High school students take on adult responsibilities

Ann Vettikkal | Staff Writer

Junior Tyler Solimini works at Kroger to make enough money to pay his bills; managing his budget has become routine.

In American culture, turning 18 is a milestone: a symbol of freedom as teenagers tackle the task of growing up  – and with it, finding a way to pay the bills. 

But for some, these responsibilities come much earlier. Junior Tyler Solimini said that having to pay his own bills as a high school student is as much an initiative on his own part as it is a requirement from his parents. 

“My parents said that they had to do this (pay their own bills) and it definitely taught them when they started getting their own things,” Solimini said. “I feel like I’m prepared for managing my money in the real world, even though I’m only in high school. And my parents didn’t make me get a job — I got a job at 14 on my own. Because I just want to save a bunch of money.”

Solimini is in the minority — while many kids in Mason have some sort of job, not many chip in to pay for personal expenses such as phone bill or car insurance. Paying for these necessities forces teens like Solimini to look at budgeting in another lens. As he looks toward the expenses of having his own car, Solimini said he has to take accountability for how he handles his money. 

“If I want something, I’m like, how will this affect [me] right now?” Solimini said. “In the future, I’m gonna ask – do I really want this? Can I take it out of my budget? It’s good experience. You have a bit of a safety net because you got your parents. But it’s good to learn these things before you go to college and eventually get a job.”

 Senior Jonah Shin, who used the wages earned from lifeguarding to pay his high school athletic fee, shares the experience of having to manage his salary. Shin said that even though paying for this fee was imposed upon by his parents, it shaped him into a more conscientious spender. 

 “It taught me a lot about how much money is really worth,” Shin said. “When I started out using my own money, I was kind of frivolous. Now, I feel like I’ll be more responsible. I sectioned off a small percent, just for myself. The majority goes for fees and stuff that I actually need to pay for – to live.” 

Even those who haven’t moved toward self-reliance yet are able to achieve this sense of responsibility through an alternate means. Junior Lucy Lu has prioritized where the money she earns at Kings Island go. 

“I just decided that my money goes into my parents’ bank account because they’ve been supporting me for my whole life,” Lu said. “It doesn’t feel right to earn money and keep it separate from my parents because we can all share everything – I don’t deserve to keep all the money that I earned.”

Lu said that giving her money a purpose has started to prepare her for what’s in store after high school. Beyond spending and saving, Lu commented on the core of what it means to work hard and make smart choices with what you earn. 

“Even though my family doesn’t really need the $2000 I’ve earned so far, it’s the effort,” Lu said. “It’s more the idea that’s important to me. Even though we might not be using [my money] right away, it’s about contributing at all. Money used to be a big thing to me. But now it’s going toward my family and I think it can help me in the future organizing and dividing my money – and be more decisive with it.”

For those who do, or for those who have to, Solimini believes that paying your own bills is more than just a trivial task that eats away at spending money.  He worries that too much dependence on parents can lead to issues later on, noting the positives on how self-reliance has shaped his outlook toward life, beyond the high school horizon.

 “Mason is a pretty average high-income town,” Solimini said. “You hear about everyone out there getting new cars. When they actually get into the real world, they just don’t know how to manage their money. At this age, when we’re so immature, it’s really just good to teach your kids responsibility.”

Photo by Ann Vettikkal.

Graphic by Aadrija Biswas.