Our first experiences with money are how it is managed in our own home. Since my children were young, we have tried to share age appropriate information with them about our finances and expose them to real life money management. One way to do this is with an allowance. While it can be debated that children should receive an allowance, most parents would agree that teaching our children financial responsibility is important.
In my home, utilizing an allowance has been a valuable teaching tool. According to T.Rowe Price, 70% of families would agree. But while the majority of parents are giving an allowance, the way this is managed can vary from home to home. Things to consider include the child’s age, the family income, and how the allowance can be earned and spent.
So when is a good age to start an allowance? As young as elementary school, children can distinguish between wants and needs. When deciding on the amount to give a child, the guidelines vary. Whatever the amount, parents should consider the family budget and the “wants” of the child. The allowance should be enough to get some of the “wants” but allow room for growth and savings. Children should have to make some sacrifices, but not to the measure that all motivation is lost.
Even more disputed than the idea of providing an allowance, is how the allowance itself is managed. In speaking with other parents, I found a general agreement on the concept that basic chores should not be compensated. Some refer to this division as “personal chores” or. “family chores” and describe the personal chores as basic responsibilities for each household member. Some of the ways parents distribute allowance are:
- providing a weekly, set amount of money that is not tied to chores or completed jobs
- providing a commision based pay, or pay based on the percentage of completed chores
- providing pay on a “per job” basis
- providing pay for grades with higher grades earning greater pay
- providing pay for “good deeds”, or acts of kindness in the home
No matter the amount of the allowance or the way it is distributed, there are age appropriate chores for all children. Based on general developmental principles, the following age groups are capable of the chores listed. This list is not extensive and it should be noted that chores can be carried over when a child moves to the next age group.
Age 2-3- assist in making bed, picking up toys with supervision, taking dirty clothes to the laundry room
Age 4-5- making own bed with minimal help, setting the table, helping prepare food with help, hanging up clothes with help, dusting, helping to care for a pet
Age 6-7- writing thank you notes with help, being responsible for a pet, vacuuming, emptying indoor trashcans, folding and putting away laundry, emptying the dishwasher with supervision
Age 8-11- keeping room clean, waking up using an alarm clock, being responsible for homework, washing dishes, preparing a few easy meals independently, raking leaves, learning to use the washer and dryer
Age 12-13- writing invitations and thank you notes, changing bed sheets, cleaning bathrooms, preparing an occasional family meal
Age 14-15- managing all homework assignments and studying without prompting, yard work as needed, babysitting
Age 16-18- earning and manage spending money, being responsible for purchasing clothes, house work and yard work as needed, planning and preparing meals, responsible for maintaining the car they drive (gas, oil, tire pressure, etc)
Educating our children about finances is one of the the greatest protections we can offer as parents. Utilizing an allowance is a valuable tool to engage children in finance management and critical thinking about money. No matter the method of allowance distribution or the amount, starting these conversations early and having them often is worthwhile.