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Parents: Here's Why You Shouldn't Give Your Kids Money for Chores

By Motley Fool Staff – May 28, 2018 at 10:15AM

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Beth Kobliner, author of "Make Your Kid a Money Genius (Even If You're Not),” reveals five common ways that our instincts lead us to teach our children the wrong lessons about money.

Many times in parenting, we are given a single piece of advice, though it may be phrased in a variety of ways: "Go with your instinct." "Trust your gut." "You'll know in your heart what to do." The problem, sadly, is that quite a few of those instincts are way off base when it comes to matters of money. What we really need is to know when we should stop trusting our intuition.

So, for this episode of the Motley Fool Answers podcast, Robert Brokamp and Alison Southwick invited New York Times best-selling author Beth Kobliner into the studio to give all the moms and dads in the audience some great tips on how to raise financially savvy offspring -- specifically, tips that run counter to what your first instincts might be. In this segment, she tackles the common -- but mistaken -- idea that it's best to tie your kids' allowance to doing chores.

A full transcript follows the video.

This video was recorded on May 15, 2018.

Robert Brokamp: Great thing to do, partially because financial literacy is not actually so high in our country. So, what do parents do? They rely on their gut instincts, and you have five instincts that parents might have that actually are pretty flawed. Let's go over those. The first instinct is "I give kids money for chores."

Beth Kobliner: Right. Parents think, "How else am I going to get my kids to do work around the house, and then I can give them money for that." The problem is when you give kids money for chores, you're giving them the wrong incentive to do things that they should be doing without being paid. Stressing the idea where a team -- where a family -- all do daily chores. Empty the dishwasher. Making the bed.

Alison Southwick: No one pays me for that work.

Kobliner: Exactly. Exactly. Also, research shows that when kids do chores without being paid for those chores, those kids are more likely to hit milestones like graduating from school, and starting a career, even. It's the idea you're exercising that internal motivation, saying to your kid, "You're doing this because you're part of your family, and that's what you're doing."

And they learn to do things that have meaning and the sense of being a team player, rather than, "I'm doing it for the $4," because the next time they're going to start to negotiate. "I don't want to empty the dishwasher for $2 a week. I'm not going to do it anymore." I think it's important to make those rules clear to kids -- young kids -- and it's beneficial to them in the long run.

Brokamp: Should kids get any kind of allowance?

Kobliner: It's fine to give an allowance. I looked at the research -- dozens of studies -- and the bottom line is you don't have to give allowance. Sometimes parents get stressed out. I started allowance, and then I forgot to give it to them. That's OK, but then don't give allowance. Either do it, or don't do it. There's no one right answer, but if you do decide you want to give your kids money, keep it separate from chores.

But you do want to give them $10 a week, or whatever, to pay for their expenses, you have to do the four C's. You have to be clear on what it's for, you have to be consistent doing it regularly, you want to give them cash, because it's tangible. A lot of parents are asking me, "Should I do an app? Transfer money from my account to their account?" No, because then they don't see it. And the final thing is you don't want to tie it to chores, so those are the four C's.

Brokamp: I've always had a challenge with this with me, my wife, and our kids, because [a] I agree with everything you said, but No. 1, we don't always have cash. There are times when the kids want their allowance and we don't have the cash, and No. 2, some fuzziness about what they have to buy vs. what we, as parents, should be buying.

Kobliner: That's the tricky part, and that's the first C of being clear. I have definitely been guilty of this myself. First, my daughter is younger. "OK, we're going to give you an allowance." You have to buy your friends presents, and then we're like, "Oh, we're sending our daughter to a birthday party, and she's not bringing a present because she ran out of money." You have to be realistic in your sense.

Also, what things cost. When I babysat we used to get $1 an hour. Now kids get $15 an hour. So, things cost more and adjusting for inflation in your head. But if you are really clear and say, "When you go out with your friends for pizza, or you go out on the weekends, that's on you." And really sticking to that.

And we did that with our kids in college. Really, this is what you're expected to pay, and we're going to take care of healthcare and books, but if you want to eat out off the meal plan, that's on you. And you have to save if you want to go with friends on a spring break skiing trip or whatever. That's also on you. Once you run out of that money, that's it.

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