Reading Time: 7 minutesHave you started having the conversation of pocket money with your kids? No matter the age of your children, it’s a good time to start educating them on the value of money and give them the tools to manage it in the future. If you haven’t ventured down this path yet, don’t worry. It’s not too late to begin the process of teaching this important life skill and there are a lot of resources out there to do so. Tiffany Beeson finds out the going rate in Hong Kong.
Pocket Money For Kids: How Much, When to Start, How To Earn
From the time my kids were about three years old, we gave them money in a jar at the start of the week. It was only $20 and they were encouraged to save it up for something special. They both loved to see the coins and bills accumulate and talk about what they wanted to buy. There was a catch to keeping the whole weekly amount though. They had a list of things, mostly behavioural, to abide by. Any infractions during the week could lead to a few dollars’ deduction. It was all very visual and certainly inspired them to work hard to keep the precious money jar full.
By the time my son was eight years old, he had saved enough of his weekly money, along with money he received from a few birthdays, to purchase his own iPad. We brought cash to the Apple Store at IFC and it was a really rewarding moment for him – counting out the exact amount and taking home a brand new iPad. I might back up a little bit here to say my son did complain that other kids’ parents bought them iPads and other expensive toys. He wondered why we didn’t do the same. It was challenging to explain that we wanted to share the value of money with him. He will appreciate it one day.
Three years later when my daughter turned 8, guess what she did? Yes, she too bought herself an iPad. She didn’t complain as much since the precedent had been set but being more of a spender, she did have a harder time saving. I put this down to differing personalities. My son will easily save and avoid frivolous purchases while my daughter often wants to give in to instant gratification and buy trinkets or whatever her friends have.
Where To Begin with Pocket Money For Kids
So how much pocket money is best? And at what age is it best to start? This all depends on your own finances and most likely will have some reflection on your upbringing. Having a look at a few FB groups and asking friends and trusted Playtimes readers revealed some interesting information about what other parents in Hong Kong are doing. It’s not necessary to follow others but sometimes it helps to see what your child’s peers are getting as a reference. I can tell you it ranges from $0 to over $3,000 per month, depending on the age of the child and the family’s idea of what pocket money is used for. Here’s a quick rundown of the ranges I’ve seen amongst Hong Kong families.
Ages 0 – 7 years
$ Range: $2, $5, $10, $20. $30, $50, $60 and $80.
Tasks expected by the parents:
- Folding clothes three times a week
- Being nice to a sibling
- Helping with laundry or dishes
- Keeping bedroom clean, make the bed
- Getting ready in the morning without being asked
- Taking out the rubbish
- Emptying the dehumidifiers and dishes
The money is typically kept in a piggy bank. Older children are responsible for keeping track of all incoming and outgoing money in a register/log (good for practicing maths skills, and in some cases learning how to calculate monthly interest).
Ages 8 – 12
$ Range: $2, $10, $30, $40, $50, $100, $150, $300
Tasks expected by the parents:
- Bed is made and room is tidied daily
- Feeding the pets
- Walking the dog
- Helping with washing-up and hoovering
- Going to the supermarket
- Helping mum with ad hoc tasks
- For personal use / School lunches and snacks / Buying gifts for friends
For some, the money is stored in piggy banks. For others it is loaded onto Octopus cards, and into savings account.
The information on teens is more detailed, and this is quite telling. Here are some of the responses.
- 13 year old: $500 per week to cover transportation, food and any extras, with a minimum of $50 per day for transportation. Additionally, $2,000 per month in a bank account, which she manages.
- 13 year old and 15 year old: $400 per month and $600 per month, respectively. The allowance can be used to buy lunch at school. Octopus cards are used on all non-school transportation. Money is withheld if daily chores aren’t completed.
- 13 year old: $140 per month split between savings, charity and spending, as long as house chores are completed. Parents are considering increasing the monthly allowance to include a budget for clothes and other items.
- 13 year old: $100 per week for spending. Parents pay for public bus to school and things like a cinema visits. The allowance is used to buy things during the week or saved.
- 13 and 17 year olds: $100 and $120 per day for getting to school and to buy lunch. They also get money for doing housework, $20 for washing clothes and hanging to dry, $20 for taking clothes off the line, folding and placing in the wardrobe, $25 for cleaning the windows, $30 for cleaning their toilet, $20 for dusting living room furniture. Other jobs like washing dishes, setting the table, drying dishes and throwing the rubbish out are rewarded with WiFi for two hours.
- 14 year old: $0 unless she works for it. Parents cover the cost of clothes, school trips, school lunches and ferry fares, but she must use her own money for everything else. This way she realises it’s not a bottomless pit of money and if she chooses to take a taxi rather than a bus then there is no more. She is also expected to do chores at home.
- 14 year old: $0 pocket money unless she asks for it (for example money to buy snacks). Parents pay for shoes, clothes, accessories, necessities, etc. If she wants to buy something else, especially something expensive, parents don’t buy it and would sit down and talk about the importance of the item and help decide if it is a necessity or not.
- 14 year old: $700 per month for transportation, lunch once a week and toiletries. If she manages all her responsibilities and chores, she can earn up to another $100 per week to spend any way she likes. She also gets a clothing allowance twice each year with a $2,000 limit for the year (no matter what shoes she wants).
- 14 year old: $100 each week if she takes care of all of her regular responsibilities. She can earn more by taking on extra responsibilities. She also gets $400 per month for school activity transportation and $100 per month for toiletries.
- Mid-teens: $100 per week with the idea that two weeks’ allowance is plenty to go out and see a movie.
- 15 year old: $2,000 a month to pay for school lunches, transport including to and from all sports training sessions and games and general pocket money. Anything he saves he can keep.
- 15 year old: $600 a week, which includes lunch money and travel expenses.
- 15 year old: $500 per week which is used to take the public bus or taxi to and from school and paying for lunch at school plus snacks between school and after school activities and a few personal items.
- 16 year old: $100 per week. Parents buy his clothes and pay for travel costs but if there’s something extra he wants to buy he’s expected to use his own money.
General Guidelines and Thoughts From HK Parents
Giving your child an allowance really helps him to learn the value of a dollar. We started doing this when our son kept asking for things. We told him he needed to earn it and thus began the allowance. It has greatly helped with his math skills and patience level as well.
One family suggests to give an allowance with the following rules: save 10% for a charity of their choice and 10% for family tax. At the end of the year the family tax can go towards a new video game, a day at Disney or some other fun family activity.
Several parents follow this amount for their teens: $400 a week to pay for school lunches, public transport, going out and other entertainment or extra purchases.
Tools and Rules
Some families recommend the Bankeroo app, which enables you to track how much money you give without actually handing over the money. This could be helpful to encourage saving up for something special or tracking incoming and outgoing money. Bankaroo is an educational virtual bank for kids to help teach them about money, budgeting, setting goals, saving up, and being accountable for their decisions. It offers a family friendly interface and is accessible via the web and mobile apps.
There’s also RoosterMoney to help manage pocket money. It has options for wallet, savings and goals (bigger items). RoosterMoney encourages families to learn together so that parents can actively educate, motivate and empower their kids to be prepared for the future. The app uses technology to bring to life all the traditional financial principles we were brought up with (or wish we were!) and make managing money relevant and smart. Pocket money offers a practical way to introduce kids to some of those fundamental concepts that will be used for the rest of their lives. “It also stops difficult conversations about over-spends on digital donuts and Roblox.”
Parents may also need to determine whether their children are allowed to spend money on whatever they like vs on select items or for savings. Dividing pocket money into three categories – saving, spending and charity – is also a popular way to teach kids about money. Also known as the “save, spend, share” system, pocket money or allowance can be spent as desired, but a portion must be saved, and another portion must be shared (i.e. for charities).
Excellent Books For Parents on Pocket Money For Kids
New York Times personal finance columnist and father Ron Lieber has written a fabulous reference book for parents, detailing the best ways to handle the basics of finances. The Opposite of Spoiled: Raising Kids Who Are Grounded, Generous, and Smart About Money explains how talking openly to children about money can help parents raise modest, patient, grounded young adults who are financially wise beyond their years. Ron Lieber’s idea of good parenting means talking about money with your kids. He addresses topics like the tooth fairy, allowance, chores, charity, saving, birthdays, holidays, mobile phones, checking accounts, clothing, cars, part-time jobs, and college tuition.
The Barefoot Investor for Families: How to Teach Your Kids the Value of a Buck is another great guide to finances you can share with your children. In Scott Pape’s book, discover the ten things your kids need to know about money before they leave home. You won’t see any chore charts and there’s no guesswork or parenting guilt in his advice. The book provides a clear plan for raising hard-working, generous, and financially confident kids of all ages.