Money! It makes the world go round, and at the same time it’s the root of all evil. This apparent contradiction is confusing enough for adults, so how are children supposed to make sense of it?
The subject of money has been occupying my mind this week, more than usual. It’s forever in the news, of course. Only today, I saw a debate about the possible introduction of a universal basic income sitting alongside a report of a particular footballer who is about to earn the best part of £500,000 per week. (Imagine earning so much money that you have to divide it by 52 so that people can make sense of it! What will we be measuring it in next? Light years?)
Half a million pounds is ten times as much as the average pension pot in the UK, so this footballer (Alexis Sanchez) – will be earning more in a single day than the average UK worker saves in his or her whole life.
There is an imbalance here. Who needs to earn that kind of money? No-one, that’s who.
I’d like to think that if I had access to as much wealth as that, I’d do something constructive with it. I’d probably buy a few unnecessarily expensive material things first, of course, like a house in Kensington Palace Gardens, or a set of dining chairs for £30k each. And after that, I’d live a life of relentless philanthropy.
But what am I saying? Although I don’t always feel it, I am already wealthy, when compared with the world average. It’s all relative, and I should be more grateful.
Attitudes to money
It may be that my attitude to money just isn’t right. We didn’t have much spare cash when I was growing up; my parents were teachers and I was one of seven hungry kids, so the family budget had to go a long way. We didn’t get pocket money in cash form; instead, we each had our choice of chocolate bar, eaten while watching The A-Team on a Saturday afternoon. My favourite bar was the Texan, which – like the late, great George Peppard – is no longer with us.
My oldest sister’s favourite chocolate bar was the Mars (which does still exist), but she took a different approach to its consumption: she would eat half during the programme, and – unbelievably – would save the rest for another time! She did a similar thing at Easter, and would still be enjoying the remains of her egg many days after the other six had been fully digested, flushed away, and forgotten about. Her self-control drove me crazy! (This tactic backfired occasionally, though, when we discovered her stash, and guzzled it down without mercy.)
So I do remember eating chocolate, but I don’t recall having a single lesson in the art of managing my money (or my confectionery). This, I regret. Even now I’m not particularly good at budgeting, planning ahead, or making wise investment decisions.
My girls are 7 and 4, and I’m wondering if it’s the right time to start educating them about money. I’ve asked my fellow dads (and mums), and I’ve found that there is no consistency at all.
Most commonly, people think that 7 is too young for pocket money. “If she’s not asking for it, she doesn’t need it!” etc.
Others sprinkle random amounts of cash on an ad-hoc basis, for birthdays, holidays, or whenever it feels appropriate. There are basically no rules here – and we all know how kids like rules.
A third group give money as payment for jobs done, in a kind of commission-only system. This can’t be counted on as a regular income for mortgage purposes, and there are also fines for non-performance, so in theory the child could owe the parent money at the end of the week.
I’ve taken all this information on board, and I’ve come up with my own proposal (which my wife doesn’t know about yet). See what you think of this.
- There is a basic income level, say £3 per week (although the actual amount is a key detail that I have yet to confirm).
- Out of this, £1 is immediately returned, to cover rent, bills, and tax.
- The second £1 is put in the piggy bank, as savings, to be accessed on her 18th birthday.
- The final £1 is for her to spend as she likes.
- She can earn more spending money by doing extra jobs on top of what’s normally expected – washing the car, sweeping the chimney, stuff like that.
Am I overcomplicating things? Maybe. But life and money management ARE complicated, and I feel that some structure is better than the random non-system that we have at the moment.
Go Henry takes it to a whole new level, but I think I’ll keep it up my sleeve for another year or so.
And now to tackle that other unpindownable family currency – the brownie point!
Any feedback on my plan is much appreciated!