164. Allowance

Probably, most of you get paid. If you’re lucky, as I was, you get paid to do things you like to do. Maybe, as I do now, you get paid for having already done those things. That’s even better. But if you’re unemployed, you have to rely on society’s sense of fairness. The money you get that way is called “welfare.” The money you get because of people’s kindness is called “charity.” And if you’re a child, you may get an “allowance.” That can be welfare, charity, or payment for services rendered.
Allowance is a tradition, and though each person may have a different idea about what allowance stands for, it’s hard not to follow the tradidion. It’s difficult for children to get jobs that pay well. There are factors that interfere, such as school, child labor laws, and low skill level. There will be plenty of opportunities to get jobs and earn money later on. For now, allowance can be seen as payment for being unable, not unwilling, to be gainfully employed. That’s what welfare should be, if the welfare system works well. There’s also love. Money is generally frowned upon as a way to express love, but love does have a way of making a person be generous, wanting the loved person to get some pleasure. And whether we like it or not, some of the things that make some people feel good are only available in stores, and do cost money. And so we give our children some money, with which they can buy what they want. Some parents see allowance as a way of paying children to do chores. While I don’t like that approach, I think I understand it. I don’t like it because I think what we call “chores” ought to be jobs that need to be done for the benefit of everyone in the family. Paying a person to do them gives the wrong message about these jobs. But it is work, and maybe parents who treat allowance this way are trying to get children to know the relationship between work and pay. Once a child receives allowance, I believe it should be up to the child what happens to the money. We may want to teach our children about budgeting and saving, and some of us may
feel as if allowance is a way to do that. I don’t think so. I think allowance ought to belong to the recipient, to spend, invest, save, or give away. We can forbid our children to break the law with their money, but I don’t think forbidding them to spend all their money on candy or arcades is very educational or helpful. Allowance is a great opportunity to make mistakes, and I think mistakes are much more educational than lectures and rules.

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