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When Should My Child Start Earning Money?

By: American Heritage05.02.19

When it comes to financial education, earning is learning. Whether your young child is getting an allowance, your 13-year-old makes money walking neighborhood dogs, or your older teen has a lead on an amazing summer job, seek out any opportunity to have meaningful discussions about financial literacy — especially the essential skills of saving, spending, giving, and planning. At American Heritage, we encourage saving at all ages, which means there’s no bad time to start earning.



Start little ones, ages 5 and up, with an allowance. Some experts suggest that children get their age in dollars every week (your 5-year-old would get $5.00/week and look forward to a $1.00/week raise on every birthday). Tie the allowance to completion of age-appropriate chores. In this way, your child will begin to understand the value of money. Use allowance for kids to demonstrate ways your child can make decisions about saving, sharing, and spending.


As kids grow into young teenagers, encourage them to supplement their allowance with cash earned doing jobs around your neighborhood. Babysitting, lawn care, or selling lemonade will teach important life skills, like having a good work ethic, punctuality, customer relations, and of course, financial literacy. Talk to your kids about the importance of tracking income, budgeting for expenses, and ways to make sure they don’t pour their lemonade profits down the drain.


Teens ages 15 and up are old enough to get a summer job. First jobs should be fun, so help your child find the right fit. If your son is a swimmer, he’ll be happy to dive in as a lifeguard at a local pool. Is your daughter interested in baking? If so, baker’s assistants are happiest while making a little dough. Are your twins sports nuts? Let them play to their strengths as soccer camp counselors. Other kids might relish the atmosphere at a local café or food truck. If they love their first jobs, they’ll be excited to discuss all aspects of their work – including the money they’re making.



No matter how old your child is, it’s never too early to teach strong money habits. Use every moment you can to demonstrate the financial skills they’ll need throughout their lives. First, tell them how satisfying it is to earn your own money. Let them know that you’re proud of their efforts. Then, teach them the skills they’ll need to succeed in life:


  • Budgeting: At every age, reinforce principles like “Save some, share some, spend some.” For older kids, talk about ways to budget for their lives. Together, decide how much to save, how much to spend, and how much to give away. Our budget worksheet will help kids set limits on spending, track expenses, make some goals to save for bigger items, and watch their savings grow.


  • Pitching in: Prepare your children for their future. Talk openly about some of your family’s expenses. Then, assign ways for your kids to pitch in. Young children may give a dollar toward a friend’s birthday gift. Teens will learn about smart spending if they’re responsible for a portion of the family phone plan. Even small contributions will teach them a lot about financial obligations.


  • Saving for the Future: Saving is key to kids’ financial education. For young kids, take them to the credit union to make their own deposits. For enterprising teens, use the American Heritage Savings Builder calculator to demonstrate how quickly savings build over time.


  • Walking the Talk: Make sure that your kids see you follow all the financial rules you talk to them about. Make it a game. For example, as you walk the aisles of the grocery store, ask your young child, “We have twenty dollars to spend on picnic food. Can you help me keep track as we shop so we don’t spend too much?” Before you go to the carnival, share your budget and encourage some thought about rides, snacks, or games: “We can only spend fifteen dollars, so you have choices to make.”


Your children will mirror your financial behaviors, so talk – especially with your teens – about your own decisions: “I’m trying to decide whether to get a new van, or pay another $1,000 to fix the car,” or “I’d love to buy that dress, but I already hit my budget for clothing this month. It’ll have to wait till next month.”



Help your child find the right age-appropriate opportunity to make money. We’re here to help at every step of their growth. Little Patriots Accounts and Pat & Lucy’s Money Club provide great ways to learn about saving. As your children get older, Benjamin’s Money Club sharpens banking skills with savings and checking accounts, certificate accounts, and even a debit card. Help your older teens stretch their finance wings with Independence Accounts and Young Adult Accounts. Learn more in our blog about raising a money-wise child



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