5 Lessons I Learned From My First Job

G rowing up in a six child family, I didn’t receive — or expect — an allowance . My older siblings worked for their spending money, so I always assumed I would do likewise. Therefore, when I secured my paper boy job at age 14, I was only following family protocol. My responsibilities consisted of arising at 5 A.M., folding the newspapers (I can still make that triangle fold), stuffing them into my bag, securing the loaded bag to my bicycle by looping the carrying strap to my handlebars as the bag rode on my front fender, delivering the papers daily and collecting from customers on Saturday mornings. My paper route taught me several great lessons: 1. Earning money raises self esteem. Although my mom was not overly keen about me riding my bike around town in the pre-dawn hours, my persistence won out over her objections. That little victory not only boosted my self confidence, but motivated me to succeed. Furthermore, simply knowing that I found this job all by myself, that I had responsibilities outside the home and that I was getting paid for my efforts put a bounce in my step. I was growing up — this first job helped. How it stuck: Although I have had many jobs over the years, I have learned that money alone is never enough motivation to stick with a job. My best pay has always been the self satisfaction that comes from knowing I did my best. 2. Take the bad with the good. In good weather, I loved riding my bike in the early morning silence, broken only by the songs of robins and cooing of doves. However, rain, cold and snow brought their own challenges. There were times when the snow was so deep that I ended up walking my bike more than I rode it. How it stuck: My favorite part of being a highway engineer was fixing a problematic road or bridge. My least favorite was negotiating union contracts with my work crew. Fortunately, I had learned early on that one needs to take the bad with the good. 3. Some people are scoundrels. Would you believe that some of my customers would hide or simply not answer the door when I came to collect? I found it hard to handle that adults would stiff a 14 year old trying to make a buck. But I learned what I call “healthy cynicism” – I never became bitter, but I learned not to trust people until they proved themselves trustworthy. How it stuck: My “healthy cynicism” has served me well over the years. Whether I am dealing with an insurance salesman or a remodeling contractor, I glaze over their sales pitch while checking references and researching their claims. I always withhold final payment for hired work until it is completed to my satisfaction. 4. Earned money is valued money. By the time I delivered papers all week long, collected on Saturdays and paid for my newspapers, I developed a perspective on the value of a dollar . I can’t say I always spent my money wisely, but I always realized what it took for me to get that dollar. How it stuck: Throughout my life, I have always been frugal (some call me “tight”). I will research an item every which way but loose before buying it … or deciding that I can live without it. Whatever I buy, I try to make it last as long as I can. For example, the vehicles Jan and I drive are over ten years old, and we still live in the same house we bought as newlyweds forty years ago. 5. I learned to save. Because I realized the work required to earn a dollar, I tended to hang onto those dollars. I even built up an emergency fund of sorts which tided me over as I learned to stay with my route until after Christmas (the most lucrative time of year for a paper boy), give it up during the bitter months of winter, and find a new paper route when spring weather came. How it stuck: During college, I saved every penny I earned during the summer to pay for my next year of school. I didn’t graduate with zero debt, but I was able to pay off my student loans (including my car) within a year of graduation. I must admit that Jan and I, over the years, haven’t always saved for every purchase. But today we wouldn’t consider purchasing anything without saving the money for it first. Reflections Writing this post has helped me realize just how much that very first job has impacted my life. It set a precedent for work and money management that, fifty years later, continues to be a deeply part of my fabric. Readers: what was your first job? What lessons did you learn from that job? How do those lessons continue to impact your life? Image by  Shane White / Shuttershock Related Articles: What I Learned From My First Jobs Reality Paycheck: A Lesson Learned About Money 4 Things I Learned as a Grocery Bag Boy 2 Lessons Learned by Throwing Money Away 3 Financial Lessons Learned: The Story of a Young Woman Money & Marriage: 7 lessons I have learned so far 4 Ways to Handle Money God’s Way Joe Plemon, a retired engineer, financial counselor and blogger, lives in Southern Illinois with Janice, his wife of 40 years. Joe likes online Scrabble, St Louis Cardinal baseball, blues music, power naps, high school football, short term mission trips and Sunday family dinners. You can read more from Joe at Personal Finance by the Book . As a thank you for subscribing to our newsletter you can download our quick eBook ” 25 Ways To Save Money in 2011 ” for FREE! The articles on this site are for entertainment purposes and should not be taken as financial advice. 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5 Lessons I Learned From My First Job

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