Fribble Allowable Allowance

August 23, 2000

The words of many a "child expert" say that it's OK to pay your little youngster an allowance but not to tie the money to a specific chore. They say that household chores are a way for children to learn to contribute to the family.

But I'm not one to take advice from experts on blind faith.

Recommendations from the Wise always warrant an investigation. Knowing I was up against the full force of the professional child psychological community, I put on my thinking cap (or should I say my stylish FOOL ballcap) and started to practice some due diligence.

Why pay kids for chores? First, let's take a look at the allowance. Even the experts agree that kids need to be exposed to money at an early age to learn financial responsibility. This much I agree with. But what does an allowance teach? It gives your child money so that they can spend or save it. But saving and spending are only two out of the three legs of my Foolish stool. The last critical aspect in teaching kids financial responsibility is how to EARN money. By giving an unearned allowance to a kid, you are merely giving them a handout. Is this the trait you want your kids to learn?

What about teaching family responsibility? What better lesson in life can you teach your kids than by demonstrating to them that if you work hard, you will be rewarded for your efforts? The harder you work the greater the reward. Money seems to be the universal reward that transcends all age groups. Giving your three-year old a quarter for the bubble gum machine for helping you set the table is just as important as giving your teen $5 for washing dishes for a week. They both learned the importance of working for money.

Am I alone on this position? Nope, a survey conducted in May 1993 by Louis Harris & Associates for Liberty Financial's Young Investor reported that 77% of kids receive an allowance for doing chores. The highest area reported was that 81% of all 8th graders had to use a little elbow grease before any palms were greased.

So I'll just sit on my three-legged stool and teach my kids to practice responsibility with money and not let the "experts" say that feeling responsible is more important.