

Most teenagers I spoke to feel some responsibility for their own
money management, even if their visions were slightly vague. “I
don’t know what I’m saving for really,” says Becky.
“I’m just saving in case it’s useful one day. You see
all these people getting into debt and you think ‘I
don’t want to be one of them’.”

The names of the children quoted in this article have been

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