With children becoming consumers years before the word even appears on their school vocabulary lists, some parents are scrambling to teach their children money management.
"An awful lot of parents just want to know where to begin," said David McCurrach, author of "Kids' Allowances: How Much, How Often & How Come, A Guide for Parents."
His answer? An allowance.
"The key to teaching children financial responsibility is to give them an allowance," he said, "and let them learn through their own successes and failures."
Parents can begin doling weekly allowances to children as young as 3, McCurrach said. That's the age when most children grasp the concept of trading money for goods, he said.
On his Web site, kidsmoney .org, McCurrach surveys parents about how they handle allowances. More than 1,000 parents report that allowances increase with age, averaging about $10 for 12 year olds. Parents' methods of awarding allowances vary; some use age as a meter, while others base the amount on grades or chores.
Jennifer Floto, a journalism professor at the University of Southern California, began giving her daughter Jamie a weekly allowance at age 6.
"It makes me more responsible," said Jamie, now 11, "and when I am older I will know how to manage my money."
In his book, McCurrah, who lives in Franklin, Tenn., and has worked in banking for 25 years, suggests giving three different allowances: a weekly allowance for spending, saving and sharing; another for clothes; and a third for gifts.
The gift allowance could be a fixed amount that parents will contribute, perhaps $5 for friends and $10 for family, he said.
Most parents give a clothing allowance twice a year, for winter and summer wear. And when parents give their children a clothing allowance, they shouldn't dictate what their children buy, because that freedom teaches financial management.
"With a clothing allowance, it is important to teach kids independence," he said.
Parents and children should make a list of clothes they will need for the upcoming season and then try to attach a money value to each piece.
McCurrach said he and other financial experts do not advocate tying allowances to chores. The purpose of chores and the purpose of an allowance are different, he suggested.
"Chores teach the responsibility of being in a family, while an allowance teaches children how to manage money," he said.