Should children get an allowance?


We can’t cite a specific study, but Life 101 teaches us this basic statistic: All kids enjoy having money.

There’s always a new toy to play with, or that hot movie to see or a cool new phone app to download.

Where does that money come from? Unless they are old enough to hold a paying job or lucky enough to have access to an unlimited trust fund, they make those cash withdrawals from the bank of Mom and Dad.

And in many households, that money comes in the form of an allowance.

Seventy percent of parents choose to give their children an allowance, according to the 2017 Allowance Report by Rooster Money.

The average allowance is $8.74. But the figure can vary widely by household and increases incrementally by age, according to the same survey.

At age four, the earliest age surveyed, the average weekly allowance is $3.76. That increases to $12.26 by age 14.


The case for an allowance

Clearly, the majority of parents support the idea of giving an allowance. And there are many reasons why.

Financial experts cite several benefits, including the chance to practice basic math skills, develop independence and personal responsibility and learn firsthand the consequences of spending choices.

“We used to give our boys allowances,’’ reported the mother of two now grown sons. “It was intended to teach them how to manage their money. They were expected to use the allowance as spending money for items that they wanted. ‘’

With two sons came two different approaches. “If my older son got his and immediately spent it on the latest shiny object that caught his eye, but my younger son saved his up and was able to purchase something really good that he'd been wanting for a long time, that was a lesson in patience versus immediate gratification.’’

Buying something with their own money rather than having it handed to them builds work ethic, another mother said.

“If they have worked for a toy, it will most likely be more appreciated,’’ she reported.

And an allowance in childhood can reap lifetime rewards, she hopes. “Teaching children to budget their money early on will help them to manage their earnings when they are older and working,’’ she said.


Not so fast

But not every parent agrees. For some children, an allowance can cause them to develop a sense of entitlement about money and be less likely to work outside the home once they hit their teens, some financial advisors say.

One parent of three children does not give a specific allowance.

“We do allow them to ‘work’ for money if they want to buy something. That has created kids that will ask if there is anything they can do to earn money, instead of just asking for things. We will give them chores beyond the usual in that case,’’ she said.

Another woman interviewed for this article recalled having regular chores when she was a child, no allowance offered. But she did make some bank if she performed additional tasks, such as cleaning and dusting.

“I had to ask when I needed money and they would arbitrarily decide yea or nay. Really made me want to get a job as soon as I was able,’’ she said in hindsight.


Factors to consider

Obviously whether to give an allowance and how much to hand over is a personal decision, but there are some universal truths to consider.

Your child is watching you. If you tell them they have to save money for what they want but they hear you say “We can’t really afford that now, but we can put it on a credit card,’’ they are learning a very dangerous lesson.

Financial literacy is important. Buying a car. Paying for an education. Purchasing a home. Managing a household budget. Planning for retirement. Life involves an endless series of financial transactions, some of them requiring sacrifice and hard choices. Building those skills early will help them flex their financial muscle successfully.

Childhood is time for teaching lessons toward adulthood, but don’t forget the importance of fun. Parents should teach the importance of saving diligently and spending wisely from a young age. But an occasional splurge – a Disney trip or tickets to a Red Sox game – can serve as a bonding experience that children will remember forever.

And that, as much as financial learning, is priceless. 


What is your experience in giving children an allowance? Share your tips, opinions and ideas below! 


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About Author

Sandra Quadros Bowles
Sandra Quadros Bowles

Sandy Quadros Bowles is a veteran journalist who has received local, state, and national journalism awards. A resident of New Bedford, MA, she is an animal enthusiast, an avid reader, and an enthusiastic traveler.

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