MILWAUKEE (BUSINESS WIRE), November 04, 2010 - Most students – and a majority of parents – advocate providing rewards including cash and iPods® to students who get good grades, according to new poll results released by the Northwestern Mutual Foundation’s financial literacy Web site, Themint.org.

According to the poll results, 77 percent of children aged 17 and younger said parents should give rewards for good grades. Sixty percent of parents aged 30 and older agreed saying, “Incentives can help reinforce good behavior while helping children learn about money.” The remaining 40 percent of parents disagreed saying, “Students should learn to do their best without needing a reward.”

“As millions of report cards are delivered nationwide this month, many parents will give rewards for good grades to recognize accomplishments, inspire future success and teach their children the value of long-term goal-setting,” said Northwestern Mutual Vice President Janie Schiltz.

When asked what rewards might best encourage students to achieve good grades, kids and adults agreed that financial incentives like “cash rewards” (19%) and “desired items” (23%) like clothes, games or an iPod were more influential than experiential incentives like “a special dinner at a favorite restaurant” (12%) and “a trip to a theme park, water park or other attraction” (4%).

Students aged 17 and younger did, however, indicate responsiveness to a “parent’s praise and encouragement.” In fact, this motivator scored similarly (27%) to financial incentives like “cash rewards” (25%) and “desired items” (33%), outperforming experiential incentives like “a special dinner” (11%) and “a trip to an attraction” (1%).

“By motivating children at a young age, parents can help kids learn how to set and achieve long-term goals,” Schiltz said. “Parents’ praise – and the positive examples they set – are very powerful tools to help shape students’ long-term habits across all areas of their lives; but rewards may provide extra inspiration for some students to succeed when it comes to report cards.”

Reaction among adults on Northwestern Mutual’s Facebook page varied.

When asked if students should receive rewards for good grades, Adi from Florida said, “Of course they should. Kids have ONE job, besides behaving. That is to get good grades. When they do, reward them!” Victoria from Wisconsin said, “If there is a ‘punishment,’ loss of privileges, etc., for bad grades, then there should be a ‘reward’ for good grades.”

Gail, a retired school teacher from Nebraska disagreed saying, “I always expected my kids to do their best-regardless of the [reward]. School is their job. Encourage them to do their best and help when needed.”

Key Points for Parents to Inspire Long-term Goal-Setting

While parents and students nationwide favor report card rewards, Schiltz says the results shouldn’t be seen as a “one size fits all” answer.

“Just like in the workforce, many are motivated by paychecks and performance bonuses, while others are more influenced as much or more by praise and encouragement or work/life incentives,” said Schiltz. “Money doesn't make you happy or successful in-and-of itself. It can be a long-term motivator and a means to an end, but not the end goal (the end goal in this case being a sound learning experience). Every child is unique, and parents should select incentives that work best for their family.”

Read Themint.org’s tips for parents [PDF] to consider before deciding to provide rewards for good grades.

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About Themint.org Poll

From June through September 2010, visitors to the financial literacy Web site Themint.org were invited to answer two questions about the best ways to inspire kids to succeed in school. A combined total of more than 1,250 respondents nationwide provided insight, and the results were then analyzed based on several demographic factors including the age and gender. This poll marks the eleventh in an ongoing series of polls by Themint.org, with the aim of bringing continued awareness to financial literacy issues. Poll results are archived on the site and can be viewed at http://www.themint.org/polls.

Launched in 1997, Themint.org is a collaboration between the Northwestern Mutual Foundation, the charitable arm of Northwestern Mutual, and the National Council on Economic Education (NCEE). The site provides fun activities, games, challenges, quizzes and tests for students and teens, helpful tips for parents, and entertaining programs and lesson plans for teachers to promote financial literacy.

About Northwestern Mutual

The mission of the Northwestern Mutual Foundation is to build strong, vibrant communities that serve as a legacy to future generations. The Foundation’s giving is designed to create an impact on the communities where the company’s employees and financial representatives live and work. In fiscal year 2010, the Foundation contributed more than $15 million to nonprofit organizations across the country.

The Northwestern Mutual Life Insurance Company – Milwaukee, WI (Northwestern Mutual) has helped clients achieve financial security for more than 150 years. Northwestern Mutual and its subsidiaries offer a holistic approach to financial security solutions including: life insurance, long-term care insurance, disability insurance, annuities, investment products, and advisory products and services. Subsidiaries include Northwestern Mutual Investment Services, LLC, broker-dealer, registered investment adviser, member FINRA and SIPC; the Northwestern Mutual Wealth Management Company, limited purpose federal savings bank; and Northwestern Long Term Care Insurance Company; and Russell Investments. Further information can be found at http://www.northwesternmutual.com.

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