The topic of allowances can get surprisingly contentious. On one end of the allowance spectrum are parents who don’t believe in the idea. They point out that in life no one is going to just give our kids money; they have to earn it. So they require certain chores of their kids for no pay and then they provide jobs their children can do if they want to earn money. Or, like James and Amanda, in addition to the chores their kids have to do for no pay, there are two levels of paid chores—mandatory and optional.
Our friends Keith and “Cag” (Caroline) raised their four kids on a no-allowance system where there were mandatory no-pay jobs and optional for- pay jobs. From a young age, their kids’ eagerness to earn prompted them to get outside-the-family jobs, delivering newspapers early in the morning before school, mowing lawns, babysitting, and working in a sandwich shop. Cag credits this system for instilling within each of their kids a “massive work ethic.”
That’s been James and Amanda’s experience as well. “Our fifth grader will ask me, ‘Can I do this chore? I’m saving for something,’” James said. “That’s been great to see, as opposed to, ‘I’d like this. Can you buy it for me?’”
In our home, our kids have long been expected to do their part around the house because they’re part of the family. That means taking turns setting the table, clearing the dishwasher, vacuuming, and more. We also provided an allowance for each of our kids beginning at age five because they’re part of the family.
The size of the allowance was enough to help them learn some early lessons about managing money, such as how to set aside portions for giving and saving. At the same time, we made sure the amount we gave wasn’t enough to buy very much. If they wanted something more expensive, they needed to earn the money by doing extra chores.
At age twelve, their allowance ended. We figured they were old enough to do bigger paid jobs, either for us or for others, such as mowing lawns or caring for neighbors’ dogs. They are still required to do certain chores because they are part of the family and are still expected to give and save, but these actions now flow out of their early training and their own initiative.
Keep the Big Picture in Mind
There are a few interrelated learning experiences going on here:
- Cultivating within our children a strong work ethic
- Bringing money into the equation to help them connect payment with a job well done
- Giving them hands-on experience managing money
There is no single correct way to get money into our kids’ hands. Some families provide an allowance. For others, that word must never be spoken; the only way to receive money is to earn it. I know of kids raised under both systems who have turned out just fine. So don’t stress over this point or think that you have to choose the perfect and right answer to this question. Instead, prayerfully decide with your spouse what sort of chore/money system you will set up. Then implement your plan and stay with it.
A Modest Proposal
This article is an excerpt from my new book, Trusted: Preparing Your Kids for a Lifetime of God-Honoring Money Management. I’m so grateful for the opportunity to have written this book and so excited about the opportunity to come alongside of parents to encourage and equip them to point their kids down a good, biblical path in their use of money. There is so much good that God could bring about in and through kids who get the money thing right at an early age! In that spirit, could I ask a couple of things of you?
First, if you have kids at home, would you pick up a copy of “Trusted”? It’s available at Amazon, Christianbook.com, and Focus on the Family. I truly believe the book will be a great blessing to your family.
If you’ve already purchased a copy of “Trusted,” would you post a review about it on Amazon? It doesn’t have to be lengthy. Just let people know what you found helpful. Reviews (positive, of course!) matter greatly in motivating others to buy.
Last, would you spread the word about the book? Tell your friends, co-workers, or neighbors about it. Put up a recommendation on Facebook. Let your church family pastor or stewardship director know about the book.
I’d be grateful for anything you can do to partner with me in helping today’s young people get on a good, God-honoring path with money as soon as possible. I didn’t start learning how to manage money until I had mismanaged a lot of money. I’d love to spare today’s young people all that time and pain. Even more importantly, helping today’s children develop biblical financial perspectives and practices will positively impact their relationship with Christ, their relationship with their future spouse, and so much more.
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