To pay or not to pay your kids?

Marketplace Contributor Jun 15, 2012

To pay or not to pay your kids?

Marketplace Contributor Jun 15, 2012

Tess Vigeland: One issue that befuddles fathers — and mothers — from all walks of life is that whole allowance thing. Should you make the kids work for it? And what kind of pay day are we talking about?

Commentator Dan Zevin says the calculus isn’t as easy as it might seem.

Dan Zevin: I was driving my son home from his buddy’s ninth birthday, and I asked him why he seemed upset.

“Everyone else gets an allowance,” Leo told me. “Why don’t I get an allowance?”

Before I became a dad, I never cared about keeping up with the Joneses. But keeping up with the Joneses’ kids? Let me put it this way: Now both of my children are getting an allowance.

But they don’t always remind me to pay up. They have to clean their rooms if they want to collect. When you put your kids on the payroll, there are still just two business models: Parents who make their kids do stuff, and parents who don’t.

“Justin gets $20,” Leo said last Sunday, as I handed him two.

“Twenty bucks a week?! What he does he do for that?”

“He doesn’t have to do anything,” Leo said. “Except save it. If he saves up $500, his parents are going to let him buy a stock.”

Oh, so Justin’s dad is teaching his kid about investing, and I don’t know, dividends, while I’m over here shelling out a couple of bucks if my kids put their socks in the hamper.

“All right. I’ll give you nine bucks a week,” I told Leo. It was a 78 percent pay hike, but, according to my sister, who accused me of unfair labor practices, the rule of thumb is one dollar for every year of their age. This was also good news for my daughter Josie, who recently turned six.

“Yay!” she said. “Now I can buy an iTouch!”

“An iTouch? You’re in kindergarten. What are you going to do with an iTouch?”

“Text messages,” said Josie.

It was then that I understood the real issue with an allowance isn’t how you give it, it’s how they spend it.

“Who are you going to text?” I asked Josie.

“You,” she said.

“Oh really, and what are you going to text to me?”

“‘Hi daddy,'” she said. “‘I love you.'”

Ah what the hell, kid wants an iTouch, let her have an iTouch. After all, it’s her money.

Check out our story: Teen summer jobs: Whose money is it, anyway?

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