Tuesday, December 28, 2010

Thank Goodness Money Doesn’t Grow on Trees (And Other Truths Our Kids Should Know)

Earn It, Learn It: Teach Your Child the Value of Money, Work, and Time Well Spent
Guest Post by Alisa T. Weinstein


Sure, it seems that life would be easier -- nay, better -- if all our financial woes were solved with some magic money seeds and a pile of fertilized dirt.

But where’s the fun in that?

Of course I’d love to not stress every time another major appliance breaks (2010 was a banner year). But it’s important to remember that earning a living delivers so much more than a paycheck. Wrapped up in those numbers is a sense of accomplishment. Pride for a job well done. And the feeling that you are important, needed and appreciated.

At least, that’s what I want my kids to believe. I want them to grow up and find a career that fulfills them. Excites them. And makes them OK with the fact that money trees live in the same universe as Santa and the Tooth Fairy.

That’s why I developed the Earn My Keep Allowance Program (www.earnmykeep.com, http://blog.earnmykeep.com). Described in the book Earn It, Learn It, Earn My Keep is the first and only allowance program that teaches kids more than fiscal responsibility. It teaches them the true value of money. The richness that’s found when one exerts real effort for a job well done.

And how exactly does one allowance program do all that? By giving kids “real” jobs as “real” professionals. Parents and kids pick a task from one of 50 career profiles, set a deadline for work to be completed, and then pay up on Payday. It’s simple, engaging, authentic (each profile was built with guidance from a real-life Expert), educational (though kids don’t notice that part), and, best of all, fun!

Here’s a taste of a few careers and tasks:

Outdoor Adventure Guide
Go on an adventure in the rain (yes, outside). Pretend you’re leading a group (Mom? Dad? Big Bro?) deep into the Amazonian rainforest. Make sure everyone has appropriate gear (rain hats/coats? umbrellas? old sneakers or rain boots?). And while hiking, keep morale up -- point out the beauty of the “jungle” as you enjoy a shower from Mother Nature.

Archaeologist
Draw a picture of your bedroom, as is, messy and all (you’ll need to be in your room to draw an accurate picture). Then draw a second picture, showing where you think everything should be. Lastly, clean your room according to your picture. Archaeologists look at where items were left by past people (your first picture) to infer how they used to live their lives (your second picture).

Costume Designer
Determine the cost to create a favorite character’s outfit, using a picture of your character in costume for reference. List every piece you see, including accessories. Then visit a department store or online stores to match a price with each item.
     Up It! Re-create the same outfit, cutting your original costs in half. Look for coupons, sales, or clearance items that may not be an exact match, but look awfully close.
     Up It! Re-create the same outfit, suggesting existing items that could be repurposed (such as using an old hoop earring as a bracelet). This is great for a small costuming budget and the environment.

Do I still sometimes stare wistfully into our back yard, wishing a money tree would pop up? No doubt. But when it comes to planting the seed of fiscal responsibility, Earn My Keep has been more than a welcome alternative. Maybe even a magic one.

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