Co-parents often have lots of questions about things like allowance, chore money, who should pay for gas when the kids start driving and Prom expenses!?!
Jolene Godfrey author of “Raising Financially Fit Kids” writes, “Boom and bust markets, war and peace, health and illness and marriage and divorce are just a few of the highs and lows that affect life. Wise parents know that financially self-sufficient kids are less vulnerable to the vicissitudes of life.”
In the first year or two post-divorce, parents are facing a new financial reality. There’s so much change, adjustment and sifting through myriad feelings — particularly how your kiddos are adjusting and moving forward in their two-home family. Your priorities include finding your financial balance with budgets that work, and helping your children feel secure in their new normal.
Talk frankly with children about what’s affordable with confidence, assist them with resetting expectations as needed. In age-appropriate ways, you can begin to include the children in learning to make wise choices, be smart shoppers, and how to get the most out of money.
In The Co-Parents Handbook, we explain how kids learn valuable lessons in each household, which include learning how money is used, shared, and saved. In general, when co-parents share similar values and provide similar lessons, kids face less confusion on their learning curve. When co-parents manage money differently, kids are provided a broader spectrum of options to choose from as they build their own model for money competence.
The key is building a model that works and provides ultimately for healthy adult self-sufficiency.
Allowance: Providing children with a small amount of money to spend, to put in their piggy bank or first savings account, and to give to the animal shelter allows them their first experiences with the value and power of money. Allowance is a “teaching tool” not a reward or incentive for being a member of the family. “As a member of this family, we each care for our belongings and our home, which includes (age-appropriate) chores and responsibility.” Allowance and chores are not tied together.
First Home Job: Most parents have extra jobs that they would like to hire-out to competent young people. When your children are ready, you can hire them for jobs as a way to make extra money. Be sure that the job is “above and beyond” their expected chores. Supervise and expect a job-well-done. You’re now in the role of a first boss and you don’t want to teach that sloppiness pays! And, lastly, be sure the pay is commensurate with the age and effort.
Overpaying your own children for household work is not a favor. An inflated sense of what their worth in time or effort is no benefit.
“Skin in the Game”: Even if you can afford to pay for everything for your kids, part of their competence building comes through earning, saving, and contributing their portion to the things that are important to them. As my dad taught, “There’s no free lunch.” Helping kids experience the pride of a job well-done, and self-sufficiency of pulling their weight helps build appreciation, a connection between effort and reward, and empowerment.
Credit Cards and Boundaries: Teach children the A, B, C’s of money management. The “A” refers to opening, depositing, and managing a checking and savings Account. Help them develop proficiency in tracking deposits, withdrawals, and balancing their account — including using a debit card and on-line banking. The “B” refers to learning to budget money, plan for the future and your willingness to let them experience the consequences of mistakes and missing the mark. “C” is for credit. Be sure your teen has the competence and understanding of money management to handle a credit card competently with boundaries before introducing this simple, seeming limitless source of funds.
Using Money to Help Others: Teach your children your values about contributing to the well-being of others — for those less fortunate. “No one has ever become poor from giving” (Anne Frank). And yet, so many people have had their lives changed in profound ways by small gifts.
Each of us come to parenthood with our own history and experience with money from our growing up years. Tell your children those stories. Your legacy is not only your money, but your ethics, values and stories!