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Allowance and chores: Yes or no?

Chris Farrell Jun 14, 2011

Question: I have always given my kids an allowance and I have not tied the money to chores. I think chores are jobs you have to do because you are part of the family and you have a responsibility to the family. I am concerned that my children seem to have an entitlement mentality. My older daughter who is 19 has an outside job for the first time but has never seemed to have tried very hard to find work. I never received an allowance and as soon as I turned 16, I got part-time work so I could have spending money. Is there any research available that indicates whether it is better to tie chores to an allowance or not? Thanks. Catherine, Tallahassee, FL

Answer: Want to start a passionate discussion among a group of parents? Ask them about how they handle allowance. Parents and experts alike disagree on whether to give an allowance, how much to give, and whether to tie the allowance to chores. The research doesn’t settle the question. “Money for chores. Boy, that’s that age old question,” says Nathan Dungan, founder and president of Share Save Spend. “I think you have to pick what works in your family.”

He’s right. Like you, my bias when kids are young is to separate an allowance from household chores. Those are jobs that come from being a part of a family. However, I know many wonderful parents that do just that and it’s fine.

I found it difficult with all the demands of home and work to maintain the more involved allowance system, say dividing it into pots for saving, spending and giving. Yet once again, other parents manage to run an allowance system with 1/3 for immediate spending, 1/3 for savings, and1/3 that could be spent only after it accumulated to a certain amount. (The last third can also be set aside for charitable giving.)

However, I think there is an area of agreement as children get older. The allowance comes with certain responsibilities, such as paying for their own haircuts. And the Bank of Parent isn’t open for business if they blow it. One way to avoid children developing an entitlement mentality is holding firm against acting as their personal ATM when they blow through their allowance. Just say, no.

By the way, I’m not sure if this is true in your case, but one reason why young adults like your daughter may not be driven to earn as much is that they don’t have to. An older generation wasn’t as well off as we are today (despite the current economic troubles). There wasn’t much money in the Bank of Parent, so if a teenager wanted some spending money they had to go out and earn it. We spend more on our kids and their activities today than an earlier generation.

Another good money management learning exercise when they’re in high school is to give them a budget and send them off to buy their clothes for the school year. They’ll make mistakes. You’ll have to live with some of their choices. But that’s also how they learn about money before leaving home.

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