At a recent family gathering my great-niece showed me the gap in her teeth and informed me that the Tooth Fairy had left her $5 in exchange for her tooth. Now, I might be a bit behind the times, but $5 seems pretty generous for a 5-year old. That got me thinking about at what age kids should start learning about money.
Pre-schoolers can’t be expected to make financial decisions, but they do like to pay for items – candy and such – with their own money. I remember when I went grocery shopping with my young sons how excited they were to pick out and pay for a treat when we got to the check-out (yes, I know it was bribery, but it worked).
By the time kids start school they should be learning about how to handle money. They can learn that once the money is spent, that’s it until the next time, and how to save for a future purchase (just make sure that the future item isn’t too costly for their age or they will get discouraged).
You can even teach them about credit. If they get an advance on their allowance, you can charge interest and offer a weekly minimum payment.
How much allowance is given is a matter of choice and budget. Some parents use a flat calculation such as $1 to $5 per age per week or month, so a 10-year old might get $10 a week. Some families decide on what the child is responsible to buy from the money they receive, such as school lunches, and give an appropriate amount.
I don’t believe that allowance should be tied to chores. Children should know that there are basic household duties that need to be done regularly by every member of the family.
You could make an exception for a non-regular task such as painting the fence and pay an agreed upon sum for proper completion. I especially don’t like the practice of giving financial rewards for good grades or sports scores.
At some point your child will realize that to purchase the items he or she wants they will have to find outside employment.
Related: How To Make More Money
Whether it’s mowing the neighbours’ lawns, babysitting or working part-time at the local grocery store they can start bringing in some decent money. While I don’t think that parents should interfere with what their child does with their own money, this is the time when some ground rules should be discussed and what is expected.
As soon as a child can sign their own name, they can open a chequing account. Most banks have their versions of a youth account. Check the fees. TD and CIBC have free transactions. RBC has a limit of 15 free transactions. All charge for Interac and Plus. I don’t think parents should make the account joint but they could set withdrawal limits and restrict bankcard use if appropriate.
Related: Best Savings Accounts For Children
Many youngsters get money from grandparents and other relatives for birthdays and such as well as allowances and employment earnings. They should be encouraged to use their accounts to save for their high tech gadgets or other higher priced items as well as spending money for family vacations. Some parents offer to pay half of a large-ticket item.
Children should have some age appropriate knowledge of their family finances. Even young children can be shown utility and grocery bills. Teenagers can be given more advanced information such as mortgage, loan and credit card payments. Be warned though. Teens can be notorious blabbermouths, so you might want to be discreet about any personal information such as salaries, investments and certain spending.
Allow your children the freedom to spend and save their money as they wish. I know it’s difficult to sometimes to refrain from telling them what to do, but isn’t it better to let them make their mistakes now with little money than when they are adults with a lot more to lose?