Tuesday, March 15, 2011

Credit and Drugs

How many of you have credit cards? Raise your hand.

Mine is up, very reluctantly. We were credit card free for several years and SOMEONE got a card last year without consulting me. That same someone is responsible for paying it off. Grr. I hate credit cards.

My oldest children, Maybelline and Oatmeal Head, are about to turn 18 and 17. Maybelline will be a senior this coming year and Oatmeal Head a Junior. They're learning to drive (doing pretty well) and have their own jobs and bank accounts. It's all good. So far.

I've been thinking a lot about how to counsel them concerning money. We don't do too well with it ourselves. But I want better for my kids, y'know? And an analogy struck me. Probably one you've heard, but it was new to me. Credit cards are like drugs. So here's what I plan to talk to my kids about. We've already told them that credit cards are the spawn of Satan, but kids don't really listen, so I want to drive the point home in a way that makes sense. Since numbers don't make sense to any of us (interest, blah blah blah).

Drugs. Why does a person do drugs? Initially another person will push the drug on you, right? Say all kinds of seemingly harmless things about it. Whatever. Everybody's doing it. And the drug makes you euphoric, or calms you down, or whatever it is you need to feel. It masks the real issue you're having, rather than forcing you to face into your problems and deal with them.

Next time you're depressed, or needing a lift, it's so much easier to reach for a drug than to look yourself in the eye and ask the tough questions, or to wade through to the other side of the feeling. It becomes a very bad, destructive habit.

Oh, but I can quit anytime I want. Yeah. Right.

VISA sends out letters offering credit cards to college students. Everybody's doing it. Saying all kinds of seemingly harmless things about getting a card. And using the card the first time brings a sense of euphoria or calm or whatever you need to feel. Buy a new iPad and not have to pay for it right away? ROCK ON.

Rather than learn to budget or tighten the belt, the credit card makes it easy to buy impulsively and not face into the real issues. Why do you NEED that right now? What are you masking by using that card? What hole are you filling with an impulse buy?

Then you run out of money at the end of the month. And you need food. Well, there's ramen and beans in the cupboard, but it's not burgers. So you use what little is left on that card to buy consumables. That you'll pay interest on.

Oh, but you can quit any time you want. Yeah. Right.

Maybe this is how I can talk to my kids about credit cards. I don't want anyone to own them. They don't understand, because they haven't lived enough, and because we haven't been the best examples, what debt and financial oppression look like. I'm not necessarily afraid for them, but I'd like it if they left my house doing life well. At least halfway well.

*sigh* We'll see.

Until I write again ...



Pearl said...

My son's actually done surprisingly well for himself insofar as money is concerned and pays off his credit card monthly. I'm amazed -- I must've served as the "what not to do"...


Trisha said...

I like this analogy! As with drugs, there are good uses of drugs (that large appliance you can't pay for right now but will be able to pay off at the end of the month) and there are abuses of drugs (buying all those shoes that you really don't need and maxing out your credit card). Teaching kiddos about the dangers of credit cards is the responsible thing to do.

Snooty Primadona said...

Ugh. It's a hard lesson to teach & an even harder one to actually learn. Loans for college will be bad enough without adding credit card debt. That being said, I have to admit that we have one child that learned the lesson and one that thought all loan money & credit card spending was free. Since they've been living on their own, they have both finally shown that they learned the lesson.

Still, you can lead a horse to water, but you can't make him drink. So, I just taught my kids that people who overspend with credit cards are idiots.

Karate Mom said...

You might consider going through Dave Ramsey's Financial Peace University as a family. It's a 12 week course that you can take through various churches and it's AWESOME! Dave is an advocate of not borrowing money for anything, ever - not for cars, not for education. (Mortgages are a slightly different story.) He doesn't believe that credit cards should be on hand for "emergencies" but that you should have a CASH emergency fund in place. (There's not much of anything that's a true emergency that $1000 cash or less can't fix.) Anyway, I think that everyone should go through his course!

Krista said...

I can quit anytime. I just call my credit card company and tell them if they don't remove that charge I am closing my account. :) Actually, my hubby and I are both freakishly responsible when it comes to money. I wish I could splurge but I have a conscience.

mumple said...

I worried about that with the Toad. Until I told him the whole, ugly truth about my credit history (and Kevin shared his, and how we had to work together, being hyper aware etc, in order to dig out) and I told him that, flat out, if he signs for one, it will be HIS. 110% totally, with interest and late fees and ruined credit foraboutever.

Somehow, with all the other "I can't hear you" buzz in his head for everything else we said, he did actually hear and assimilate to it. His money handling/awareness still stinks, but at least when he's out of money, he's out of money. (Living at home ensure he's not, instead, living in a box somewhere.)

Oh, the same approach worked with drinking, but you gotta start those conversations now, so that by the time they're 21 and legal, it's part of who-they-are too. (It also helps if you can point to some jerks their age whom they know for themselves drink)