At FamZoo, we believe a parent is a child’s most important role model. We also believe that allowance can be a very effective tool for teaching good money habits. But what if the behavior modeled by a parent is negative? And what if the allowance is treated like an entitlement that is squandered week after week? The repercussions can be tragic. But even in those situations, there’s a silver lining. There’s hope. Why? Mentors can come from many sources: an uncle, a sister, a grandparent, a religious leader — even a trusted friend. And, perhaps most surprisingly, you’re never too old to learn good money habits from a well-administered allowance — even as a full-grown adult.
Skeptical? Read this fascinating story from guest blogger Katie Roberta Stevens.
Is there an age limit on eligibility for allowance? At thirty years old, I found myself in despair because I kept making the same financial mistakes over and over again. I was earning an adequate salary, as a high school English teacher, but had to charge gas and food on my high interest credit card just to survive until the next pay period. On a weekly basis, I sneaked into day care to retrieve my son hoping the director wouldn’t see me and ask for her money. Then, at home, I dodged phone calls from bill collectors all night. I was living in a constant sense of panic and felt overwhelmed by shame. Where could I turn? I had already refinanced my debt twice only to have it far exceed where it began.
Children Learn What They Live
How did this happen to me — a college graduate and Teacher of the Year? Regardless of how you struggle to escape, the old saying, “Children learn what they live” applied to my finances. My four siblings and I were raised on welfare by a schizophrenic mother and no father. We learned that money came each month — no matter what. When the Aid to Dependent Children check came, my mother rushed out to buy pizza, candy and snacks, leaving us with no money for the end of the month. In our teen years, my mother went in and out of mental hospitals, and we were left to steal food and toiletries to survive. There were countless nights when we went to bed hungry and promised ourselves that we would never again live under these circumstances. Yet, there I was, a thirty year old divorced Mom of a 5 year old son, failing to provide a sense of security for him.
My Best Friend Taught Me What I Never Learned from My Family
I finally had to admit something to myself: I needed help. I couldn’t know what I was never taught. Finally, I found a solution. For three years, I gave my entire paycheck to my best friend. She took all of my bills and paid them on time and gave me a small allowance. She made me sit next to her once a month while she wrote out every check and recorded each transaction. I begged her for extra money, but she was too disciplined and refused. Even when I raged at her, she didn’t give in and never grew angry with me. My best friend was patient and taught me what I never learned from my family. She modeled how to be responsible with money. She erased the shame I felt from living a lie. Paying bills on time became a habit for me, as did putting a little money aside each month into savings. Even if it was just a few dollars, my friend insisted that one should always, “Pay yourself first!”
Good Financial Habits Are the Foundation for a Stable Future
This three year period was extremely difficult to endure. I felt as if I were being treated as a child. But when it came to finances, I was a child who needed the guidance and tough love of someone willing to parent me. The allowance system worked for me. It will work in your home too. You can save your children years of struggle by enabling them to develop healthy financial habits while they’re young. There is no more important teacher than you, and good financial habits are the foundation for a stable future. As a lifetime educator, I can confirm that children do indeed learn what they live.
What financial lessons are you’re sharing with your kids?
About the Author
Katie Roberta Stevens is the author of My Mother Killed Christ: But God Loves Me Anyway. She taught English for 14 years and now works as a grant writing consultant for school districts through her company Away With Words. She resides in Brevard County, Florida with her husband, but she will always consider herself a “Jersey Girl.”