At What Age Should I Begin Giving My Child an Allowance? Mint Answers

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At what age should you begin giving your child an allowance? How much should you give them (or spend on a present) for their 16th birthday? When should they get their first credit card? Finally, if you could go back 10 years and give your younger self a lesson about money — what would it be?

We recently featured the children and money topic on Mint Answers – and similar questions haven’t stopped pouring in ever since. So this week, we are rounding up Part 2, with the questions above and some of the suggestions shared by Mint’s experts and community members.

To read more answers or to chime in with your response, click on the links below.

How much should I give my daughter for her birthday?

I have no idea what my daughter wants for her birthday, so I want to give her cash.  She is turning 16 next month and I need to know what would be an appropriate amount to give her on this occasion. I earn about $30,000 a year.


1. The goal here is to create a balance. If you give too much then they may expect it every time or not value it as time goes on. Too little and it may seem like you’re cheap. We all know this to not be true as you are a mint user.

I would give her an amount equal to a gift she would normally receive. For example, iPod shuffle=$50. A dinner=$25. Etc.

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Too young for a credit card?

My daughter is turning 18 in two months. She wants to start building her credit. Should she get a traditional credit card or a student credit card?


1. Well, she can’t get a credit card thanks to the CARD Act unless she has a job or a co-signer.  Can I suggest you add her as an authorized user to a card you already have?  That’s still a viable alternative. 

Just make sure to always properly manage that card so your daughter’s score doesn’t suffer

2. Adding your child to your credit card can be risky if they have a tendency to be irresponsible. I would make them hold off until they have a job. Without income it would be hard to pay it off unless you’re the one doing it for her.

To answer the original question though… a traditional card is what I started with and it’s worked out great. In case you were wondering, it was a Citibank card. I have switched to AMEX since then, but I will always remember that $500 credit limit.

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Say you could go back in time ten years and give your younger self a lesson about money.

What would it be?


1. 1) Before making a purchase, ask yourself, is this more than I need? Living with what you need instead of always trying to fulfill your wants will leave you more satisfied (and wealthier) in the long run. 2) Start investing now. Don’t wait a minute longer.

2. I’d tell myself to get a job and start a Roth IRA. I can’t go back and invest money at low tax rates for all those years I missed.

3. Definitely would’ve invested more (Google stock baby) and just taken more risks.  Oh, and just to be more secretive with your money: when people know you have money, they always want a piece of the pie and try to take advantage of you.

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At what age should I begin giving my child an allowance?

At what age should I begin giving my child an allowance? How much should I give them? I have a five year old and a seven year old. I have heard to start at about 5 years of age and give $1. Then give $1 more at each birthday after that. What do you think is appropriate?

1. The New York Times did a good column on this subject a couple years ago. An excerpt:

“A good rule of thumb, they say, is either: 1) $1 for each year of the child’s age — so a 7-year-old would get $7 weekly and a 15-year-old would get $15 or; 2) Half of that.”

These are kind of New Yorky numbers, perhaps. Our six-year-old still gets $1.

2. Never.  You shouldn’t ever just give your kids an allowance.  What message are you teaching them?  That it’s ok to mooch?  My 3 yr old (yes 3) gets one dollar when he helps to pick up his toys.  Why $1?  Because he can’t swallow it like he can swallow change.  Then we put it in his piggy bank and when he gets a few bucks I’ll take some out and re-use them. 

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Do you have a money question that you feel has no black-or-white answer? Go to Mint Answers and ask away! While you’re there, feel free to answer questions from other community members. Come back often, as we introduce new enhancements to this feature.

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