Personal Finance

Your kid makes $1,500 a year in allowance. Here's how to turn that into a money lesson

Key Points
  • Parents are giving their children an average of $30 a week in allowance, enough to make over $1,500 in one year, according to a new telephone survey from the American Institute of CPAs.
  • Only 3% of parents say their kids primarily save this money.
  • Most children spend their cash on outings with friends and digital devices or downloads.
Jose Luis Pelaez Inc | DigitalVision | Getty Images

Children are pocketing an average of $30 a week in allowance — enough to rack up around $1,500 in a year.

But most of them won't be able to make a big buy with allowance money.

Only 3% of parents say their kids primarily save their cash, according to a new telephone survey from the American Institute of CPAs.

The organization polled 1,002 adults from Aug. 22 to Aug. 28. Of these, 273 identified as a parent or guardian of at least one child aged 25 or younger who is living at home.

"Once you put money in someone's hands, it feels like it's just burning a hole there and they have to do something about it," said David Almonte, CPA and member of the American Institute of CPAs' financial literacy commission.

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Close to half of the parents said their children's allowances go toward outings with friends, while 37% said their kids spend the money on digital devices or downloads.

A third of parents said their kids use the cash to buy toys.

"We as parents have to teach them what's in it for them [to save]," Almonte said "Why shouldn't they buy that toy today? Whats the benefit of waiting?"

Three out of four adults say the most important purpose of an allowance is to teach children the value of money and financial responsibility.

Here are some tips on how to do that.

Make them earn it

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Nothing is free — not even that weekly allowance.

"If you just give someone money, you help them resolve a short-term need," Almonte said. "If you teach someone to earn money, you set them up for financial success for the rest of their life."

One way to do this is through chores. This teaches children the real world lesson that, "if you don't show up and put in the effort, you don't get a paycheck," Almonte said.

Another option is to reward them for saving by matching dollars for dollars — this allows them to turn $20 of savings, for example, into $40.

Show them where the money goes

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Open a bank account with your child so they see where their money ends up.

Bring your kids to the bank and explain to them what happens to their money when they keep it in a savings account instead of spending it.

"It's really hard for someone to be like 'here's $10 for your allowance,' then take it back to put it into savings," Almonte said. "As a kid, you're like 'where did my money go?"

If you teach someone to earn money, you set them up for financial success for the rest of their life.
David Almonte
CPA and member of the American Institute of CPAs' financial literacy commission

Because a lot of banking is now done digitally, this can also be done online.

Cristina Guglielmetti, a certified financial planner and founder of Future Perfect Planning in New York, does this with her 9-year-old son.

"I log into the bank and show him 'this is where our interest is, this is how much we had last month and this is how much we have this month,'" Guglielmetti said.

Seeing and understanding bank statements can help children track the increase in their savings and the decrease in their spending.

Another way to show them where their money goes is to tell them that for every dollar they save, you'll donate 10% to an organization of their choice. You and your child can hand-deliver the donation, Almonte said.

Talk about money early and often

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Most people want to teach their child about financial responsibility, but talking about money can be tough.

"A lot of the time, it's pretty taboo to talk to your kids about money," Almonte said.

Share stories about how saving money has allowed you to do more, and discuss the times in which you had to give something up during the short term to gain more down the road.

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What to know before you hand a debit card to your children
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Guglielmetti told her son about how she saved up for a television in her room.

Talk with your child about what he wants and what he needs to do to meet that financial goal.

"Sometimes it's just numbers, its just squiggles on a paper — it doesn't really mean anything," Guglielmetti said.

When she and her son talk about his goal of buying a car, it's easier for him to see what he needs to do.

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