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Sunday 17 December 2017

Sinead Ryan: Give kids pocket money, but when it's gone, it's gone

Pocket money
Pocket money

I'm always surprised when parents spend an absolute fortune buying stuff for their kids.

Many end up feeling guilty as they try to explain why they can't afford the latest Nikes or newest iPhone, while worrying that they can't get their offspring everything they want.

They don't want to tell their children they're struggling with the gas bill or why they can't manage to pay their water charges, mainly because they think they are protecting them or don't want them to have to face the realities of economic life too soon.

But in my opinion you can't talk to them soon enough and, using the carrot rather than stick approach, one of the easiest ways to ensure involvement is to pay them pocket money.

It sounds like just another expense, but there's a sound reason to see it as a good idea.

I read with interest the research from the Irish League of Credit Unions that showed 70pc of kids get pocket money at an average of €13 a week.

I recommend - where it's affordable - to pay a child's age in pocket money, so an eight-year-old gets €8 and so on.

habits

If money's tight, this might be every two weeks, for instance, but linking it to age also links it to responsibility and the idea of a "wage increase" with inflation.

So there are two really relevant topics you can bring up straight away with it.

As they become teens, a monthly allowance forces even better spending habits.

Paying pocket money can be dangerous, of course. There's the risk that the child will dump the whole lot in the vending machine or sweet shop on the way to school.

So be it. When we got our very first wage packets, I reckon most of us had it already spent. You learn pretty quickly not to do that too often.

The second risk is that it's simply just shelling out more money than you already do, so you tie in conditions.

When it's spent, it's spent, whether it's Monday or Friday. Tough luck if they want to go out to the cinema with friends, or if it's somebody's birthday or an afternoon in town.

Three-quarters of kids save a third of their pocket money, according to the study. They can take a tip from pensioners, who are the best budgeters I know - they're on fixed incomes and have no prospect of wheedling more money later in the week if they run short.

The fact is that hiding the reality of household bills and income and expenditure from children is hindering their understanding, not helping it.

education

Most kids, like most adults, want to spend their money on stuff they like - mobile phones, gadgets, music and call credit.

If we had the choice, we'd probably prefer to splash out on designer clothes, restaurants and holidays, but we learn - sometimes the hard way - that electricity, mortgages and food come first. So must they, eventually.

Some 72pc of parents complain that schools aren't doing enough to help with financial education. Well, just like charity, it starts at home.

You don't wait on teachers to give the facts of life talk about sex, so why wait when it's about money?

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