Future Debtors of America
By Mary Hunt
Founder and Editor of Debt-Proof Living
Your kids are growing up in a culture that offers them the world and is also perpetrating a lie. You are entitled to have everything you want even if you don’t have the money to pay for it. It’s not a problem—just charge it!
The consumer credit industry is going to fund that lie when it gives your kids their own credit cards. This is not going to require your permission or approval. Unless you intervene, your kids will anxiously accept, and that could be the beginning of the end of your hopes and dreams for your children’s futures. Do I mean to scare you? You bet I do.
Prepping Your Kids
Your children have been identified as the future debtors of America. They are being prepped every day of the week, nearly every hour of the day. You may be completely unaware.
If your kids read magazines, go to school, watch television, listen to the radio, know what a fast-food restaurant is, or hang out at the mall, I can nearly guarantee they know about entitlement and instant gratification.
A recent MasterCard ad campaign capitalized on the value of human relationships. Each ad concludes with this message: There are some things money cannot buy—for everything else there’s MasterCard. Now think about that for a minute. You and I know that’s not true, but the sentiment makes us feel good. But kids hear Everything money can buy is yours when you have MasterCard. When teenagers finally get that MasterCard, they’re going to do exactly as programmed: Use it to acquire all those things money can buy.
The consumer credit industry is seducing your children into the buy-now, pay-later lifestyle. If you do nothing to intervene, your children are headed for a life that could be severely impacted by consumer debt.
A Lethal Combination
I have spent many years analyzing the trouble I got into with consumer debt and have communicated with thousands who found themselves in the same boat. I have discovered three common characteristics that show up in nearly every one of these sad and disastrous situations, including my own.
- Financial ignorance
- Attitudes of entitlement
- Availability of credit
Take one financially ignorant person (of any age), add attitudes of entitlement, and expose him or her to the availability of credit. Ka-boom! The result is so potentially lethal it can interrupt educations, wreck relationships, ruin marriages, blow apart families, destroy careers, and prevent joy and happiness.
What’s the Solution?
The way to debt-proof your kids is to design and then implement a plan that will prevent these three factors from occurring together in the lives of your children. The plan must include a way to build financial intelligence, tear down attitudes of entitlement, and then make sure your kids know the ins and outs of saying no to consumer debt.
Inadequate for the Task
You may be thinking there’s no way you can do this because you’re deeply in debt yourself, or what you know about personal finance could fit into a thimble with room to spare. You’ve got plenty of company. Many parents fear that teaching their kids about money will be the blind leading the blind. Those same parents hope the schools will teach their kids what they need to know. Don’t count on it.
Let me assure you that even if your financial house could use a bit of tidying, you can debt-proof your kids. You can learn and implement and at the same time develop and train your kids. Never underestimate this truth: Teaching teaches the teacher.
While it might not hurt for your kids to know that you’ve blown it along the way, it won’t be necessary to conduct personal confessionals before them. No matter your past, you have a responsibility to train and teach your kids to thrive in the real world where 1.4 million people filed for personal bankruptcy in 2001; where conflicts over money are the biggest cause for more than all marriages ending in divorce; where consumer debt is now measured in the trillions of dollars. That’s the world in which you must prepare your kids to survive—and thrive.
Whether you develop your own training plan for your kids or choose to use the one we have developed (see Debt-Proof Your Kids), you need to get started now. When it comes to teaching your kids to be financially responsible, it’s never too early and also never too late!
I’ve experienced all feelings of inadequacy and personal financial failure. I know what it feels like to be scared half out of my wits about the enormity of being a parent. And guess what? We did it anyway. We debt-proofed our kids and so can you!
Mary Hunt is the founder and editor of Debt-Proof Living newsletter, the new finance columnist at Guideposts magazine, an AOL Money Coach and a contributing editor of Woman’s Day magazine. She is the author of 16 bestselling books, and her syndicated Everyday Cheapskate column can be found online and in newspapers nationwide. .
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