Should Kids Get Allowances? WCCO and a Good Question.

paydayRecently WCCO broadcast a story in their Good Question series about whether kids should get an allowance.  Good topic, poorly executed however.

I haven’t children so you might think I am not the person the criticize the story, but keep an open mind.  I don’t think this is that complicated.

Reporter Heather Brown relied a Nicole Middendorf, a financial adviser, as her expert resource.  A financial adviser might not be the last person I would choose to answer a question about kids and allowances, but I don’t think she would be the first either.

What’s happening here is simple confusion that happens all the time.  We mistakenly treat kids as little adults, which they are not.  Nicole Middendorf, I presume, advises adults and as a professional financial adviser, she likely advises adults who already possess some degree of financial sophistication and experience.

Kids, on the other hand, are different.  They are kids.

Will giving this kid a quarter a day help?

Will giving this kid a quarter a day help?

There is no shortage of advice about kids, money, and allowances, most promote the positive benefits of teaching kids about money, but I sense that it is too easy to think that passing the buck — literally and figuratively — to kids will teach them more.

Lewis Mandell, for example, has researched the issue and found no simple correlation between allowances and financial literacy.  It is worth a look.

But back to WCCO.  Middendorf’s advice struck me as subjective and somewhat arbitrary.  Why should kids divide their allowance into thirds for spending, saving, and charity?  And starting with an allowance when a kid is in pre-school?  She talks about teaching kids the difference between “wants” and “needs”, if we start giving pre-schoolers cash are we introducing them to questions of want and need a bit prematurely?

Don't Forget to Come BackMiddendorf wasn’t alone in offering questionable advice.  Is it smart, for example, to give kids money you would spend on them anyway — presumably for things like clothes — and let them decide how to spend it?  What, exactly does that teach children?  And maybe more importantly, what does that approach teach kids about being a parent?

Kids are not adults, not even little adults, and the relationship between parents and their children should not be like a relationship between an employer and an employee.   There is a lot to consider about money, kids, and allowances, but I think this Good Question topic raised more questions than answered them.



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