What Size Allowance Should I Give My Child?

by Stacy Francis, CFP®, CDFA

At the park today, the moms were discussing allowances. At what age should a child start to receive them, and how much is appropriate? All at once they stopped and asked me, “You are the expert, tell us what to do!” Talk about pressure. I took off the mom hat and put on my financial planner thinking cap.

There are almost as many theories for this as there are experts in the field. The most common system seems to be to give the child $1 per week and years of age. Meaning, for instance, that my son would receive $3 per week, and my friend’s six-year-old daughter $6. But of course, the right amount will also depend on other factors such as

  1. Your child’s attitude toward and awareness of money. Before he or she appreciates it, there’s little point in throwing cash his or her way.
  2. What sorts of expenses your child is expected to cover in exchange for the money. If he or she, for instance, needs to cover friends’ birthday presents and some or all of his or her own clothes, he or she will need a lot more than he or she would if the money were for entertainment only.
  3. How much you expect your child to save. Many parents take care of their children’s savings for them, but if possible, I always recommend that you give him or her enough money to set some aside and watch it grow. For many children, this is an invaluable lesson.

Of course, both the sum and the level of responsibility will change as your child grows older. The most important thing of all is therefore to keep an open mind and constantly rework your allowance system as your circumstances change.

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