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.