Fiscal greenhorns need your 'read'

Let's just say I'm glad I read the survey before my older child - a preteen boy - saw it reported out of context somewhere. And got any Big Ideas.

"About half of American teenagers receive an allowance from their parents," it read. Fair enough. "And most typically get about $50 a week."

That's quite a punch line.

The sizzling snippet was posted on a Web site that offers all kinds of stats in a series of teasers.

You've got to contact someone for the context. So I let fly a quiver full of questions. The full study, the National Longitudinal Survey of Youth, was done by Ohio State University for the US Bureau of Labor Statistics.

One of its conclusions: Today's teens, largely uninitiated in the bill-paying arts, are packing wads of discretionary cash. This is a demographic group with real clout.

To do what? An open question.

Still stuck on that $50 figure?

Some answers for parents who want the most for their kids but also want to cover the mortgage:

The survey was (1) based on what kids said, without confirmation by the 'rents; and (2) structured to include all money forked over by mom or dad (for movie tickets, for example).

Well-off kids skewed the numbers. Those in six-figure households got $175 a week, compared with $19 a week for those in the $20,000 to $30,000 range.

More important than the "base salary" of your own offspring is whether you impart any actionable management tips along with it. Or demonstrate a degree of savvy.

If you've ever missed a payment on an allowance, found your child leaving crumpled bills on the floor, or felt investing is too complex for words, you've got some explaining to do. I'm starting now.

(c) Copyright 1999. The Christian Science Publishing Society

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