It’s April, so we’ve all been doing our taxes and thinking about money. But have you been thinking about how to help your children on the spectrum learn to manage their money when they grow up? It’s never too soon to start building this important skill for their future.
One way many parents help their children learn to manage money is to give them an allowance. This is usually money that they can count on every week, rather than payment for services, although often chores are also expected as part of family life. With an allowance, though, getting paid is not usually contingent on the chores.
Other families make all money contingent on doing certain age-appropriate household chores. If the child completes the assigned chores, then they will earn their spending money.
Many families use a combination, with a base allowance that children can always count on and regular chores that they do as part of the family, in addition to extra chores that may be done to earn extra pocket money.
However you choose to handle allowance and chores in your family, be consistent and make sure that everyone understands the rules. What chores must be done without payment? What money can they count on without working for it? What chores are optional and how much can be earned for doing the extra jobs? Get it in writing and stick to it. Remember to pay them their allowances or earned money at pre-set time and day that you put on the calendar, and abide by it. None of us would be very happy if our boss said that they got too busy to pay us this week, and our kids deserve the same respect.
Once you have decided how much money your children will have in order to learn money management, it’s time to teach them what’s UP with money.
UP stands for Understand and Plan.
First, your children need to Understand what money means and how much it can buy. You can teach this using a toy catalog or on a trip to the store. Don’t bail them out if they want something that costs more than they have, and don’t give them advances on future allowances. If they want something they can’t afford, then it’s time to learn to Plan.
Once they understand that they can’t afford everything they want, it’s time to teach them to Plan to save or earn enough money to get it. How long will it take? Is it so expensive that they should ask for it for Christmas or a birthday rather than trying to save up for it? If they want something that’s even too expensive for a holiday gift, (a pony, for instance,) they may need to understand limitations. Not everyone gets everything they want, but there will always be something good that they can enjoy. If they want to save up for something reasonable and achievable, help them visualize it. Make a calendar that shows how much money they should save each week and when they will have saved enough. Be sure to put a picture of the item they’re saving up for to remind them.
By helping your child understand money and plan how they want to use the money they received or earn, you are setting them on the path for healthy money management skills in the future.