Allowance for Children: More Than a Lesson on Paper

I thought I had a theory regarding allowance, until I had to put my theory into motion with my own child.

What I learned was that my husband had his own theory and shockingly, I had mine. This caused conflict as to how we wanted to present allowance to our nine-year-old son.

My philosophy is that allowance should not be paid for normal work and chores, but for work or activities done above the basic chores: make bed, pick up toys, put clothes and dishes in appropriate places. I’ve always explained to the family that we are 4 people, each participating members in our home, each with an equal responsibility to take care of it.

My husband’s philosophy is that allowance should be paid for basic chores, but he was very open-minded, understood my philosophy, and was willing to compromise. The next subject was which chores were eligible for allowance credit.

When I first said, “Wash the car once a week,” my husband disagreed. He felt it was too big of a job, and what if we were travelling one weekend? Should my son lose his ability to do his chore and earn his allowance? More conversations like this ensued. Finally our debates led me to a parenting specialist.  

My husband and I have agreed that we are not going to give an allowance for basic chores, but we are torn as to what to assign and for how much.” I also explained how we had determined that my son was to do 4 things per day, 7 days a week, to earn his allowance. The parenting specialist nearly fell off her chair laughing, saying,I can’t even remember to do 4 things in a day. That’s too much for your son. Too much pressure.” She guided me to 4 things a week.

So my husband and I came up with a list of chores that I think are really creative, different and unique to our household that will allow our son to accomplish them even when we travel:

  • Write a good sentence in Italian.

  • Write a good sentence in Spanish.

  • Write a complicated math problem and solve it with Papa’.

  • Read a book to your brother and write the title in your journal.

Then we got to the subject of how much. My husband said, “Ten dollars,” and I said, “Five.” My husband also wanted $3 to go to charity. We are in complete disagreement. I go back to the parenting specialist, who pretty much fell off her chair again, saying, What is it that we’re trying to teach? I think $10 a week is fine, but nothing to charity for now. Let’s pick the lesson we’re trying to impart on the child.

Even as a money manager, I really have to think through the process and consider the family’s needs in determining the chores, the amount and delivering the message to my child. Everyone has different ideas, but even in your own financial planning, it’s important to walk through the options. Throw everything on the table; no idea is a bad idea.

What options are you leaving off the table in your own home?

Since then, ironically, my son has forgotten about requirements and the reward behind them. I am sure this subject will arise again. When it does, I will be ready. Until then, I still enjoy reading the books to Nicola and having them help me wash the cars.

Jennifer Failla, CDFA™
Principal, Strada Wealth Management
Toll Free: 866.526.7098