Written by  Patrice C. Washington


Should Your Kids Get An Allowance?

Here are several easy ways to teach your children the value of a dollar the right way.

Most money experts agree that children should be given an allowance in order to learn financial skills. I disagree. Children should earn money as we do. And, most importantly, they must be taught what to do with the money once it’s received.

I frequently speak on high school and college campuses and meet young people who have never worked a day in their lives. At 21 years old, many still somehow believe that money either really is grown on trees or that it magically falls from the clouds. There is a distinct disconnect between young people and this foreign concept of earning money.

We have created a sickly bunch of young people whose ailment is a very false sense of entitlement. They’ve been poisoned by privileges afforded to them by parents who “don’t want their kids to go through what they went through.” But we should use our experiences to empower our children with the tools and resources that will help them successfully navigate through this world; not give them a false sense of reality.  Duh. That's what reality TV shows are for.


Doing this doesn’t help them. It enables them, and it robs the world of the efforts of someone who will approach life’s challenges with independent creativity; not be complacent with the comfort of knowing that Mommy and Daddy are always just a phone call away.

Allowance VS Earning

A majority of the students I meet understand that they are in college to hopefully become productive citizens who earn a living.  The problem is, however, they really have no idea of how that whole process works. Why? Because for their entire lives they’ve been given money for things they should technically do anyway (i.e. be respectful, clean their bedroom, empty trash and earn good grades). On top of all that they receive annual raises for simply getting older. Eh, let’s see. . . .when’s the last time you got a raise for keeping a tidy office, showing up to work on time or just having a birthday? . . . oh, okay. Just checking!

Here’s the deal with paying for stuff your kids should do anyway: Once they have other streams of income, like a part-time job or birthday money from Grandma, they’ll draw a blank when you expect them to do chores at home. Why should they clean up for you when they just got “free money” for doing nothing?

Kids should earn money, just like you do. Sorry kids. Basic household chores are just your contribution to the family. It goes like this:

I feed you. You do the dishes.

I drive you to school. You wash my car.

You walk around my house. You vacuum.

You asked for a little brother or sister. I gave you one. Now, you babysit.

See where I’m going with this?

Now, any task over and beyond doing basic household chores is where the earning potential comes in. As parents we take on the burden of having to get so many things done in any given week. What can your kids help with? Need someone to file papers? Do you need a closet or drawer organized? Get creative. We know kids need money, but how can you teach them a valuable lesson and get both party’s needs met?

Make Kids Responsible With Money

Another downfall of this entire allowance thing is that many parents implement an allowance with no expectation for how the child should manage the money. In the real world, we don’t earn a paycheck and then still have the luxury of someone else paying our bills.

As parents we may be responsible for the basics, but kids who earn money should become responsible for the frills. Let me tell you how my mom would do it. We’d discuss upfront how much she “believed” something should cost. If what I wanted went over that amount, I was responsible for the balance and the taxes!  Talk about lessons that last a lifetime! This method quickly taught me how fast money could go when I was buying things just to keep up with the Joneses'. After every trip to the mall, my mom was fine. She spent only what she wanted to. Nothing more. No hard feelings . . . on her part, at least.

The article “Teens and Their Spending Habits” suggests that parents “make kids responsible for their spending. If your child has a cell phone, require them to earn the money to pay for the extras such as texting and accessories. If your child is of driving age, help teach them responsibilities of driving by having them pay for insurance and other incidentals.”

You are not going to kill your kids by teaching them how to be responsible with money. What are you protecting them from. . . real life? They need to know the importance of living beneath their means, giving and saving. If we wait until they're leaving for college to get the conversation started, we’re missing an essential part of the job of preparing them for adulthood.

Patrice C. Washington is the personal finance blogger at For daily financial news, advice and tips with an urban twist, follow her on Twitter at @SeekWisdomPCW.


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