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How to take your financial first steps

Kamahl Cogdon, December 6, 2020 2:45PM Kids News

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Teenagers are encourage to get their finances sorted out before getting their first part-time job. media_cameraTeenagers are encourage to get their finances sorted out before getting their first part-time job.


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Getting a part-time job is an exciting experience for many secondary school students, providing a taste of the grown-up world of work, responsibility, independence and of course money.

While jobs can be hard to find during the coronavirus pandemic, it’s a good time for teenagers to prepare so you are ready to land your first job when the Australian economy starts to recover and businesses start looking for more workers.

Money management is a key part of getting work-ready, from having a bank account and tax file number (TFN) to understanding superannuation* and tax*. 

Waitress In Cafe Taking Customer Order media_cameraA desire to earn money for everyday spending is the main reason teens get a job.

A recent Australian Institute of Family Studies report showed the desire to earn money for everyday spending was the main reason 14-15 year olds got a job.

The study also found 39 per cent of this age group had a job in 2017, earning an average $77 a week.

Meanwhile, Westpac’s First Job Report released earlier this year showed young Aussies were entering the workforce almost a year earlier than their parents did, at about age 15. But almost a third were not confident about tackling the initial* steps of searching for a job solo.

Checkout Server Serving Young Woman Customer Ordering at Fast Food Restaurant media_cameraYoung Aussies are getting jobs earlier than their parents did.

Knowing what you need to get sorted for your first job can be a bit confusing. Here are some of the financial basics to help you get started.

Know where you’ll get paid
One of the first things you’ll need to do is open a bank account because most employers will electronically transfer your pay into your account.

Bank accounts come in two categories: savings and transaction accounts. You can use your transaction account as your “everyday” account, with your pay going into it and any cash or spending coming out of it.

To help you get into the rhythm of saving, experts suggest setting up an automatic transfer from your transaction account to your savings account, so that a set amount is tucked away into savings each week or month.

Some accounts reward savers with bonuses when they make a certain number of deposits or don’t make any withdrawals.

It’s important to get into the habit of saving early, as it can pay off in the long run. Remember, it doesn’t matter how much you save, as long as you save regularly. For example, if you put $30 from your pay into your savings each week, you would save more than $1500 over a year.

Young man investing money using piggy bank at home very happy pointing with hand and finger media_cameraSaving even a little bit of money regularly is the key to growing your savings.

What about super?
Other money matters you should know about before starting your first job are superannuation and tax.

Superannuation, also known as “super” or even your “retirement money”, is the amount an employer is required by law to pay into a special fund for a worker’s retirement when they are older.

It is important to remember this is your money. So, when you start working, you have the option to choose your own super fund or let your employer pick one for you. It’s a good idea to talk to your parents about which option might be best for you.

For workers under 18, you can be paid super if you earn $450 a month and work 30 hours a week.

While retirement is still years and years away, getting a good understanding of how your super works will help you get the most out of it — it really adds up over time.

Teenage girl is shopping online in a cafeteria media_cameraHaving a transaction account for everyday spending and a separate savings account is a good idea when you start to earn money.

And tax?
Every working person in Australia pays tax. Income tax is the money the government takes from your income to pay for public services like schools, police, hospitals and roads.

In Australia, the more you earn, the more tax you usually pay. However, you don’t pay tax until you earn more than $18,200 a year.

The exciting part is that each year you could be entitled to a refund, which means you could get some money back in your pocket through tax returns*.

You’ll also need to get a Tax File Number or TFN. This is a number you are given by the Australian Taxation Office for life and it identifies you for tax and superannuation purposes. It’s free and you can get one at any age.


  • Get your bank accounts sorted. Talk to your parents about which transaction and savings accounts are best for you (if you don’t already have them). Set up an automatic transfer from your everyday transaction banking account to your savings account so you can start growing your savings.
  • Apply for a Tax File Number by contacting the Australian Taxation Office so you can fill out relevant forms given to you by your employer.
  • Understand what superannuation is and think about it from day one — remember it is your money!
  • Need more help? Westpac has launched Australia’s first digital job coach, Wendy, which has answers to more than 250 questions relating to your first job, writing a resume and even applying for a TFN or lodging a tax return.


  • superannuation: money an employer pays into a special fund for a worker’s retirement
  • tax: money taken out of the money you earn to pay for government services
  • initial: first or early
  • tax returns: documents sent to the taxation office each year to show how much money you earned and how much tax you paid. If you paid too much tax compared to the money you earned you will get a refund


What type of saver are you?

How to protect yourself from scams

Kids, it’s time to start your own business

How to make your money grow


  1. What is the main reason 14-15 year olds get a job?
  2. What percentage of 14-15 year olds had a job in 2017?
  3. How much, on average, did they earn each week?
  4. How much money can you earn before you start paying tax?
  5. What does TFN stand for?


1. First job mathematics
Solve these mathematical problems:

  1. If you got your first job, and were paid the weekly average earnt by employed 14-15 year olds, how much money would you make in a year? Would you need to pay any income tax?
  2. What is the highest amount you could earn (on average) each week, before you needed to start paying income tax?
  3. If you earnt $120 per week and you automatically transferred 20% into your savings account, how much would you have saved after 6 months?
  4. How much more would your friend earn than you over a year, if you each worked 13 hours a week but your friend was paid $1.25 per hour more than you?

Time: allow 20 minutes to complete this activity
Curriculum Links: English; Mathematics

2. Extension
What are your top three skills or qualities that you think would make you attractive to an employer? Give a specific example explaining a time when you have demonstrated this skill or quality.

Time: allow 15 minutes to complete this activity 
Curriculum Links: English; Personal and Social Capability

Opener Up-Level It
Make a list of all the openers in the article. Pick three that repeat and see if you can replace them with another word, or shuffle the order of the sentence to bring a new opener to the front.

Don’t forget to re-read the sentence to make sure it still makes sense, and that it actually sounds better.

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