When Robert F. Kennedy was a boy he sold magazines. The family chauffeur drove him from door to door so he could make his deliveries. But that didn't matter, it was intended to teach him the value of money.
Youngsters all over the country, with all kinds of social and economic backgrounds, are receiving money from allowances and part-time jobs and learning to handle it in increasingly sophisticated ways.
In a Rand Youth Poll survey of 3,000 teen-agers from around the country 72 percent of the interviewees reported receiving allowances. These vary in size from 50 cents a week to more than $100 a week.
Some invest in the stock market; others save for college; some use the cash for records, clothes, and candy.
Many of the parents surveyed say they provide their offspring with at least a few dollars a week, usually in return for household chores, good grades, or good behavior.
Most parents with children in their teens say the kids hold part-time jobs. Many of these positions are in clothing stores, fast-food restaurants, and grocery stores.
Some parents are against allowances and jobs. Kids will learn the value of money soon enough, they say. Let them enjoy their carefree youth and concentrate on school activities. Kids should work around the house on their own volition, not for monetary reward, some say. As part of the family, they should be expected to do their chores, they feel. These parents prefer to give money as it's needed.
Money habits start with what parents knowingly or unknowingly teach their children, says Phyllis Daignault of Citibank. ''Children become aware very early of the importance of money in the lives of grown-ups. They see the adults around them go off to work to earn money and see how money buys toys, food, and clothing,'' says Consumer Views, a journal published by Citibank.
The journal encourages parents to teach children how to begin budgeting their money by the time they can count. They are ready for allowances by the time they reach the first grade.
Experts on child-rearing suggest allowances be adjusted according to the child's age and needs.
The amount of money parents give their children is based on many conditions, contends Lester Rand, president of the Rand Youth Poll.
''Some wealthier parents may give their kids less money than poorer parents, '' he says. ''They want their kids to see that money is finite, it's not a free ride. Also poor parents may try to give their kids a lot of money so they won't have to go through the economic hardships they have experienced.''
But as a rule, children in comfortable suburban areas, such as Westchester County, N.Y., or Greenwich, Conn., are likely to receive more money than urban kids.
The toughest thing for allowance-giving parents to do is to stick to the weekly amount, he adds. The child may come to the parent begging for more cash, and it's often hard for the parent to refuse. Yet giving in to the child's whims may defeat the purpose of establishing an allowance.
Many children feel their allowances are too small. They say parents don't realize movies cost more than a dollar now.
According to Consumer Views, today's youth are having a tough time managing on limited incomes because they live in a spending society. These children see their parents whipping out charge cards for color television sets or expensive clothes, and they feel they are entitled to the same.
Yet according to a survey conducted by Money magazine, some children are caught in the investment frenzy that has gripped some adults. One 13-year-old in suburban Chicago is investing in money-market funds. Her 11-year-old brother has some shares of Lockheed Corporation and is investing in silver coins