Chris and Jenny Wherrell of Winter Springs rarely have to ask their daughter, Myra, 8, to clean her room or even do the dishes. What’s their secret? When Myra was a toddler, the Wherrells started a sticker chart to encourage her to do her age-appropriate chores. Positive reinforcement and consistence has literally paid off for Myra, who now earns a monetary allowance for every finished job.
“We started with a sticker chart and then moved on to money,” says Jenny. “The result has been great. When I was a kid, I remember I used to hide in the bathroom when it was my night to wash the dishes. I vividly remember. But Myra is doing it all by herself and she’s so proud. I think she does a better job cleaning because she is earning it.”
Jenny says the method has worked so well it is having a positive effect on their younger children, Jackson, 5, and Lily, 3, as well. “It is absolutely worth it for our other kids to see,” she says. “Lily too. It just trickles down. They ask, ‘How did Myra get to do that?’ And they get really interested.”
An Expert’s Opinion
“I think an allowance is a great thing,” says Larry Breen, a certified financial planner, president and founder of Breen Financial Management in Seminole County. “The allowance should be appropriate for the age of the child and there should be some tasks that are age-appropriate and benefit the family for earning that allowance. It can be vacuuming or mowing the lawn. Children need to learn exactly what money is and its value – this is a dollar, a nickel, a penny. These are all life skills that will improve as they grow.”
Breen also encourages parents to have their children donate a portion of their chore-earned money to a church or charity in addition to showing them the value of saving.
“Ask your child, ‘How much do you want to save for something in the future?’” says Breen, who is also president-elect of the Financial Planning Association of Central Florida. “That’s delayed gratification. Teach your child how to save for something bigger. They can get that small toy at Target or do they want to save it for something bigger, like a computer game? And many kids start to think about getting their first car in their early teens. You want that seed to be planted. You want them to understand the value of contributing to these expenses.”
“We want our children to realize that just because mom and dad can afford to do something, they need to have their own money,” says Jenny Wherrell, who owns My House Fitness Personal Training in Winter Springs with her husband. “Instead of toys, Myra likes going out and doing things. She likes saving up for her ticket to Aquatica or going bowling. We will tell her, you can get ice cream now or save it for going to the movies.”
Saving for College
This type of mindset is important when planning for college, says Dennis Nolte, senior vice president of Capital Guardian LLC in Winter Park and current president of the Financial Planning Association of Central Florida. Instead of investing in a 529 Plan, an education savings plan operated by a state or educational institution designed to help families set aside funds for future college costs, consider investing in a Roth IRA (individual retirement account).
“Your child may decide not to go to college, or you may end up needing that money for something else or for your second child,” says Nolte. “Putting money in a retirement account for yourself, such as a Roth IRA, is a marvelous tool that can fill a lot of goals, including helping fund college.
“But, the best gift you can give your children is to not be a burden on them when you are older. It’s like an oxygen mask on an airplane. Take care of yourself so you can be helpful to your kids. You’re no good to anyone if you don’t take care of yourself first.”
Alex Hernandez, financial advisor and vice president of SunTrust Investment Services, Inc. and Private Wealth Management in Dr. Phillips agrees.
“I tell parents that, first and foremost, they should always save for retirement,” he says. “You can save a child later if they need to borrow money for a class in college but you can’t borrow for retirement. Set aside more of the budget for retirement, then allocate for other areas like schooling and vacations”
Plus, a student who pays for his or her education will most likely value it more, says Breen. “They should put some effort into it. It’s more meaningful if they work for it. A student who is at least partially funding their education will apply themselves more and be more successful.”
“Being financially responsible as a child will make them a more attractive employee later on,” Hernandez adds as an additional benefit. “Your ability to save will inevitably affect how you use credit. Companies looking to hire, will see they are a person who knows how to manage their own money and is someone less likely to misuse company funds.”
“What we always tell the kids is that in an instant everything can change,” says Jenny Wherrell. “They need to have financial security no matter how much money they make and only spend what they have to spend. We want them to always be financially responsible so they never have to worry about their future.”