Money

The Times Herald (Norristown, PA) - - BUSI­NESS -

poor, but my dad quit smok­ing to give me $10 a week in high school to use for spend­ing or to buy my lunches. There was no fi­nan­cial ed­u­ca­tion, and I paid the price by get­ting in over my head on credit card debt in col­lege.”

A lot of peo­ple swear by the power of the al­lowance.

“In my opin­ion, the most im­por­tant as­pect about al­lowances is it teaches young chil­dren about choices and em­pow­ers them to make choices,” one reader wrote.

Folks be­lieve an al­lowance teaches kids about nat­u­ral con­se­quences.

“If your teen doesn’t have money of her own and you are giv­ing it to her as she needs it, then she is not learn­ing how to de­lay grat­i­fi­ca­tion and save,” an­other reader wrote. “Give your teen an al­lowance and when they spend it all, it’s gone un­til the next al­lowance. I gave my teen an al­lowance once a month. At first, it was dif­fi­cult be­cause she wasn’t used to bud­get­ing, but a few months of spend­ing it all too soon cured that. Now she is re­ally great with her money.”

Here’s a conversation one mother said she had with her 7-year-old son.

Son: “Mom, what’s an al­lowance?”

Me: “It’s when some­one gives you money.”

Son: “For do­ing noth­ing?” Me: “Yes.” Son: “Why would any­one do that?” Me: “Good ques­tion!” What’s the com­mon de­nom­i­na­tor in the com­ments from the par­ents? They were talk­ing to their chil­dren about money. You use an al­lowance as an op­por­tu­nity to have fi­nan­cial dis­cus­sions and re­lay your fam­ily val­ues. But the talks can oc­cur with­out the tool.

My hus­band and I gave our three chil­dren al­lowances some­times, but mostly we didn’t. When­ever our chil­dren, who are still young enough to rely on our sup­port, need or want money, we talk. Some­times, it’s a quick conversation. Other times, it’s a, “why don’t you sit down” type of di­a­logue. They groan, of course, but our money comes with a teach­able mo­ment. Ev­ery. Sin­gle. Time.

With two of our chil­dren in col­lege and one headed there in the fall, they earn enough from part-time jobs that their fi­nan­cial re­quests for per­sonal ex­penses have greatly di­min­ished. They make money mis­takes. They re­gret pur­chases. But de­spite liv­ing, for the most part, an al­lowance­free child­hood, they are ex­cel­lent money man­agers.

There’s no power in an al­lowance alone. You raise money-smart chil­dren by con­stantly en­gag­ing them in dis­cus­sions about how to save and spend the money you give them. And by mod­el­ing fi­nan­cial re­spon­si­bil­ity your­self.

Give an al­lowance, don’t give one — it’s re­ally up to you. But in ei­ther case, it’s your in­ter­ac­tions that make the dif­fer­ence. Readers can write to Michelle Sin­gle­tary c/o The Wash­ing­ton Post, 1301 K St., N.W., Wash­ing­ton, D.C. 20071. Her email ad­dress is michelle.sin­gle­tary@ wash­post.com. Fol­low her on Twit­ter (@ Sin­gle­taryM) or Face­book (www.face­book.com/ MichelleSin­gle­tary). Com­ments and ques­tions are wel­come, but due to the vol­ume of mail, per­sonal re­sponses may not be pos­si­ble. Please also note com­ments or ques­tions may be used in a fu­ture col­umn, with the writer’s name, un­less a spe­cific re­quest to do oth­er­wise is in­di­cated.

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