Updated on 09.14.09

The Beginning of the Allowance

Trent Hamm

raising financially fit kidsOver the last week or so, my wife and I have been discussing when to start giving an allowance to our oldest child, Joe, who is almost four years old (long-time readers may recall that Joe was still a baby when The Simple Dollar started… where does the time go?). This conversation was spurred on by my recent reading of Raising Financially Fit Kids, along with a small pile of articles and research on the topic.

Here’s the plan we’ve decided on.

First, we’re going to begin his allowance on his fourth birthday. He’s reached a level of intellectual maturity that he now clearly understands that money is exchanged for goods and services. He also often requests items of various kinds at the store – and is told “no” virtually all of the time. Yet, he does see that Mom and Dad occasionally buy unnecessary items (like a book at the bookstore) and is intuitive enough to ask why Mom gets a book while he does not. His allowance allows him to make some basic money decisions for himself.

Second, his basic allowance will be very small. We don’t intend to throw a large amount at him. We’ve decided on an initial allowance of just $2 a week – and he won’t be allowed to even spend all of that in a given week (as I’ll explain below). This allowance isn’t intended to finance exorbitant spending on unnecessary things – instead, it’s a way to teach simple money management to a small child in small amounts.

Third, the allowance will come in three parts – for now. One part will be pure spending money – he can do whatever he wants with it. A second part will be saving for a specific goal, which we’ll let him identify. We’ll keep this in a jar on the refrigerator with a picture of the goal on the jar (and the price). A third part will be for giving – we’ll let this build up for a bit, then tell him about some local charities that he can give the money to to help their cause. We’ll give him his allowance in quarters, putting them one at a time into each group in the order above until they run out. So, at the start, he’ll get three quarters a week to spend, three quarters a week to save for a goal, and two quarters to give to others. The idea here is to teach some goal setting and also to teach the value of giving to others in need.

Fourth, his allowance will grow slowly in proportion to his age. Each year, we’ll increase the allowance by fifty cents. So, when he’s five, he’ll get $2.50. When he’s ten, he’ll get $5. As always, the allowance will be given in quarters and dollars so it can be divided evenly. So, next year, he’ll get a dollar (four quarters) to spend as he chooses, three quarters to save towards a goal, and three quarters to give to a charity. After that, a dollar goes into each grouping.

Fifth, his allowance will be “automatic” – not based on any specific behavior. There are some things that he’s expected to do at our house – pick up his toys, scrape his plate after meals and put it in the dishwasher, and so on. Those won’t be tied to his allowance – if he refuses to do them, his allowance won’t be the source of discipline (“time out” works really well for that, actually). The goal is to teach money management, not to use it as a tool for discipline.

Sixth, we will offer him optional extra chores to do to earn a little more. For example, we’ll give him a large basket and tell him if he fills it up with leaves from the yard, we’ll give him a quarter in each jar. If he wants to do it, he can – otherwise, Dad will get out the rake. Again, the goal here isn’t to get cheap labor (I could clear the leaves WAY faster myself), but to teach him that if you work, you earn financial rewards for it – which also must be budgeted.

Seventh, when he’s older, we’ll introduce an “investing” jar, too. Perhaps when he’s six, we’ll introduce a fourth “jar” into our system, splitting the allowance money into four equal parts. This final “jar” includes money to be invested for the future – not to be touched until he’s done with his schooling. Why so long term? With such a long timeframe, he’ll have adequate time to see how investing in stocks works, how investing in bonds works, how investing in cash works, and so on. Right now, he’s simply not ready for this and wouldn’t see the connection, but we think he might begin to understand it when he’s a bit older.

Eighth, all “gift money” will be split along these same lines. If he gets $5 from Grandma on his fourth birthday, $1.75 can be spent right now, $1.75 is saved for a big goal, and $1.50 is given to a good cause. In other words, gifted money is treated the same as allowance money.

Finally, he’s freely allowed to put “free spending” money into other jars if he so chooses – with a small bonus. This will allow him to push towards a big goal. What’s the small bonus, you ask? If he dumps all of his allowance that week into the “saving for a goal” jar, I’ll toss in an extra quarter to reward good saving. It’s also a hedge for our own sanity – I’d rather he use his money for a few more expensive toys than lots of $0.50 items that clutter the house.

That’s our allowance plan for Joe and, if it works well, we’ll replicate it in a couple years with our daughter. Any thoughts or comments?

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  1. Tommy says:

    That sound like an interesting plan, but is it realistic to expect a person to give away almost as much as he saves? Wouldn’t that just make him resent charity? I know I would if it meant that I would have to work twice as hard to reach a goal.

  2. Four Pillars says:

    That’s the most complicated compensation plan I’ve ever heard of. :)

    I don’t understand the idea of giving an allowance and yet telling them what they have to do with it. Why bother?

  3. Craig says:

    That’s a good and very specific technique, curious to see if it will stick. Reason I say that is cause things come up. Growing up I had an allowance that grew as I got older. I didn’t have required chores, etc. but had to contribute when asked which was of course all the time. The investing jar is a nice idea, a good way to teach the basics. As I got to HS I created my own envelope account to save money for a savings goals. I don’t think you should tell them what they have to do, but guidance helps of course. Also,you want to teach them the balance of spending less than you have, which @Four Pillars I think is more where he is getting at.

  4. I’d like to have an allowance that good, but I’d need to hire a financial advisor to help me understand it, ha ha.

  5. Leah says:

    Um, are you going to adjust his allowance for inflation and cost-of-living (or cost-of-toys) increases, etc.?
    And would you consider increasing the increase as he gets older? An allowance of $12.50/week at age 15 is pretty lame, especially considering he’ll only get to actually spend, what, about $4 of it?

  6. Jonathan Vaudreuil says:

    What I like about it is you’re starting him young and giving him and understanding of money. My parents taught me a lot about managing earnings, spending and savings as I was growing up by giving me an allowance and offering me some chores to make extra money.

    As for Leah’s comment: if he’s still totally dependent on his parents at the age of 15 for money, he should have no problems taking what he’s being given for free. By the age of 12 I had no more allowance, yet I made a ton more doing yardwork for my neighbors.

  7. Johanna says:

    Like some of the others, I also think it sounds awfully complicated for a four-year-old.

    And I know I’ve said this before, but I don’t like the idea of forced saving. To me, it seems like you’d be sending the message that you don’t trust him to choose to save on his own. As I recall from previous posts, you’ve already talked to him a little bit about some of the basics of saving (i.e., if you want something and don’t have the money for it, you have to wait until later *and* not spend all your money on other things now), and it sounded at the time like he was starting to catch on. So why not give him free rein and see if he figures it out the rest of the way by himself? If, in a couple of years, you notice a pattern where he’s spending all his money on 50-cent items and simultaneously complaining about the $10 items he wishes he could have, you can help him along a little bit more firmly.

  8. Susan says:

    Hi Trent,

    I totally agree with your perspective of giving a child money to teach them about money rather than tying the money to discipline. However, a 4 year old will often choose a nickel over a dime because it is bigger….I don’t think he really grasps the full idea of money and you will be doing a lot of directing. He may not really understand how come you have enough money to buy what you want and he doesn’t. One of your reasons for giving him an allowance is to give him some control of his wants while shopping. At $0.66 a week, it is going to take a long time to save up for a book or whatever else catches his eye. Have you considered how you are going to handle conversations in which he asserts that it is “his money” and he should be able to spend it how he chooses?

  9. lurker carl says:

    I’m not so keen on paying kids for existing within the household. Money doesn’t work that way in the adult world, it’s always attached to an exchange for work or goods. There are plenty of age-appropriate household chores children can do to earn some cash in addition to the routine chores they are expected to perform. Money for nothing is not an example I’d set for my youngsters.

    There are enough young adults who expect an employer to give them a paycheck for nothing more than showing up.

  10. Brian says:

    I love the idea of “bonus money” for putting all the allowance into savings. I’ll have to try this with our 9 year old. Right now, we’re using a lot of ideas from “The First Bank of Dad.”

    Having the picture of the savings goal is pretty standard (because it’s a really good idea).

    I agree with others that (at some point) he should be allowed to divvy up the money amongst the three jars as he chooses. Then he’s managing his own money. Otherwise, you’re managing the money for him, under the guise of giving him control. I think having the three jars is enough to cue him in to the idea of “hey, there’s more that I can do with my money than just spend it every week.”

    Finally, every family is different, but in my house, $8 a month for a 4 year old would be a LOT.

  11. Rosa says:

    Let us know how it goes – my four year old (who only gets a 25 cent allowance) is *really* good at both delaying gratification – he has his father’s talent for choosing money in his hand over almost any pleasure – but he is also really good at asking grandma or another adult for things we say no to, which makes the choice kind of moot – in general he can have whatever he wants AND keep his quarters in the jar.

  12. Rick says:

    The thing I like the least about this plan is that gifted money is treated the same as “earned” allowance money. I think that gifted money should go 100% towards what he wants to buy. Think about it: Grandma has a choice, either buy him a $20 gift that he may or may not like, or give him $20 to buy the toy that he actually wants. It’s only fair if he can spend the $20 on the toy. But if he can only spend $7 on the toy, he’ll just wish Grandma had bought the toy for him in the first place.

    That said, I don’t feel the rest of the plan is all that complicated, unlike most of your previous commenters. When I had an allowance, I had to give 10%, and save 20%. Percentages are a lot more complicated for a 4-year-old than simply dividing into equal parts.

  13. Kat says:

    as a mother-to-be i spend a lot of time thinking about how to handle allowance when the time comes. i would be interested in seeing follow up posts to see how this system is working out for you.
    at first blush i do feel it is a bit complicated but i commend you for thinking it through and trying it.
    charity is the toughest one. i often think that ideally i would want my child to perform charitable work vs giving money. i feel that there is more gratification in doing something, whether it is donating a toy or picking out pet food for an animal shelter, and i think the lesson might stick better.

  14. In the Money says:

    I debate with whether or not to give my children allowances in the future. I never got an allowance as a child and still learned to save at a young age. My parents would not buy me most of the things I wanted, but rather most of the things I needed and a few others at their discretion. I think it taught me to save for the things I wanted at a young age whenever I did get birthday/holiday money. Also, my parents monitored my spending to give me advice on whether they thought I should buy the item or not. Still, with all that said, I think it can be legitimately argued for an allowance and your post does make sense to me.

  15. Anastasia says:

    I don’t have kids, so I’m not facing these tough questions myself.

    I think if I wanted a child to learn something, I would do my best to model it for him or her. I would set up those jars for myself. I would put aside some money for saving, some for charity, and keep some. When I bought something that I’d been saving for, I would talk about where the money came from. When I give the donating money to a good cause, I would talk about how good it makes me feel to do that.

    When the child gets an allowance I would set up an identical set of jars for the child. I would hope that the child would follow in my footsteps, but if not, I’m not sure I’d really make it mandatory to save and donate. Of course those things are important. I’m just not sure that mandating them would really teach a child lessons about money. It might teach lessons about what the parents want, and that’s not really the point in the long run.

    I could be completely wrong though :)

  16. Lloyd says:

    I don’t have kids, but why not just give him one quarter per week at first and see what he does with it? Maybe he’ll come to the savings conclusion on his own when he realizes he doesn’t have enough quarters to buy gum, candy or whatever?

    I just think telling him what to do with 2/3rds of the money might make him lose interest in the whole thing. Then you’ll end up filling the jars and stuff yourself.

  17. Sheila says:

    As a grandparent, I have to agree with Rick (#12). I want the money I give to my grandchild as a gift to be spent on whatever she wants to buy–or if she desires to save it, then that’s her choice. But I don’t like the idea of forcing her to save the money I give her as a gift. If I wanted it to be money she saved, then I’d give her a savings bond or something similar.

  18. ~M says:

    Sort of touching on comment #11 is that you don’t address whether and how you and your wife figure out what your son has to use his allowance for (the portion he *can* spend) versus what he can get from his parents directly (and relatives, potentially). My husband had an allowance for a while, but his parents made it extremely easy to get what he wanted for birthdays and holidays – and much faster than him saving his own allowance.

  19. LaZ says:

    some commenters are frowning on the ‘forced savings’ idea. I think it’s brilliant. It’s not saving for savings sake. It underscores the basic fincancial concept that most Americans have completely forgotten – if you can’t afford something, don’t buy it. If you want something, save up the money and purchase it. This seems like a brilliant tool to show the power of saving up for a goal and being patient about it.

  20. LaZ says:

    some commenters are frowning on the ‘forced savings’ idea. I think it’s brilliant. It’s not saving for savings sake. It underscores the basic financial concept that most Americans have completely forgotten – if you can’t afford something, don’t buy it. If you want something, save up the money and purchase it. This seems like a brilliant tool to show the power of saving up for a goal and being patient about it.

  21. ChrisD says:

    In order to train a child to save and donate, I think the best approach depends on the child, the parents and the parenting ‘skills’. I don’t think there is a ‘one size fits all’ approach and probably a range of types of pocket money will produce equally good results if the parents set a good example.

    In my case, setting an example with jars for my own spending, wouldn’t really work as I do everything online. Thus charity spending is just a number on my monthly bank statement. (However, don’t forget that parents as well as children are a legitimate target for do-gooding. I just got my mother to sign up for a monthly donation. She was happy do to it but needed a little prodding).
    A good way to show a child charity spending is something like Plan where you have an active interest in a child in a far off country and write and receive letters. Thus the family as a whole could sponsor a child to interest their own child in giving. Of course a 4 year old can’t carry such a charity on their own, but it might be a good aim for an older teenager, to have the responsibility to meet monthly payments for a good cause.

  22. Mneiae says:

    I like this forced savings idea and the spending jar. However, I’m not that fond of the charitable giving. Like #13, I think that an ACT of charity would be a better lesson. It could involve saving up for a Christmas toy that is physically given to a gift drive. That way the money would be given to charity and the child would be able to see the results of his charitable giving.

    If a grandma wants to give spending money to the kid for toys, that’s definitely her prerogative. She might want to just gift a $20 Target (or something) giftcard if she wants them to spend it. The kid would be able to augment that amount with his own spending money.

  23. CtfromNH says:

    I add my voice to those who say this sounds like an excellent plan. I wish I had learned to save when young! Yes, I might have resented being told what to do with my money at times, so I can understand the comments about that. But the life skills taught and learned early will be invaluable. Also, as children reach teens, I think giving them larger amounts of money, and also expecting them to meet certain obligations is a great idea. For example, maybe you give a 14-year old $100/month. But they have to buy their own clothes, pay for fees/equipment for sports teams, whatever, and any movies or activities with their friends. They also have to pay for summer camp, or something big they want to do; and maybe their own cell phone bill, or portion of the car insurance, etc. If they blow it all on one pair of jeans or sneakers, they have no money the rest of the month, and they learn fast how to budget and shop for bargains. Much depends on the personality of the child. By the time they reach late high school, they have a clear understanding of budgeting, paying “bills” that occur every month, and saving for big items. This would be money the parents would be spending anyway, but they are giving the teens the opportunity to learn. Think how much better prepared they would be for college or living on their own.

  24. Faculties says:

    Instead of forcing my son to save, I pay an advanced rate of interest, on a monthly basis. So he gets a dollar a week, and at the end of the month he gets one dime for every dollar in his dollar jar. This has led him to think hard about spending now vs. saving till later when his money will be earning extra all by itself. He was very excited to accumulate $10, which is the minimum for an account at our local credit union. Now most of his money is in the bank, which makes it less likely that he’ll suddenly spend it. The credit union also provides incentives, for instance a kid wallet if you save $15. I think these incentives are more helpful than requirements. They can see that saving does get you something; it’s not merely a way of depriving you of toys or candy.

  25. Lisa says:

    We use a similar plan with our 7 year old. I do have to agree with the posters who say gift money should be for the child to choose what to do with — my son usually puts his towards the toy he’s saving for.

    Hit the bank for those rolls of quarters! You’re going to go through them awfully fast. Most weekends find us short of the dollar bills we need to pay our son. :) I’ve actually had to trade the ones in his bank or wallet in for a $20 so I could pay him. (Although that’s an interesting lesson too.)

  26. Kathy says:

    Not a bad plan overall, but I’m not too keen on applying the same rules to money given as a gift for birthdays, etc, only because it’s a gift.

    As for the “forced savings” that some people are against, I wish my parents had implemented that with me. Savers aren’t necessarily born; most have to be taught. If you force them to save when they are little, it becomes habit and automatic when they are adults.

  27. Rosa Rugosa says:

    I’m going to try this on my husband with one-dollar bills :)

  28. Sarah says:

    I think the best way to learn is through experience-if you require that he can’t spend it all on junk right away, how will he learn what happens when he does that?

  29. Patty says:

    Trent, I applaud your plan. Well thoughtout, and room for adjustment as life unfolds.

    I’ll my two cents on the “gift money”. Story goes back just getting out of college, working several part time jobs, studying for my board exams. I had receive some very nice money gifts – since I knew that times would be tough and probably wouldn’t see a position open in a firm until the following spring, I learned that the “gift” money needed to be saved. I know that if you, in your heart of hearts, are really honest with yourself – you will know when it is appropriate to give yourself a ‘gift’. I got the position in the firm, passed the boards, and within five years of graduating from college – I purchased my first home!

    while I was 24 and not 4, it is truly the lessons learned early that will help you make the best decisions in the future.

  30. John says:

    Lucky dog.

    I didn’t get a $2 allowance until I was in fifth grade.

  31. prodgod says:

    what about a “tax” jar, where you take 30% of his allowance back, to pay for some of his rearing? Might be a lesson in reality. Or not.

  32. Cheryl says:

    Great plan. Thanks for posting on this. My daughter just turned two and is maybe just rounding the corner on asking questions about transactions and why we go to work. Right now it feels like allowances and savings and giving and financial literacy in general are all a long way off (in concrete terms – we try to model these behaviors just by living the way we do) but I know they’re going to sneak up on us, just like walking and talking and having opinions has…

    Thanks for an informative, thought-provoking post.

  33. Susan says:

    We have a similar system for our 7-year-old, who divides his money between “save” (long-term savings) and “spend” jars. Recently we added a third jar for a shorter-term goal: a Nintendo DS. We have no requirement that he put money in that jar, but if he does, my husband and I will chip in as well.

    Just like the long-term savings jar, we stipulate that once money goes into the DS jar, it doesn’t come back out. For two weeks my son’s been diligently choosing to put his spending money into the “save for DS” jar. Yesterday he decided he wanted to rent a video game and was shocked to discover that he only left himself $4 in his “spend” jar.

    Life’s all about choices, isn’t it? ;-)

  34. Jim says:

    Trent —

    Spot on as usual.

    For those, clearly inexperienced, detractors consider what Trent is creating. He is giving a child, too young to yet appreciate the subtle nature of money management, an opportunity to tangibly experience right stewardship of his possessions. My 8-year old answers this question correctly: “What are the three good things you should do with your money?” 1) Spend a little, 2) Save a little, and 3) give a little away. We started him with $1.50 in quarters — and required initially that he divide his choices in equal thirds.

    As he grows older he will get to choose the allocation — and what we have found is that he will give 1/3, plus he will use some of his savings for specific charitable opportunities.

    Excellent post, and a great example for others as always.

    — Jim

  35. greg says:

    We have decided to wait with the allowance until the kids ask for it. So far (age 4 and 2), they have not asked. In the meantime, we let them pay at shops and restaurants, so that they get the idea that money is exchanged for goods and services. As for charitable giving, we let them choose which of their toys they want to give away for children of asylum seekers who had to leave all their toys in Africa when they had to leave. If someone makes music in the street and we like it well enough to stand and listen for a while, the children may also give them some money.

  36. Shevy says:

    @ Johanna
    “Like some of the others, I also think it sounds awfully complicated for a four-year-old.

    And I know I’ve said this before, but I don’t like the idea of forced saving. To me, it seems like you’d be sending the message that you don’t trust him to choose to save on his own.”

    I don’t remember if you’ve ever mentioned it, but I’m going to guess that you don’t have small kids and don’t work with them.

    Once kids can count they generally love to count and sort money. Counting it into piles or containers is fun for them. The bigger problem is sometimes getting them to stop, that is, they want to put it all back in a pile and count it out again (and again and again).

    They also don’t have much in the way of impulse control. Yes, they need the structure of being required to set some aside and only spend the amount in the other pile. It doesn’t mean you don’t trust them. It means you are realistic about what kind of behavior is age-appropriate.

    I always kind of liked the plan the Eyre’s wrote about in their book 3 Steps to a Strong Family (in the section on Family Economy).

    They didn’t really start until age 8, but then their kids were responsible for buying their own clothes, etc. not just toys or whatever. Their viewpoint was that kids would make a couple of mistakes (spending all their money on music CDs or a cool pair of jeans when they really needed gym shoes or whatever) but that nothing they could waste their money on was going to be life or death when they were 8 or 10 or 12 and that it was better to make the mistakes then than to make them when they were 20 and on their own for the first time.

    One of the most interesting ideas was that they had a way of separating the chores and money aspect. You know, the perpetual debate over whether allowance should be tied to doing chores or whether members of a family should just do their chores and allowance should be independent of that.

    They had 4 things that needed to be done each day and a peg board where kids put in their pegs to show they’d done them. Doing those 4 things wasn’t optional but writing down on a piece of paper and submitting them for payment weekly was optional. So the *amount* they could get was directly connected to the work they did but not the fact of doing them.

    Interestingly enough, although the Eyres tithe they didn’t require their kids to do so although they encouraged it. They didn’t require savings either but they paid an enormous rate of interest to encourage that as well. Some of their kids put as much money into their savings for as long as possible to have as much money for college as they could (but at some point the kids had to take the money and put it in a regular bank or the parents would have gone broke).

    They also had a separate deal for the summertime with a group of goals that had to be achieved, each for a certain amount of money.

    Did I follow their plan with my (now grown) kids? No, was a single parent at the time, with three kids and I couldn’t afford to give much in the way of allowances let alone something like $1/kid/day, but I’ve always been intrigued by the basic idea.

    Will I try it with my 6 year old in a couple of years? Well, it might be nice if I talked it over with my husband first, but my inclination is that I’d like to modify it somewhat.

    As for gift money, I think that beyond encouraging them to give 10% of all money they get from any source to charity, children should get to spend gifts as they please.

  37. Elizabeth says:

    Overall, I like this idea, but agree with others that giving a third to charity might be a bit unrealistic when applied in the real world. Also, I don’t agree with forcing children to spend gift money in a particular way. If my daughter were to receive three books from her grandparents for her birthday, I would never make her give one to charity and return one to get the cash for savings. So why treat a cash gift differently? Anyway, I love other aspects of your plan, but a couple of things didn’t resonate with me. Thanks for providing a great resource!

  38. Kelly says:

    I agree with everything BUT forcing a child to give away money received as gifts. I am all for saving. I’ve got a 5 yr old and all of his birthday and Christmas money is saved in a jar in our house. We’re just saving it for him. Soon, we’ll open a savings account with that money. No way would I force him to give some of his money that was gifted to him away.

  39. Mircat says:

    I LOVE your idea, Trent. As a child, I loved saving my money, whether it was my allowance or birthday gift money. Unfortunately, my mom would actually force me to spend it on myself rather than on other things (usually I wanted to buy presents for other people). She also discouraged me from saving my money long term. Consequently, I went from being a natural “saver” to eventually not saving any money as an adult. I’ve recovered since, but I love your idea of reinforcing the idea of saving money. To those complaining about you telling your child what to do with the money: I say, of COURSE you need to tell a child what to do with money. How else will s/he learn proper money handling?

  40. I agree that his allowance should ot be used as a tool against him, but I think it should be tied to doing at least something for it.

    It always was for me as a child, and I think that’s what got me to understand that if you want something in life (namely money,) you have to earn it.

  41. Denise says:

    Great post and good comments. I agree with the forced savings but not the ammount. Do you give one third of your money to charity? once they get older, ten or twenty percent is more realistic, only if it is the same as the parents. Growing up, I had forced savings and it included money that I earned from a part-time job. I was able to buy a used car when I turned eighteen. Now that my daughter is in high school, I have transitioned her into getting her allowance monthly and this includes my part towards clothes, any school fees and a reasonable ammount towards personnal care items such as hair care and the like. We estimate a reasonable ammount, at a sale price and she gets it in a bank account monthly. We are having some problems but she is learning how to budget monthly. Good luck.

  42. bob says:

    Another great post. It’s almost exactly what we’ve done with our son and it worked pretty well. He’s a great saver now, understands charity (and volunteering) considerably better than any of his peers. He’s also developed a system himself where he sweeps any money he has left at the end of the month into his savings account. He also has several extra items he can do to earn extra cash and those tasks become larger and more complex as he grows.

  43. Interesting thoughts as we’re considering allowances. The only problem I see is that no one gets money for just existing. He’s getting money for doing nothing, when in the real world we all have to earn our money, so I’m not sure that’s a good lesson.

  44. Pat Brown says:

    Trent, I can speak from experience, as a “Nana” of a four year old boy who raised two now adult sons. Take my advise with a grain of salt, but here is my perspective:

    *I think four is too young for an allowance. He is still a concrete thinker, unable to hold intangible thoughts and process them. (The nickel being more than a dime is an excellent point). Age five seems more logical to me. However, you know your boy and I don’t. [Of my two, one saved every penny, mowed lawns and baby-sat as soon as we’d allow him, and lied about his age at 14 to get an after-school job. He is now a married Dad and he and his family are debt free on one Army salary. Son #2 couldn’t keep a dime in his pocket until he was 21 and *ahem* asked to move out of our home. Took months of sofa-surfing and top ramen before he got a clue,financialy.]

    Every child is different.

    *ITA that gift money should be his to use as he likes. Doing otherwise undermines the gift-giver. Do you give away a third of your Father’s Day aftershave or Easter candy???

    *Charity should be concrete..taking the money to buy a toy for the woman’s shelter, or food for the Thanksgiving basket. Little kids don’t do abstact well. They need to SEE what their $$$ is doing, especially if the gift benefits another less blessed child.

    OK–Grandmother lecture over! Take it under consideration and then do what you think is best for YOUR child and YOUR values!

  45. Shannon says:

    Trent, Great initial plan, but I’m sure you and your wife will adjust according to how it works as you son grows older. Things do happen as kids get older and you don’t have as much control over every little detail. But the best thing you can do is to set an example for your children in your relationship with money, which you’re definitely doing. Great column to follow is Yoder & Son in WSJ Sunday, where father and new college freshman son write about their different perspectives on money issues. My children are 28 and 26 now. One is a spender and the other a saver, but both very financially responsible and independent, some from earlier training, but mostly from my example. Your kids will do just fine.

  46. Carmen says:

    I think your intentions are great and your plan is very well thought out. However (as far as your son is concerned) you are actually giving him a 75 cent allowance per week. No point in kidding anyone otherwise. Additionally, I really dislike the controlling element behind it.

    I have read that book, along with a better one IMO by Kiplinger (Raising Money Smart Kids.) I thought the Bank of Dad was interesting too – he believes in the bonus system.

    I also think you need to lead by example. Unless you and your wife are committed to tithing/donating 25% of your joint net income (which I doubt), this plan is very hypocritical so not one I would implement personally. Also be careful about sending him materialistic ideas, which the ‘spending now’ and ‘saving for later’ system will do, although hopefully only in the short term.

    My kids were a similar age when they received an allowance. They have always been free to choose how to spend it (as hubbie and I do with our pocket money) and learnt about saving up for more expensive toys and helping causes they believe in (sponsoring dolphins) without enforced rules which I think they’d resent.

    To summarise, an allowance is a great tool for teaching kids about money, but one that needs to fit in with your family’s overall money management and values. Lead by example. My kids have seen my savings jar too (on occasion) so they can physically see that we all follow the same ‘rules’.

  47. ethel says:

    This is directed at some of the comments that have cropped up: the worst defense of a parenting philosophy is that those who disagree with it must not have children. Please. Having 2 or 3 kids does not make you an expert on all children, and I know some people who don’t have children of their own who know a lot about raising kids.

    I find this plan interesting, and I’m glad Trent shared it.

    That said, I’ve never felt comfortable with the idea of an allowance. I’m sure that’s in large part because I didn’t have one growing up. My parents always told me that working around the house, making good grades, etc., was expected of me. So, I do like that Trent isn’t tying the money to discipline, but I’m still a little skeptical of tying it to extra chores. I think it helps teach a child charity in a different sort of way to help them understand that you don’t always do things people ask you to for money. I’m sure Trent teaches his kids that in other ways, but it is a powerful message to send to a 4-year old (or 8-year old) that doing extra work means extra money. How will you distinguish the “extra work” from big household projects (like painting the house) that you need help with and won’t pay him for? I can just see a kind of “what are you going to pay me for that” mentality creeping up that could get pretty ugly/frustrating in a 10-year old.

    I learned a lot what I needed to know about personal finance by getting a job at 16, and I don’t feel like that was “too late” to learn about money pragmatics. As another poster pointed out, by that time, I had been living with fiscally responsible (but also generous) adults for my whole life, and that was a more powerful lesson than managing money myself. I think the other key thing they did was give me a credit card for emergencies in college, and they got the bill. They drilled in my head to never carry a balance, and I never have.

    I think instead of an allowance, I am going to open savings and investing accounts for my kids when they hit about 8 – 10 years old. At that point, I’ll ask for their help in managing that money, and I think I will also have them help me manage our household money to some extent (maybe by having them help me with the pay and filing bills chores).

    I guess my point is that I think we can raise fiscally responsible kids in all sorts of ways, but I’m guessing that what matters most is what the kid sees his or her parents do. The other stuff, I bet, is just different paths to the same end.

  48. Elisabeth says:

    I think it’s a great plan. My mom did something similar with me. My only comment is in reference to the gift money. I never minded splitting the money I earned, but I always felt cheated splitting gift money. If I received a $20 gift, I got full use of the gift – I didn’t have to save a portion of it’s value. But if the gift-giver gave me $20 cash instead so that I could buy my own gift, I had to split it among the jars and buy a smaller gift. Never seemed fair to me. I suggest thinking of a way to head that off with your son so it doesn’t become a problem. No idea how to do that, though!

  49. Sandy says:

    Wow! $2 per week for a 4 year old. Don’t tell my 6th grader, who only gets $3 per week (and she has a list of real chores she must do before she gets that!
    We still give my 16 year old a $5 per week allowance, although she’s had odd and part time jobs since she was 12. Again though…she must do chores to get that, too.
    They are both good savers, though…my 16 yr old has nearly $2000 in the bank, and earns about $200 from her babysitting gig per month. about 3/4 of that goes to savings, as she knows college looms, and the Bank o’ Mom and Dad will be paying a partial amount of her college.
    When they were both around 5 is when they got their first allowances…25 cents per week.

  50. Pattie, RN says:

    Ethel (#47)…many non-parents have wonderful theoretical rationales for all aspects of parenting. Very nice. However, I submit that unless an adult has been an actual “in the trenches” parent, they are as equiped to comment and judge parenting skills as I am to comment and judge engineering prowess because I watched “The Bridge over the River Kwai” AND “Modern Marvels” on the Hisotry Channel! What works in a thesis rarely holds water in a sea of Legos and hunger on a rainy March afternoon at 5 pm.

  51. Amy says:

    Regarding gift money: my parents, from a very early age, told me that gift money was mine to use as I chose – *but* if I deposited it in my savings account at the bank, they would match it. I did that a lot and developed the saving habit early and strong. This was a priceless gift to me. Whatever exact scheme of jars and percents and rules someone chooses to use, I think that anything that teaches a child to save and spend wisely is one of the best things a parent can do for their kid.

  52. We’re doing the low base which includes basic chores. For chores above and beyond there’s extra money, generally on an optional basis (theirs).

    We’ve also taken to offering school related performance bonuses, as needed.

  53. gerry says:

    We do something similar with our two children (5 and 4). The only thing is they earn every bit of money they make. They have a list of chores that they know the dollar amount earned. They are coached, not forced, on what they should do with THEIR money, (they earned it, so they choose). We just suggest what they should do with it. Many times they blow it all, and other times they save it. Both our children love to naturally give money away at fund raisers we see outside the grocery store. I don’t think you can ultimately make someone choose without any resentment, or repercussions. Even young children have the natural ability to choose the correct action. If we assist them and help when they need it, it will ultimately lead to them owning the situation and allowing them to feel a sense of pride within themselves.

  54. Ryan says:

    If I recall right at some point I started getting allowance and it was this same two dollars a week. Half went to me, half my dad saved for me.

    For all those who say that 2 dollars a week isn’t enough for a 15 year old, I made do. I got the same two dollars a week until I stopped getting an allowance because I got a JOB (flipping burgers, at 16).

    I don’t think giving should be forced, but savings should be. Charitable giving is a personal choice.

  55. lauren says:

    let me first say i just don’t have time today to read everyone’s comments. so bare with any repeats. not to be snobby but those who haven’t raised children really only have the experience of their own raising to bounce off of. what we did worked.

    we gave allowance on the days dad got paid. (help them realize that money is not free flowing and has a schedule) they were required to tithe 10%, save 40% and could do whatever they desired with the other 50%. i’m not sure how you chose your money dividing but if you use percentages it works much easier and sets habits in place.

    we did tie chores to allowance. we all do occasionally receive “free” money in the way of gifts and such but the reality is that money in the real world is always tied to productivity. and while they are young you can handle the “well i just won’t do my chores and you can dock my allowance” attitude with – “you’ll do your chores and not get paid anyway”. really nips that in the butt real quick.

    annual raises were done at birthdays. when they got their first jobs they were not required to save 50% (they still saved)but still required to tithe.

    the end result. by the time my 18 year old graduated from high school he had 2 savings accounts, 1 checking account, stocks, savings bonds, precious metals and a credit card that never got past zero balance every month. he has paid cash for everything he’s done so far – he paid cash for his first 2 years in community college and the only downside is that he has taken loans out for his last 2 years at the university. he still works every week and summers to stock up on living expenses and has prepaid his cell phone bill and auto insurance 6 months in advance.

    the 18 year old is walking down a very similar path.

    all i know is that i’m so happy my children have an education of money that their father and mother never had.

    well done trent.

  56. Sharon says:

    The gift money issure…I think it depends on the family view of gift money. Did grandma buy a gift as well as tuck a twenty in the card? Or is grandma 600 miles away and sent money because she couldn’t buy the gift and mail it. Big difference.

  57. Johanna says:

    @Shevy: You’re right that I don’t have children of my own, and if that makes you inclined to dismiss everything I have to say on the subject, I certainly can’t stop you. But I was a child myself, once, and I do remember a few things about what it was like. And I think that, as a grown-up, I have a pretty healthy attitude toward money, so I’d think that whatever my parents did to instill that in me is maybe worth considering.

    My parents never forced me to do anything with my allowance, but they did give me gentle but clear guidance on how to decide whether to make a purchase or not. If I wanted to spend 50 cents on candy, they’d let me, but they’d say, “If you spend 50 cents on candy every day, your $2 allowance isn’t going to last the whole week.” (I should mention, for those parents who freak out at the thought of a child spending her own money on candy, that they didn’t take me to places very often where I had the option of buying candy.)

    The very best money lesson that they taught me was, “If you don’t spend your money on things you don’t really want, then the money will be there when you see something that you do really want.” They’d often repeat that line when I was thinking about buying some piece of cheap junk just for the sake of buying something. And that’s how I learned to avoid frivolous spending, but to save my money for the things that I really wanted.

    What I don’t understand, I guess, is why it’s so important for a four-year-old to start saving right from the get-go. It’s true, I imagine, that a four-year-old doesn’t have a very good understanding of delayed gratification, but he’ll learn it in time. If he spends his whole allowance every week when he’s 4, but figures the “saving” thing out when he’s 6 or 7 or 10 or 11, is that really such a bad thing?

  58. Michael says:

    I have kids and I think Johanna is right.

  59. Lisa says:

    I’m a little concerned about the money-centric messages to kids. I’d like to see time and effort towards charity more explicitly included in the scheme and to start at a later age (7?) . One doesn’t have to give CASH to a charity as time, effort, and old goods are very typical ways. I know Trent includes these acts in his life, so perhaps just making them overt teaching moments would satisfy me for my household. Also, buying candy bars to support the local school band is a different kind of charity that I hope my child learns.
    Trent (and others), check out the book “Henry Hikes to Fitchburg.” It is a picture book and tells the story of a person who worked to get money to pay for trainfare versus the friend who chose to simply walk (based on a passage from Thoreau’s “Walden”). The moral of the story may not be as applicable in today’s society nor is it even obvious to little kids, but the message should/could be considered as a viable option for some things (eg: making a Halloween costume rather than buying one).

  60. Carmen says:

    Me too!

    I’ve read a fair number of the comments now and it is clear that parents often have the same goals in what they would like to teach their kids, but very different ways of doing it.

    Someone mentioned financial reward for grade success in school. I don’t get it. I have friends who do that with their kids and old friends whose parents did it with them as youngsters. Does it ever benefit the kids, besides financially?

  61. Kevin M says:

    I like Johanna’s last comment – gentle guidance instead of forced saving/spending/donating – with the emphasis on spending for things you really want instead of spending merely because you have the money. I’m actually surprised this isn’t how Trent is doing it since that seems to be his philosophy – spending according to what he values.

    As a parent of a 2 year old I’m a little removed from this subject, but still interested to see how others handle it, so thanks for the post.

  62. Scott says:

    I did this exact thing with my kids, but I started it a little later with Spending, saving, charitable and investing. I didn’t give them real money, I kept it on a spreadsheet and when they wanted something, I bought it and deducted it from their spending account. When they turned 16 and got jobs, I dropped the plan but kept the balances which I then transferred to online accounts. My oldest used his savings to buy a scooter for college. I haven’t invested for them yet but will when I find something that makes good sense. My youngest still has all his savings.

  63. Joan says:

    I really liked this, especially the “not tied to house jobs” part. We have never given our daughter (9) an allowance, though she has other sources of money that she is expected to spend/save along certain guidelines.

    But the allowance thing always seemed counterproductive to us when it was tied to chores. We expect that all family members do jobs that need to be done around the house, not for payment, but because that’s what families do. So we’d struggled to find a way to do an allowance that didn’t seem tied to that.

    Now I realize I was completely overthinking it, and your strategy seems sound. Thanks!!

  64. Courtney says:

    @ Johanna
    “And I know I’ve said this before, but I don’t like the idea of forced saving. To me, it seems like you’d be sending the message that you don’t trust him to choose to save on his own.”

    I don’t have kids either, but I’m pretty sure that’s the whole point of parenting the younger set – making them do things you don’t trust them to do on their own. Very few kids would willingly choose to eat vegetables, do homework, clean their room, etc if parents didn’t make them do it first.

  65. Rosa says:

    I don’t get the “charity must be concrete” stuff – concrete charity is separate from money charity.

    It’s hard to find charitable work you can do *with* a four year old. My son sees us making time for volunteer work -but he doesn’t get to go along because then we’d be subtracting parenting time from the time we’re supposed to be tutoring or building or cooking.

  66. Amanda says:

    I started reading the comments, but have skipped a bunch, so please pardon me if I’m repeating an idea but when will these different jars become actual bank accounts? As a former banker and a chold who received an allowance, I remember and see value in having the child write out the deposit slip, take it to the bank and deposit. I know many people use online banking but when something goes wrong one still has to walk into the bank to solve the problem. It also taught me how to balance a saving ledger and then a checkbook.

  67. Johanna says:

    @Courtney: I agree that there are some things it’s appropriate for parents to force their kids to do – but in general, these are things for which doing them or not doing them have long-term consequences that the child herself doesn’t fully understand.

    A child who doesn’t eat vegetables can develop nutrient deficiencies that affect her long-term health (although I’d posit that if her parents presented her with vegetables prepared in such a way that they taste good, she’d eat them willingly AND develop a healthy relationship with food).

    A child who doesn’t do her homework won’t learn the things she’s supposed to learn, which will make subsequent years of school that much more difficult (and although a good teacher can give her students adequate incentive to do their homework, not all teachers are good).

    A child who doesn’t keep her room clean can trip over a pile of books on the floor, fall, and break her leg in such a way that the doctors have to insert several steel pins for it to heal properly, resulting in awkward encounters with airport security personnel for the rest of her life (this happened to me; unfortunately, I still struggle to keep my room clean).

    But if a child makes a few unwise purchases at the age of four, what’s the big deal? This is what I want to know. The worst I can see happening is that her parents will have to explain to her that no, you can’t have this book or that doll or that Lego set – you could have bought it with her allowance, but you already spent it all on candy or ice cream or 50-cent doodads. But after enough experiences like that, the kid *should* eventually learn not to spend all her allowance on candy or ice cream or 50-cent doodads. And maybe I’m misunderstanding, but it sort of seems to me like those in the “forced saving” camp are so convinced that their kids will never actually learn that lesson on their own (or, maybe, won’t learn it early enough for their liking) that they feel they might as well not even try. And I find that confusing.

  68. Krysten says:

    My parents used a very similar system with my sister and me growing up. We received $1.50 in quarters each week which was divided into spend/share/save banks. That continued in slightly increasing amounts until we were 14 and we were then required to get a job outside the house and no longer received an allowance. We could still earn extra money from my parents by doing jobs above and beyond our usual chores. In our late teens we were given a small amount of money to invest and track in a brokerage account, after having to run a “test” account for 6-12 months. It was very basic, but instructive.

    At least in our cases, it definitely helped to educate us about money and it trained us to think about immediately dividing any incoming money into different categories. I still do it today.

  69. ethel says:

    Pattie (#50), a lot of parents make pronouncements based solely on their one or two kids. To me, that is no more valid than a non-parent making pronouncements, particularly if that person is, say, a day care worker, who might actually have more “in the trenches” day-to-day experience with a variety of kids than most parents do.

    FWIW, I have kids of my own. But I haven’t really found a massive distinction between those with and without children. Sure, people without kids give stupid advice, but so do people with kids. Besides, most people were raised by parents and, therefore, can contribute to such conversations based on their own experiences as a kid. (In this instance, I think it’s just as valuable to hear from people whose parents took different approaches as it is to hear from people who are trying things with their own kids. I’d argue that it is actually more useful in this case to hear from other adults since, in this case, we are interested in the outcome of child-rearing practices.)

    Bottom line: if people are offering anecdotal experience, then they are offering anecdotal experience. I think the one-up-man-ship of “my experience is more valid than yours” is futile and entirely unsupportable.

  70. Treva says:

    Trent, Not sure if this has been covered as there are a lot of comments, but…

    1. Gifted money is just that — a gift. Let the kid do what he wants with it. It’s generally given on a special day and I feel you’ll be taking away the specialness of it by making him save a portion of it.

    2. If you find 3 jars is too much, you may try using just 2 jars. Have on for saving and one for spending. Every so often have him go into the savings jar to make a donation to someone. This could go in conjunction with something else, like when you purge his toys and outgrown clothes. Explain that since Christmas is coming up (or whatever special thing is approaching) it’s time to go through and pick out the things he no longer wants or don’t fit or whatever and it’s also time to give that same organization money so they can buy the things they need that are not donated. I worked in non-profit for years and my daughter (5 years old) understands this quite well.

  71. bethh says:

    wow, that’s a lot of comments! I will read them later; I wanted to share my two thoughts:

    1. make sure you actually follow through on this. My parents started this idea with me, but it fell apart pretty quickly.

    2. Be flexible when it’s your daughter’s turn: you may find that she ticks differently than your son, and another setup may work better for her.

    Looks like a great start!

  72. Carrie says:

    #67 – seriously Johanna? I don’t see how your comparisons make your argument. Sure a child who NEVER eats their veggies, NEVER does homework, or NEVER cleans their room can have negative consequences but so can a child who NEVER saves and always spends their money. These are all skills that we are not born with. Aside from the veggies, my point is that a child who makes a couple of mistakes with any of these things can easily learn from them or not learn from them (in our instances-I got my foot tangled in a hanger and broke my the growth plate of my foot when I was 11 due to a messy room and still have things scattered about). I know many adults who are so deep in debt that they would be in financial ruin if their car broke down. They haven’t learned thus far. So where is the lesson? Perhaps when they were a child and learned from their parents how to put money away for a rainy day and not buy things unless they had the cash in hand.

  73. John S says:

    I got one dollar per week allowance growing up in the 1980s. Not once did my allowance ever increase as I got older. By the time I was in 8th grade my friends were getting $5-10 per week and I was still getting $1. I used to resent my peers being able to fritter away money on frivolities like candy and comic book subscriptions that I could only dream of.

    Additionally, my mother put all gifted money into a passbook account that I could not access. She invested parts of it in short-term and long-term CDs and would show me the passbook frequently so I could see how my money was growing in exchange for being tied up for a fixed period of time.

    I pitched fits the first few times when I realized that I couldn’t spend any of my First Communion money or my birthday money. But eventually I realized that saving was not optional and I got over it and learned to make do with what little I had access to.

    When I was 13, I started working under the table at a restaurant doing yard work and odd jobs. My parents made it clear that if I got a job, they would drive me to work.

    I’ll tell you what, because of this I’ve always been a big saver. I saved more than I spent all through high school. In college my friends would earn $5000 in the summer working construction, and they’d come home each Spring dead broke, or worse, deep in credit card debt. As for me, I’d earn $3000 at my summer cashier job, and I’d come home with $1800 to spare.

    You could argue I didn’t live la vida loca, and I missed out on some life opportunities there due to my frugality. Maybe so. But there are ALWAYS bigger, better, flashier, more expensive life choices we could make. The point is, I lived within my means because that was the life I knew, and it all started with my crappy little $1 per week allowance.

    I think Trent’s idea is a fine one. I don’t mind the forced savings. After a while you lose the sense of entitlement to the gifted money and you realize that you’re sitting on an asset that’s there when you need it. It’s a good feeling.

  74. Rosa Rugosa says:

    I’m going to try this one on my husband – with $1.00 bills!

  75. Pat says:

    I agree with Lloyd (#16). Start out small. I hate to say this but I only give my 14 year-old $6 every-other-week, which is when I get paid. She has never complained about it. Occasionally she does open her wallet to purchase gifts for friends birthdays, etc but in general she has learned from us (by watching) to spend her money wisely. Honestly, I don’t understand the whole “kid needs spending money” concept. I never got any when I was a child so I had a paper route for any extras I thought I needed in life. Just to ‘spend’ is why America is in the predicament it is.

  76. susan says:

    These are all great, well-thought out ideas. But what are you going to tell him if he asks why he can’t use his charity or savings money now?

  77. Shevy says:

    First of all, I don’t automatically dismiss everything you have to say on this subject because you don’t have children but I’m aware that both theoretical study of child behavior and actual experience (either as a parent or working with children in a daycare or school setting) is more likely to provide accurate data than one’s own memories of childhood (which may have been decades ago).

    However I’m not disagreeing with you on the value of “gentle but clear guidance”. Indeed, the book I was praising definitely used that approach.

    Where we’re not seeing eye to eye is on whether separating an amount into piles is too complex for a 4 year old and on the value of saving (or giving charity) from a young age.

    I have 4 children, born in 3 different decades (the 70’s, 80’s and post Y2K). Between them, my adult children have 3 children of their own, 2 of whom I live with and take care of on a regular basis. My experiences, as someone pointed out, are anecdotal but they span a period of 30 years, both genders of children and different life circumstances over that time.

    Could I be wrong? Of course. As a parent with 30 years of experience I have an advantage, but I’m hardly infallible. For one thing, as bethh pointed out, each child is different and has his or her own personality. But there are many valid generalizations that can be made about behavior and I think it’s pretty clear that small children are fascinated by money, especially coins.

    Part of that, I think, is that children see adults handling money and see what that money can be exchanged for. But I also think that handling coins is inherently pleasureable. They stack, they clink, they’re heavy, they roll, they’re fun.

    My 6 year old spent time on Sunday counting out dimes and sorting them into an empty egg carton as a matter of fact!

    As for saving, I support saving and I can require a child to save a given amount when they have a particular goal in mind but I don’t think I’ve ever required a child to save just for the sake of saving. Giving charity is a different matter. Our religious beliefs dictate our behavior there. Even in preschool each of the children gives a penny to charity daily and I think it’s wonderful that, when my 6 year old finds a quarter on the sidewalk her first thought is to find a pushke (a charity tin) to put the quarter in! Two or 3 pennies out of the quarter would have been sufficient but she already feels that she doesn’t need to benefit from somebody else’s loss and that the money is best given to charity.

  78. Randy says:

    Good plan, but (as someone else said) awfully complicated. Do you have powerpoints you’ve reviewed with him? I’d encourage you to be flexible as you move forward. Otherwise, he’ll figure out how to game the system.

    My daughter (now 26) started out with a quarter a week at about the same age. On trips to the store, she would point at a comic book and ask “how many quarters is that?”, then point at a bicycle and ask the same question.

    Eventually, she learned the value of a quarter and started saving. In kindergarten, she was the first kid to start saving “tokens” for a bigger prize from the treasure box.

    Allowances are a good thing…

  79. Evita says:

    His allowance to spend is $0.66 per week. What can he buy with this pittance? and why does he need to think about savings at four years of age?
    Can’t he enjoy spending when he is still a little kid?

  80. veer says:

    There is only one question I have in this concept.

    The money to the child is divided into 3 and goes to
    a) current spending
    b) future goal
    c) charity

    I am wondering if this seems right. As an adult would/should we be splitting the money we earn the same way.

    Shouldn’t the individual ( or child ) decide how much needs to go in each bucket. I agree that charity is an essential part of finance, however, if you and I as adults might not give a third of our money to charity, is that what we should teach our children?

  81. Lisa says:

    I’ve thought about this a lot for the last couple days. IMO, 4 is way too young to be concerned with money. Sure, they are capable. But I want my kid to be a kid, not a small adult.
    She has her parents’ examples to follow and there are teachable moments. I never got an allowance and I’m doing just fine. I think the all-mighty-dollar is worshiped enough so I don’t need to encourage it. I don’t think a kid’s financial future will be ruined if I wait til 10, 12, or 16 to explicitly teach money management.

  82. Pattie, RN says:

    “Before I was married I had six theories on raising children. Now I have six children and no theories”……John Wilmont

  83. Sandy says:

    As for savings, we opened up a savings account at our local bank for both of our daughters as babies/toddlers. I always put their gift money in there (never more than $5-10 at a time…we don’t come from wealth!)and since they started receiving allowances, then babysitting and other small jobs, I’ve trotted them down to the bank every month or 2. They have a special envelope at home that they keep all receipts in from the bank, and any money the want to put in savings. I tell them the day before we go, and they can ponder how much of their money that has (hopefully) accumulated over a time should go into savings. Sometimes it’s $5, sometimes it’s $100…depending upon their circumstances. But they have never said that they weren’t going to put anything in. I have never commented on how much the deposit was.
    Also, as soon as they could write legibly, they wrote out the deposit slip at the bank. I would check it over to make sure everything was in the right place (and still do for my 11 year old). But they have the whole process down pat…and they LOVE seeing their balances increase over time. The teller always recognizes them and gives them a special smile when they come in…cute!

  84. Marsha says:

    $2/week for a 4-year-old does sound like a lot.

    The observations by several posters that “no one gets paid simply for existing” are kind of funny. Actually, when I think about it, it seems like children get everything simply for existing – as they are supposed to! And by “everything” I mean shelter, food, clothing, and some minimal level of toys or entertainment – I don’t mean everything they want. At least I think that’s one way to look at it.

    When you insert an allowance into the equation, the matter just switches from the child having to go through a parent to request and get approval for purchases versus making those decisions directly.

  85. Tordr says:

    I think this is a great idea. I would love to hear how it goes.

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