By: Gary M. DellaPosta, CPA
The best time to start instilling financial skills and values is when children are young. Start giving your kids an allowance once they reach school age. Let them participate in making the decision of how much their allowance should be.
Some parents may want to require kids to do household chores to earn the allowance. Or, parents might want to provide an allowance, but pay kids extra for the performance of tasks. This incentive plan is, of course, a matter of individual child-rearing philosophy, but it does get the message across that money does not grow on trees.
Give your kids control over their own money (their allowance and whatever monies you give them that are not earmarked for some particular purpose). You can make suggestions to them about what they should do with it-i.e., that they might spend half and save half-but allow them the final say on what happens to the money.
Let them see the consequences of both wise and foolish behavior with regard to money. A child who spends all of his money on the first day of the week is more likely to learn budgeting if he is not provided with extras to tide him over.
How much allowance to provide is a matter of parental discretion. Most parents provide about $7 per week to their elementary school children, and from $12 to $20 a week to kids in junior high.
Savings and Investment
Beyond the basics of budgeting and saving, you will want to get your child involved in saving and investing. The easiest way to do this is to have the child open his or her own passbook savings account.
If you want your child to get familiar with investing, there are various child-friendly mutual funds available. The mailings from the fund can be a source of education. Or you may want to get the child interested in individual stocks.
You may want to start a "matching" program with your kids to encourage saving. For instance, for every dollar that the child puts into a savings account or investment, you might match it with 50 cents.
If you want to get your kids involved with investing, it will usually have to be done through a custodial account. There are generally two types of widely used custodial accounts-one is set up under the Uniform Gifts to Minors Act, and the other under the Uniform Transfers to Minors Act. The type of custodial account available depends on which state you live in.
With a custodial account, the child is the owner, but the custodian (usually a parent) manages the property until the child reaches the age of majority under relevant state law-either 18 or 21. The custodian must follow certain rules concerning management of the property in the account. These rules are intended to ensure that the custodian does what is in the child's best interests.
IRAs for Kids
If your child has earned income-from a paper route or baby-sitting, for example, or from working in the family business he or she can contribute earnings to an IRA. The IRA can be an extremely effective investment for a child because of the IRA's tax-deferral feature and the length of time the money is left in the IRA. If $3,000 per year is contributed to the child's IRA for ten years and the money is left to grow until the child reaches age 65, the amount in the IRA could reach $600,000 or more, depending on the returns on the investment. In 2014, your child can contribute the lesser of his or her earned income for the year or $5,500, either to a traditional IRA or a tax-free Roth IRA. The contribution limits are the same for both types of accounts.
To replace the "lost" earnings, the parents can give $3,000 per year to the child (or the amount of earned income the child has, if less). The child may have to file tax returns.
The drawback of course is that, with some exceptions, the money cannot be withdrawn before age 59-1/2 without tax penalty.
Related Guide: For tax rules on IRA withdrawals for higher education, please see the Financial Guide: HIGHER EDUCATION COSTS: How To Get The Best Tax Treatment.
Taxes and Credit
Kids can learn to use automatic teller machine cards for their savings accounts. They can also start using credit cards at an early age-with parental counsel and involvement. They can learn the concepts of incurring and paying off debts both from credit card use and from small loans that parents make them.
It is important to familiarize kids with paying taxes as well. If children have to file tax returns-as they would with an IRA--allow them to participate in the process; this will get them used to the idea of yearly tax payments, and can also be an opportunity for learning about how governments are run with tax revenues.
Note: One side benefit of getting your kids involved in money management is that it may help to avoid the "math phobia" some kids experience in junior high school.
Tip: Professional guidance should be considered for a life event change as major as a marriage of divorce.
Source: Expenditures on Children By Families 2013, US Department of Agriculture Publication Number 1528-2013. Before-tax Income of $61,530 and $106,540 (Average = $82,790).
Gary DellaPosta is a CPA and founder of the firm: Gary M DellaPosta, CPA's & Business Advisors. A graduate of Bryant University, he is a member of the American Institute of CPA's as well as the Massachusetts Society of CPA's. In addition to providing accounting, tax and advisory services to individuals and businesses, he also provides litigation support to attorneys and has been recognized as an expert in numerous Massachusetts' courts. Mr. DellaPosta serves on the Board of the Barnstable County Mutual Insurance Co., where he serves on the audit, investment and employee benefit committees. He is a Director at The Cooperative Bank of Cape Cod and is a former director of Eastern Bank and Plymouth Savings Bank. He also serves as the Treasurer of the Community Health Center of Cape Cod and is a trustee of Heritage Museum & Gardens.
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