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On teaching children to save money (advice column)

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Dec 15, 2023, 10:41:41 AM12/15/23
From Sept. 14th, 1990:

Dear Abby: We have a 9-year-old son who thinks that all money is good for is spending. We give him a weekly allowance and suggest that he save of it, but he gets very upset when we try to keep half of his money.

If he i goes to a store and has 25 cents left, he drop it into any kind of machine just to get rid of it. Do you have any ideas on how to get a child to appreciate a dollar? FRUSTRATED IN FLORIDA

Abby: As long as you permit your son's allowance to be the focus of a power struggle, he'll never save a dime. Spending his money is his way of asserting his independence. Read on for a letter I received from a Seattle father a few years ago:

Dear Abby: As a father, I made a lot of mistakes (my son is now 14), but I know I did at least one thing right, and I'd like to share it with you. When my son was 3 years old, I started giving him an allowance of 50 cents a week.

There was one catch - he could spend 25 cents on anything he wanted, but the other 25 cents he had to put in his piggy bank. He could spend his piggy bank savings on anything he wanted, but only after it reached $10.

Every week, he spent his 25 cents on candy and gum, but he never really thought much about his savings until he had accumulated his first $10. When he realized what he could get if he saved up his money, he began saving ALL of his allowance. Every year on his birthday, his allowance was increased 50 cents, so he had 25 cents more to save. Also, the amount he was required to save increased by $10. He now has his first after-school job, and he's saving for a set of drums and a school trip to France.

I have never talked to him directly about the virtues of saving, but he saves money like no other teen-ager I know. PROUD SEATTLE POPPA

Abby: You have a right to be proud of yourself, as well as your son. You've given him a gift that will last a lifetime a lesson in saving.


I think there's just one problem with that. At that rate, it would have taken 40 weeks to save $10! Of course, the kid was 3 and so there might have been less of a power struggle than with the other kid, but I still think the Seattle boy should have received his savings every MONTH.

As for the Florida boy, they should have started the system at age 3 as well, and/or they should have made a game out of it. Something like: "Calculate how much money you'll save by the end of each month when you let us hang on to half your allowance - and write down all the things you might buy with that amount."


Dec 15, 2023, 1:33:36 PM12/15/23
And besides, just a century ago, it was perfectly common for American kids not to be given ANY unearned money.

That is, of course they didn't get paid to do a share of the chores - but if they wanted money, they had to do EXTRA work around the house.

If that was OK for poor families, why shouldn't it be OK for other families?

After all, when you're a kid who works, at least you're not sitting around passively, waiting for the money to pile up - you're MAKING it grow.

(I'm just saying that that might have worked well with the Florida boy - not that every parent has to do it that way. But it would help tremendously in equalizing kids at school - there wouldn't be as much competition over, say, expensive clothes.)
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