How Real Kids Save: Meet the 6-Year-Old Who Socked Away $2,400

Christine Ryan Jyoti

My 6-year-old daughter loves her sparkly piggy bank, but she loves searching for abandoned coins even more. She has no qualms about picking up pennies from germ-ridden floors.

Her concept of money is still pretty shaky, but that doesn’t stop her from regularly dumping out her $18.60 in coins to count and admire.

My husband and I know it’s time to develop a savings “system” with our daughter, but where do we start? From elementary schoolers straight through the teenage years, I spoke with a few savers and their parents for a peek at what other families are doing:

Coco, 6, Chichester, NY

Kids saving money

Coco painted her own piggy bank

Coco’s accomplishments: After saving up change and the money she’s been given for birthdays and holidays, Coco has managed to save a whopping $2,400!

How she “does” money: Like my daughter, Coco collects all the loose change she finds and keeps it in her piggy bank, which she hand-painted at age 3. Last January, the family decided it was time to open an official account in Coco’s name. They paid a visit to their local bank and Coco laid out her plastic baggies filled with change on the wooden desk. She and her parents have agreed that her savings are for college, although Coco currently insists she won’t go away for school because she wants to stay with her mommy.

“We’ll see how long it will last!” says Yuki.

Vivian, 7, Bethesda, MD

kids saving money

Vivian splits her money into savings, spending and charity.

Vivian’s accomplishments: Vivian saves her allowance in three buckets, for saving, spending and charity. Because she has been diligently stashing funds away, she has been able to buy fun things for herself, like doll accessories, hair ribbons, charm bracelets—all from her own money. Recently, she contributed her own money toward her little brother’s birthday gift.

How she “does” money: Vivian started getting an allowance when she was 5, with a dollar for every year in her age. So, as a 7-year-old, she receives $7 a week. Vivian’s allowance isn’t tied to chores. Her mom Susan says: “I don’t want my kids to ask how much I’m going to pay if I ask them to do a chore that is not on their standard list.”

Susan hopes this system will teach Vivian how to manage her finances. “It seems like a lot of money each week,” she says, “but she will be responsible for paying for more and more stuff, even stuff that I probably  would have spent on her anyway.”

Clark, 10, Chevy Chase, MD


Clark used his savings to purchase Lego sets.

Clark’s accomplishments: “I save for whatever I want to buy,” says Clark, a Lego-loving 10-year-old. With over 30 sets, his room is getting close to capacity. But he’s not done. “I’m saving for the Lego Museum, which is $59,” he says.

How he “does” money: Clark has been saving money from birthdays, holidays and chores since he was 6. (He helps his parents with vacuuming, cleaning his room, setting the table and making his bed.) Clark divides his money between his wallet, a plastic mini safe and a piggy bank. “Every week or so I count my money,” he says. With $26 saved, he needs another $33 before he can buy the coveted Lego Museum. “That’s a lot of chores!” Clark says.

Russell, 13, Alexandria, VA

teaching kids to save money

Russell tracks the interest he earns on his savings account.

Russell’s accomplishments: Not only did he open his first bank account when he was 6 years old, but he is also proficient in the concepts behind banking, like how to save wisely, how to calculate the interest he’s earning and even which kinds of bank accounts are best.

How he “does” money: Like Vivian, Russell divides his allowance ($15 a week) into thirds: savings, charity donations and spending. Russell was really into tracking his account when it was earning interest, but he hasn’t been impressed lately, as interest rates have been so low. All told, Russell has managed to accumulate about $1,700 in the bank ($1,000 is in a CD that gets slightly more interest).

An avid sportsman, he is saving for either a snowboard or a tennis racquet.

  • Lola

    I could probably learn a thing or two from these kids about money! I think it’s great that a few stories mentioned having separate savings, spending, and donation buckets– super skills to learn at a young age.

    I had a question for Vivian’s mom (or any parents reading, really): if you don’t tie allowance to doing chores, what do you do to make sure your kids don’t feel they’re “entitled” to get money, just because? When I was young, I was fine with doing whatever chores I was asked to get my allowance, but I remember one of my siblings refusing to do certain tasks because they thought the price wasn’t good enough– so I definitely know Susan’s concern is real. That situation chapped my hide as a kid, and it’s a conversation I’d like to avoid having with any of my future children.

    • Cristina G

      This IS a thought provoking topic, particularly because I think there are no easy answers. My daughter is too young yet (1.5 years old) but as time goes on, it is helpful to keep in mind what we model and how we deal with money around and in front of our children.

      I think our attitude and language about money is starting to influence them way before they have the capacity to understand exactly what money is.

      I come from a society where a) there were no such things as allowances; there was no entitlement (possibly one of the few good things about communism). b) everybody pitched in around the family to the extent of one’s abilities (and often above the level of physical and emotional abilities, pushing the envelope on a daily basis. Equally good and bad, I suppose). We did not call them chores. My mom would tell me to clean the kitchen or watch over my brothers while she was gone, and I would do it because that’s what you do in a family. You eat, you clean your plate, etc.

      Of course, I did not enjoy it, and I do not say this model works for everybody, or every family; I am just saying that sometimes just going back to whatever family values you might have, might be a good way to tie in reward. Build on whatever foundation you might already have.

      I am saying those things because it is helpful to me to think about your question Lola.

      Perhaps explaining to each child – at a developmentally appropriate level – that an allowance is not something they are entitle to, but an opportunity to practice how good they can become at this game called “My Financial World”.

      Kinda like “Where in the world is Carmen San Diego?” only with $$. “Where in the world is my dollar going? (or staying)” Does it go to my piggy bank for later? And why?

      Does it go to the store for the Legos? What are the ramifications of that? (a good teaching moment).

      Does it go to a “good cause” a starving child across the world, a soup kitchen in our community, etc? (another good teaching moment).

      Having semi-regular conversations around the table or int he car about money, about work (both about the parent’s work and about the child’s chores/work) and about what we each do with our money, could be of huge value with a small investment of time.

      And then again, I might be delusional.

      But it is worth trying, I think.

  • slny

    the only way that 6 year old could acquire $2400 is to have family and friends giving her some hunks of change.

  • Camika Lopez

    My 8 year old daughter is just like these children! She gets an allowance of 5 dollars a week for her chores ( making her bed, folding clothes, washing dishes, feeding her fish). In addition she has a “job”: recycling cans, glass and plastic bottles. She has managed to save 600.00 in her Keiki account ( we live in Hawaii). I’m saving for her and my son’s college. That money is hers to do whatever she wants but she has 3 plastic containers labeled spend, save, and “give” ( Thank you Dave Ramsey!). We try to teach her about this 3 pillars of money. My hope and prayer is that my daughter has a a good understanding of this tool called money and not have to learn about the ends and outs of it like I did in my twenties.

  • Andy

    I love the idea of a spend, save, charity split. I should lead by example by giving a percentage to charity before forcing it on any future children I have.

  • Jacob Smith

    His name is Clark and he lives in Chevy Chase? His parents are jerks…

  • Alex Nevarez

    I did chores growing up but my parents never gave us a weekly allowance (have two brothers). They said it is an obligation as part of the family to help around the house. Granted they did buy us stuff we wanted, but not all the time. We definitely weren’t spoiled. By the time I was twelve I got my first job (Star Ledger paperboy). I was making $30 a week. Even making my own money, parents taught me to save a least half in the bank, and at times they wouldn’t let me buy some things I wanted. I remember wanting mag rims for my bmx bike and dad said “you got rims, that aren’t broke, so no”. They were my money role models, even went to work in finance when I became an adult. Now, I help them with their finances.

  • pamb

    I don’t think saving birthday money really counts as ‘saving’. It’s not like she earned the money and then saved it; it was given to her by her very generous parents.

    • Tara

      I think kids can learn a lot from saving (whether the income is earned or unearned/given). For example, goal setting and delayed gratification are lessons learned when they save up for a specific item(s) or purpose.

      • pamb

        I guess what I mean is: that’s an awful lot of money for a six year old to have. She received a lot of money for gifts from her family. She didn’t actually do anything to earn the money, so it’s kind of like ‘money for nothing’, and she’s being held up as some kind of guide for others to follow. My 13 year old could save her money for a long time and not come up with $2400. It’s the very definition of being born on 3rd base and thinking you’ve hit a triple.