I never got an allowance.
But I didn’t need one. My grandmother, who raised me, taught me most of what I needed to know about money by modeling good financial behavior.
She paid all her bills on time. She saved something from every paycheck she earned. My hatred of debt came from my Big Mama, who equated it to the devil.
One of the questions I often get from parents is whether they should give their children an allowance. My answer: It depends.
Creditcards.com released a survey recently that found just 40 percent of parents with children under 18 give them an allowance.
Last week I asked: Did getting an allowance as a child help you become a better money manager?
James Pritchett from Austin wrote, “We were poor and I received no allowance and never expected one. I did receive a dime from my aunt for every “A” I got in elementary school. I worked as a teenager and all through college. Saving was a goal even then and has continued all through my life.”
“Getting an allowance as a child made me a better money manager, but for all the wrong reasons,” wrote Chuck Anderson of Chesapeake, Va. “I was the oldest child and was given an allowance of $5 a week (1962-68) to cook for my two siblings and watch them and for minor house cleaning. Problem was my parents could never afford to pay it, so it just kept adding up. When it got high enough they would ask me what I wanted and they would then buy it on their credit card, which they did not pay off in full. What I learned: Don’t promise funds you don’t have, and don’t buy anything you can’t pay for in full, especially when you put it on a credit card. As a result I was able to retire with enough money in the bank to have a comfortable retirement.”
“I received an allowance from the time I was two or three years old until I got my first job at age 16,” wrote Jean L. Potuchek from Poland, Maine. “I do think the allowance experience made me a better money manager, in two ways. First was the lesson of trade-offs and deferred gratification. My first allowance — this was in the 1950s — was two cents per week. I mostly spent this at the little corner store across the street from our apartment. I could get two pieces of penny candy, or I could get four pieces if I chose the candies that were two for a penny. I think I occasionally managed the feat of saving for three weeks (a very long time for a preschooler!) to savor the delicious indulgence of a 5-cent chocolate ice cream cone. More important, though, was the way our allowances were dispensed. Each Thursday evening, my father would stop on the way home from his factory job to cash his paycheck. After supper, he would sit down at the dining room table and go through the process of dividing that cash among the budget envelopes that were designated for items such as rent, electricity, telephone, groceries, and insurance payments. As the last step in this process, little piles of coins were placed at the edge of the table for children’s allowances. Because this happened last, we children were all glued to the entire process and all grew up with a good understanding of budgeting. I have been a lifelong budgeter, and I credit my allowance and the budgeting lessons that went with it for my ability to successfully manage my personal finances.”
Steve Shafer of Wake Forest, N.C., wrote, “My parents gave allowances to my brother and me when we reached late elementary school age in the 1960s, starting at 50 cents per week and going up a bit each year (to around a dollar or a little more) until we each got after-school jobs in high school (brother in a grocery store, me in the public library). There were strings attached to the allowance. We had to do any chore my parents assigned, after being told to do so only once, and with no complaining. On Saturdays, when dad paid the allowances, we had to be present when mom gave the performance appraisals. If during the week she had to nag us to do something, or we had griped about it, then dad reduced the pay, usually by a dime per incident. My parents never told us specifics on how to spend our money. They occasionally asked if we thought something really was a good use of our money, but the decision was ours. They did say that the choices we made for our money reflected on our character. Today, my wife and I am retired. We live “beneath our means,” but we have zero debt, have a solid emergency fund, we travel now and then, give to several charities, support the educational savings for our little great-nieces, and enjoy our music hobbies. Wife asks me to do chores occasionally, and I try to do them the first time, without griping. Life feels secure for now, which is our retirement goal. Thanks, Mom and Dad.”
In all these stories, whether they got an allowance or not, what really mattered was what the parents did and didn’t say.
The Creditcards.com survey also found that 1 in 4 Americans said their parents didn’t provide them with any financial education.
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