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Parenting: Whats A Good Allowance? How to teach your children REAL money lessons.

When I was a kid, we didn’t get an allowance. Sure, we could earn some things from doing extra chores, or get a little bit of an allowance on vacation to buy a souvenir or something extra, but weekly or monthly just for doing things? Nope.

I want to give you parents some idea of what the typical American gives their children, what the typical American pays their children, and some ways to build an entrepreneurial and financially sound mind in your children.

My Dad is a business man. He has managed for JC Penny’s, Home Depot, Toys ‘R’ Us, and some other similar businesses. He’s also worked in sales, selling software and hardware solutions to governments and schools. Needless to say, he worked hard.

And we worked hard…

 

We weeded gardens, helped plant trees, I learned how to make straight rows, and we cleaned our entire house each week. The six of us children had the house organized into six ‘zones’ we would rotate cleaning. We had a rotating list of household chores too; sweeping floors, dust fans, take out garbage, wash dishes, set table for meals, mow lawn, etc.

This isn’t about cleaning though, this is about money, and how parents think about and use it. My friends at COUNTRY Financial whipped up this lovely little chart for me.

Chore U.S. Average
Mowing the Lawn $6.28
Cleaning the Garage $5.20
Doing Laundry $2.82
Cleaning a Common Area $2.72
(i.e. living room, dining room, kitchen, etc.)
Be Responsible for a Pet $2.66
(i.e. feeding, walking, cleaning up after it)
Vacuuming / Cleaning Floors $2.55
Cleaning Surfaces $2.20
(i.e. dusting or washing countertops)
Cleaning the Bedroom $2.07
Doing the Dishes $2.03
Taking Out the Garbage $1.90
Setting the Table $1.31
Making the Bed $1.18

Americans are pretty good about wanting to teach their children about finance, but they want to teach it for the wrong reasons.

68 percent of Americans believe children should receive an allowance for completing chores. Furthermore, of the people who are currently providing kids with an allowance, more than half (54 percent) did so to teach their children money needs to be earned. A further 22 percent wanted to teach their kids the value of money, while only 12 percent said it was to teach them financial independence.

A Proper Allowance

$0. That’s just a fact. I’m being honest! Don’t give your kids money just for the sake of money.

The best reason to create and utilize a chore / payment type system is to teach your children that money is earned and that they can be financially independent. I’m not saying you should or shouldn’t pay your kids to do their chores, but at least having them do chores will help you teach them.

Independence

Independence is a skill that is taught, much like optimism, cooking breakfast, or welding. It takes time, patience, and a good teacher.

I recently was listening to Radical Personal Finance and his podcast about what he’s planning to teach his children when they turn 8 years old. His ideas were great! Here are a few of my own ideas too.

Teaching Skills

Spend time teaching your kids employable skills. They can learn to pull weeds, paint fences, sew dresses, clean toilets, cut wood, rake leaves, mow lawns, trim trees, keep pets, and more. Realize that each skill is something a child can do to make a dollar too! My father from a very young age would point out to me things I did that others would pay me to do.

I loved computers, and learned data systems pretty quick. Dad paid me to use his client database online: updating his contacts, notes, follow up appointments, leads, and referrals. He’d email them to me in a big spreadsheet as frequently as needed. He taught me that I could make money with my skills.

My dad at the age of 13 took me to the Flying Wrench class on fixing small engines. The next several summers I brought several lawnmowers back from the dead, replaced blades, fixed carburettors, shear pins, broken oil tanks, and a million other small repairs. Dad’s $75 investment was worth it.

Teaching Entrepreneurship

You can cultivate the idea of entrepreneurship and business in a child. Who hasn’t done a lemonade stand? Let’s think bigger though. I read an article about a child who negotiated with his neighbours to talk their garbage out every trash day for a quarter. Talk about a business! If a 10 year old kid has 50 garbage cans, that’s $12.50 every time he takes out the trash! My dad taught me some valuable lessons about entrepreneurship.

When I was about 15, a fellow home-schooling family, which produced educational materials, had a shortage in little wooden catapults. After a short debate and a set on price per kit produced, a delivery of two-by-fours and wooden sheets arrived.

marshmallow-catapult_lrg
The Ultimate Catapult

I hired my siblings and got to work. I learned to keep a time sheet, to negotiate work schedules (okay, I’m dreaming a little bit), to build positive relationships, to use saws, drills, and sanders, and how to mass produce for time efficiency. Thanks, Dad. I ended up making about $25 an hour based on how much we were paid vs how much we worked on our time sheet.

There are so many ways to make money! Joshua Sheats from Radical Personal Finance says to build the entrepreneurial spirit, why not pay your neighbour to pay your kid to clean their bathroom? Why not see if your kid will take all those extra apricots from your tree and sell them to neighbours? They can learn to negotiate, they can learn about selling. They can learn about commissions. Tell them that you get a cut because it’s your tree. Or you get a piece of it because you bought the lawnmower. My friend Flia from the guest post told me that her brother outright bought his own lawnmower. That’s an entrepreneur.

Cultivating a successful atmosphere

How do you create that success in your child? It takes some commitment as a parent. It takes genuine desire for your child to become great and independent. You have to give them a vision and work at it every day. You also have to be an example.

I’m not a parent yet, but I’m grateful for the example my mother is. My mother made her own way. She paid for school working three jobs and paid for piano, voice, guitar, and cheerleading on her own. What a REAL entrepreneur. She had a dream. When you have a dream, you can accomplish amazing things. She is an example to me by always teaching piano, guitar, voice, and volunteering her time to what she loves. Storytelling is her passion, and she started her own scary story contest, and her own Utah’s Biggest Liar’s CompetitionAnd she has 6 children.

Last Words

I’m calling for parents to look for ways to craft their children into financial freedom, independence, and the ability to find satisfying work that will give them optimism, control, and confidence.

Share with me how you’re doing that! Share with me what your parents taught you!
[email protected]

 

-Jacob Brad Johnson
Jacob is a student of Personal Financial Planning at Utah Valley University. He enjoys counselling fellow students at UVU’s MMRC, volunteering for the Timpanogas storytelling festival, and late night taco runs. He wears a pink tie to church every first sunday of the month, and loves to share his favorite financial tips, tricks and ideas weekly on his blog.

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Thanks Dad!

I love to collaborate on podcasts and projects!

-Thanks to many friends and family who weighed in on this post! I feel so supported by the amazing writers and bloggers I know!