Teach your kids about money

Isaac Moledi

Isaac Moledi

With money getting tighter for most South African families, maybe this is the right time to teach your child the value of money - that it does not grow on trees.

The current economic meltdown has proven that few parents can afford to dish out cash to their children for every whim and fancy.

What are parents supposed to do to help teach their children the value of money?

The results of a consumer survey by Sheila's Wheels Home Insurance in the United Kingdom shows that most (63percent) parents are trying to teach their children the value of money by getting them to help around the house to earn their pocket money.

A 2007 survey by international market research company Synovate, revealed that only 48percent of South African children have to do chores or work to qualify for their pocket money.

In the US, 96percent of children have to earn their weekly or monthly allowances.

The survey showed, however, that 91percent of South African parents were actively trying to teach their children the importance of saving money and how to do it.

About 74percent of local parents teach their children how to check and compare prices in order to get the best deal while 54percent of parents in Cyprus actually go as far as to teach their kids about the workings of the stock market.

When it comes to pocket money, the survey showed that 34percent of South African youngsters get a set amount of pocket money every month and a further 26percent are given an amount that varies according to what their parents can afford.

In Cyprus, according to the survey, it's 35percent of children who are given money by their parents whenever they need it.

"From a young age, children should be taught that there isn't an infinite supply of money and that living within their means is crucial to their financial survival," says Dial Direct Insurance spokesperson, Bradley du Chenne.

While giving the children pocket money is a great starting point to teach them about the value of money, having their own "income" provides the children with a sense of independence.

And, when taught how to work within the parameters of their budget, they learn a sense of responsibility and vital money management skills that will stand them in good stead later on in life.

"In this day and age, with the expense of living going up, children need to understand that parents cannot afford to pander to their every whim.

"Generally speaking, children learn their attitude towards money at home," says Du Chenne.

Offering pocket money and sound guidance on how to spend it thoughtfully also goes a long way in assisting parents with managing their children's expectations as well, he argues.

But should children really be expected to work for their pocket "dosh" by helping around the house?

Well, Du Chenne believes that this is something parents must decide for themselves.

On one end, Du Chenne says, it might be beneficial to make them work for a portion of their pocket money in order to teach them that people generally must work for their money as it does not typically come free.

On the other end, he says, you might not want to bog your children down with chores when they should be concentrating on their school work.

"You might not want to inculcate a sense that they should be paid every time they lift a finger to help around the house," Du Chenne argues.

"After all, when your teenager gets his or her first after-school job, the link between working and getting paid for it will quickly become apparent.

"So, whether you decide to make your children work for their allowance or not is a subjective matter and there's no right or wrong answer," says Du Chenne.

What's most important, he says, is to teach them to spend their money wisely so that they have enough to last them the month and encourage them to save a portion of their "income" for those big ticket items.