I have a work permit and I want a summer job badly. Can you please help me?

I need money to buy a cell phone. My mother said I could clean the garage or the basement for $5, but we have a very messy garage and basement. How can I persuade my mom to pay me more?

Can you make me a loan so I can get some money?

I'm sorry, but I don't have either a job or a loan to give. But I can offer some advice to young job-seekers (and their parents).

For starters, young teens should know what the rules are for finding a "real" job (another question I'm frequently asked). Teens who are 14 and 15 years old may work in offices, grocery and other retail stores, restaurants, movie theaters, amusement parks or gasoline service stations. There are limitations on their hours — no more than eight hours on a nonschool day and no more than 40 hours in a nonschool week (see www.youthrules.dol.gov).

Even when kids are eligible to work, they're often clueless about where to start looking. Parents, that's where you come in, to steer them in the right direction both in your neighborhood and online.

For instance, at SnagAJob.com, you'll find listings of hourly jobs, along with guidance on how to land one. Hiring managers surveyed by the site said the most important things they look for in an applicant are a positive attitude and an eagerness to do the job.

SnagAJob advises that teens apply for jobs online. But it doesn't hurt to select several places where you'd really like to work and follow up with an in-person visit.

Another job-posting site, MyFirstPaycheck.com, was started by 17-year-old Celeste Lavin of suburban Philadelphia and her older brother, Austin. The site has listings in the New York City and Philadelphia metropolitan areas, plus advice from other young people on what they've learned in the workplace.

For teens who are having trouble finding a summer job, or younger kids who aren't old enough to get one, Mom and Dad can step in by giving them an opportunity to earn money around the house (or around the neighborhood) on a job-by-job basis.

Parents, be realistic about your salary scale. You don't want to overpay your kids, but cleaning up a "very messy" basement sounds like more than a $5 job to me.

And if you have your own business, you can hire your children, provided you handle the arrangement in a businesslike manner by paying a reasonable wage and filing a Form W-2. As a bonus, Social Security taxes aren't due on wages you pay to your own child under age 18, assuming your business is not incorporated.

Janet Bodnar is deputy editor of Kiplinger's Personal Finance magazine and the author of "Raising Money Smart Kids" (Kaplan, $17.95). Send your questions and comments to [email protected]