Recently I read a story in the Huffington Post that made me cringe with disbelief. The article was about teaching kids to manage money and on some points I could agree. But then she made the following comment about parents who forget to give an allowance on a regular basis:
“So, skip the guilt trips and stop trying. How about this radical thought: When your kid needs money for something that you know he needs and you can afford, give it to him.
If it’s something he wants, he can take on little jobs (shoveling snow for neighbors, babysitting younger siblings, etc.) to save up to buy it.”
It is this kind of lazy thinking that has gotten America to the place we’re at right now, where kids leave home and have no idea how to manage a budget, use plastic without incurring debt or live within their means.
Let’s forget about the fact that there can be a pretty fine line between what a kid needs and wants. If they need a new pair of jeans, do they also need them to be name brand? The kid would certainly think so, but how about the parent? Seems like a pretty gray area to me. It is those gray areas that cause most parents to do exactly what the author recommends and GIVE UP. Are you kidding?
So, we should stop trying to teach kids about money because they’re going to learn it where, exactly? At school? That’s not at all likely as even the most well intentioned financial education classes are unable to give our kids what they really need – money to use for practice. For our kids to learn their abcs and basic math, they needed to practice. They needed to see the letters and work with the numbers. To believe that our kids can learn how to manage money without being given the opportunity to do so is irresponsible and wrong.
It could be argued that the author’s (oh yes, she’s writing a book) idea of an allowance might be where parents just randomly hand out money to kids who don’t do anything specifically to earn it. That isn’t our definition of an allowance and she doesn’t clarify what classifies an allowance in the studies she cites. Regardless, suggesting that parents just go out and buy what their kids need is teaching the kids nothing about the real world. Using an allowance as a tool becomes an excellent way to teach and, when done correctly, should be much more work for the child than the parent.
What do you think? Is giving a kid an allowance too much work? How does your family define “allowance?”