Should we give allowance to kids?

I am writing not to offer advice this time but more in a seeking capacity, so anyone who has insight and can offer some feedback on allowance giving, please do.
I have teenagers, and I struggle with whether to give the allowance or not.
I have always been against:

  1. Paying for grades, I think it’s my kid’s responsibility to do their work and bring in good grades, and I don’t think they should be paid for this, am I wrong?
  2. Paying for chores, I think they need to contribute to the home as members of our community, and again don’t feel I should need to pay for doing what they need to do.
  3. So with me being against these things, how do I encourage and develop money management skills if they are not working? What are my options here?
    I have thought about giving them a weekly allowance as a matter of course, then deducting as behavior and grades fluctuate. Is this a good strategy? What do you guys do?

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Why Won’t Americans Take Vacation?

I have been working now for over 20 years in the technology industry, and in every company that I have worked, people will complain that they don’t get enough time off, but still refuse to use the vacation times that are given.

When did the phenomenon begin?

Back in the eighties, it was said that the Japanese were hard working and that Americans were lazy.  I think this caused an industrial complex to develop in the USA, especially in the technology industry.   We resolved to do better, and catch up with the competition, and in doing so we created a work culture of not necessarily working smarter, but of working harder.  Engineers in American are now working themselves to death (known as Karoshi in Japan), similarly to what the Japanese did in the past.  Recognizing that there was a problem then, the Japanese government implemented a possible fix with the mandate of required time off work with pay.  So the Japanese are smarter yet again, realizing the value of family and time off work, and has left us stuck with the legacy of this unhealthy competition. Some might claim that our work culture has enabled us to have better standard of living, but this is debatable, and even if it did, at what cost to our families!

For a summary on how much vacation times are given in some countries including the USA, take a look at the site from a CNN special on the subject.

Our attitude towards vacation

If we compare Europeans and Japanese with Americans, there is a distinct difference in how personal time given by companies is viewed and used by employees.  I am now working for a company based in Europe, people there get roughly two times the amount of vacation times Americans get per year, and for the most part, they use every bit of this time to unwind and spend time with their families, they cannot even be reached when on vacation.  Compare that to how we use our time in America; at the end of the year, the companies I have worked for has to beg us Americans to take time off, some vacation times end up being rolled over and eventually paid out, and others are oftentimes lost.   Also, when Americans are on vacation, many still keep in touch with what’s happening in the office, still answering emails, and frequently checking into the office to see if they are needed.  There are many reasons Americans are afraid or hesitant to take a vacation, one of this is the fear of competition and another is uncertainty of the future due of the struggling economy thus the fragility of the labor market.
Bloomberg’s Businessweek magazine addressed the issue of our reluctance to vacation in the article, “Do Us A Favor Take A Vacation.” In the article, the argument for Americans to take a vacation is addressed.  Very interesting read, and mirrors most of what I am saying here.

Fear of Competition

The culture of layoffs in the nineties did not help; it has exacerbated the problem as now American workers are figuring that if they work harder, then they might not be chosen in the pack to be laid off when that time comes.  In addition to the fear of layoff, there is also the fear of being replaced by more savvy and lower paid worker.  As companies turn more and more to imported labor, bringing in  skilled foreign professionals into the country, workers are becoming more fearful of being replaced, and to ally this fear, they spend more time working harder with the hope that their value will be elevated.  This is not a healthy situation, and hopefully as the economy recovers, some of this fear will be reduced and people will get back to the point where they feel safe enough to stop and spend time outside of the office.

Looking to the future

As I think about what the future holds for us and our children, I don’t foresee any improvements in the near term as the job market gets more and more global each day. Workers here and elsewhere have to prove their worth, and the best way most people know how is to work harder. However, some newer and younger companies are beginning to realize that employee overwork is an issue, and that innovation cannot be driven in this climate, so they are giving employees incentives and time to be innovative, that is encouragement to be working smarter instead of harder. With this approach, although the job market is expanding, and there is more competition for available job, if employees are allowed to build their knowledge base even while working, if they are laid off, or have to change jobs for any numerous reasons, they could still be marketable since they will still have current skills that the market demands. If workers feel safe in their knowledge, chances are they will have a more relaxed attitude in knowing that they can recover from any job situation, and thus will tend to spend less time being overworked, and more time with family. Although the future is bleak, with the right company culture, changes can be made.

Finding balance yourself

There must be balance between work and life, we need to work hard to meet our obligations and fulfill the contract we entered into with our employers, yet we still need to step back from time to time, relax and enjoy our families. Let’s examine our motives for working long hours, and make sure, it’s not insecurities that’s driving us, but a genuine desire to be a contributor. In addition, If your job is one that does not encourage employees to be cross trained and be updated in the latest technology, instead of spending all the overtime in the office, invest in yourself, and get some external training to ensure your marketability, and thus improve yourself worth. In the end know where you are on the job and what your needs are for job satisfaction, rest and relaxation. There must be balance.
So if you fall into this category of the overworked, go use your time off, work to live, not live to work!

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Being A Woman In The Workplace Today

Do you worry that you have to give up your femininity in order to fit into the technical workplace and be respected? Should you be one of the guys? If you do, will you get or lose respect?  OR should you be the lady of the group, all feminine and motherly?  My opinion is, you can be both feminine and assertive in your role without losing yourself. [Read more…]

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It’s Ok To Have Me Time

So you get home from work, and you are met at the door with screams of, “MOM” and everyone is waiting to tell you about their day.  You are tired, but you smile and ask all the right questions, and now it time to unwind, and deflate from your day.  How do you get your time, and should you feel guilty for wanting it? [Read more…]

Should You Quit Your Job To Stay Home?

This is one of those topics that I think about time and again  I like the idea of being independent and working, but I also like the idea of staying home with my kids, I guess I am one of those women who could have gone either way if given the opportunity, but the idea of staying home was never presented to me growing up.  How many of you reading this could have gone either way as well?  [Read more…]

The Quest For The Right Nanny – The Childcare Dilemma

This is generally how the discussion goes when we are looking for a new nanny, we go back and forth:

Kids: “We want someone young mom, someone who can relate to us.”

Me: “I want some older, someone I can relate to, who is stable and can follow instructions.”

This is one of the most dreadful things to deal with as a working mother.  I started using live-in childcare when I had my second child.  I added the cost of daycare, and the risk cost of speeding down the highway to get the kids before 6pm, and decided that paying someone and having the convenience of them in the home was much better than daycare. There is also the added benefit of some light housekeeping.  Biggest problem however is finding the right person, who, where and how. [Read more…]