KristiLyn Wilkinson, M.S.
Empowering Financial Wellness Program Manager
I think this is one of the most debated topics among financial experts when it comes to teaching children about money, and there are some pretty strong opinions on both sides. The debate stems from two main schools of thought:
1- Allowance should be tied to chores because in the real world you have to work for money and,
2- Allowance should not be tied to chores because children won’t learn to be self-motivated, contributing members of the family if they expect to get paid for everything they do.
If you’ve been here long, you’ve heard us say about 50,000 times that personal finance is PERSONAL. There are often best practices and tricks of the trade to help you be successful, but there is not a one-size fits all that works for everyone- or for every child for that matter. I’m not going to tell you which of these theories is right, because SPOILER ALERT, you can raise money responsible children using either method or by doing a combination of both! What I want to do instead is give you a few things to consider when deciding which approach will work best for your family.
The first thing is to be aware of is your specific child and their personality- and just a heads up, every child is going to be different and have their own. Some children are not motivated by money, so if you tie allowance to chores and tell them they won’t get their allowance if they don’t do their chores, they might not care and then you have stuff growing in the bathroom that they are supposed to be cleaning.
Some households like to marry the two ideas and say, “because you are a member of this household, you will do certain jobs to help take care of the house, and because you are a member of this household you will also receive an allowance. If you want to earn more money, here is a list of ‘extra’ jobs you can do to earn money.”
I personally grew up in a house where there was a specific dollar amount tied to the chores we were expected to do. We could also earn extra money by mowing the lawn or washing the blinds and baseboards, etc. This system worked well for me. My younger sister, however, came along and she was not motivated by money at all. My mom had to change her tactic to get my sister to still do chores around the house and learn to manage her own money. And guess what, we are both functioning members of society, contributing to retirement accounts, living within our means, and avoiding debt.
If something isn’t working for you then try a different approach. In my opinion, I think it is more important to have money conversations with your children and give them the opportunity to manage their own money than it matters what exact system or method you use to teach that principle. The secret to success is to keep it simple so everyone can stick with it!
If you feel overwhelmed at the prospect of teaching your kids about money or knowing where to start- look first at your values and goals and what you want your children to know about money. Then, think about what systems you could implement to teach your kids those values. How you teach those values might look different from your neighbor, but hey, some kids learn hard work and dedication by growing up on a farm and some kids learn it by being involved in sports. There are often multiple roads to the same outcome. Good luck raising financially savvy children! We are rooting for you!
References: Jewkes, M. (2009). Teaching Children Money Management. Teaching Children Money Management (usu.edu)
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