by Sarah Michaelis Friday October 12, 2007

I have to admit, I have a money phobia. I’m not afraid of money itself—in fact, I love it—but I’m afraid of all the things you’re supposed to do with it, like budget, save, invest and spend. I am not good at any of those things except the spend part. In fact, I’m so good at spending that budgeting, saving and investing suffer—a lot.

There are a bunch of reasons, or excuses, for my lack of financial intelligence. For one, there’s the whole right brain, left brain thing—I suck at math and money involves math so therefore I suck at money. Or, my parents didn’t talk about money and therefore I assumed that it grows on trees and naturally accumulates without any human intervention (remember, I didn’t claim these to be valid excuses). But whatever the reasons, sooner or later, you have to take control of your money before it disappears into the ether (or under sofa cushions, the pockets of bankers, and eBay).

Here’s where the parent part comes in. I noticed that my daughter (or Mini Me) is also partial to the money tree scenario. There was a time in her life (well, pretty much her whole life) where she got almost everything she wanted—within reason. No, I’m not one of those parents who responds to every high-pitched whine with a pacifying toy, but my daughter has never had to save for or pine over something she really, really wants. Yes, you can place me squarely in the bad parent column for this one. So the time has come to introduce the scary bits about financial fortitude—budgeting and saving. In order to do that, she’ll need an allowance. 

There are several schools of thought when it comes to an allowance. Some parents assign a dollar amount to each chore and the child gets paid according to the chores they did. Other parents decide on a weekly amount that the child gets once they have completed their chores, and some parents give a weekly amount and leave chores out of the equation entirely.

Beverley Cathcart-Ross, a parent educator who has appeared on Your Voice, says that parents should not tie chores to an allowance. She believes that chores are something the kids do as part of the family unit. If mom doesn’t get paid to do the dishes, why should the children? I’m partial to that way of thinking but these days it’s tough to get my daughter to do anything around the house without some sort of incentive (yes, I’m guilty of bribing too).

I’m going to try giving my daughter an allowance without linking it to chores, but I will assign some conditions. She will get to spend one third but she will have to save one third. The last third will be given to charity. That way she learns about regret when she spends her money on something frivolous, she learns about saving for something she really wants, and she learns that part of being a good citizen means giving to those who are less fortunate. Now to decide on the amount…