Credit cards. We’re awash in them as a society, and our exposure to them often starts in college (if not sooner). The day you get your first credit card, you join a system of credit and debt that can financially eat you alive if you’re not careful. I have nothing against the idea of credit cards – I use one constantly myself, paying it off every payday. And recently we used our card points to book a trip (more on that later). What I object to though is how credit card companies market their products: they send out those “you’re approved” letters, tempting people with credit problems.
Credit cards are a tool in your financial toolbox, but they’re a little like juggling a chainsaw. One or two are manageable, but if you try more than that, odds are you’re going to lose a hand (financially speaking).
Credit card companies are data-driven. They know that for every 1000 applications they send out, they’ll get a certain percentage of completions. Of the ones that get approved, most of them will turn into incredible profit generators for the company; most people don’t pay them off every cycle, and only accumulate more debt over time. But what if it became significantly more expensive for credit card companies to gain new customers this way?
My solution is simple and shown in the image above: rip up the credit card application and send it back to them. They have to pay for postage, so this costs you nothing.
Credit cards are financial tools that should be available for financially mature adults who can use them responsibly. They should not be dangled in front of every like debt-candy.
If we all make it more expensive for credit cards companies to run unsolicited marketing campaigns like this, they might do it less often. Yes, I know it would take huge numbers of these going back to them to change their behaviour, but you have to start someplace. 🙂
In part one of this topic, I discussed why you should have the first of many “money talks” with your kid, busted some of the myths on why parents avoid it, and covered some of the risks if you avoided it. So when should you start talking to your kids about money? My advice is don’t wait too long.
When to start the conversation
Start explaining what money is at age two. Let them touch money (coins and cash), play games with money…then wash their hands because money is pretty filthy (physically, not conceptually).
Start giving your kids weekly money at age three, but don’t put it in a piggy bank and tell them they can never spend it. The piggy bank approach turns money into an abstract concept rather than a real-world tool. They won’t entirely understand this whole “money” thing at first, but it will give you the tangible opportunity to have regular conversations about saving, spending, and giving. It’s also a great way to encourage counting, addition and subtraction skills.
The issue of whether money should be given only for chores – a commission for work as Dave Ramsey would say – or simply as a financial learning tool isn’t clear cut in my view. We chose to implement it in multiple steps based on our son’s age.
Continue reading Having The Money Talk With Your Kids: Part 2
In the past six months, I’ve had a few conversations with parents of young kids (8 and under), and none of them are actively teaching their kids about money, instead figuring they’ll do it “later”. According to this study by the UK’s Money Advice Service, basic money habits are formed in kids by age seven. By the time most parents think their kids are “ready”, the money habits are already formed. In these conversations I’ve had, some of the common reasons for avoiding “the money talk” among parents are have included:
The Myth: “My kids aren’t old enough to understand much about money yet.”
The Reality: There’s a great saying that goes “More is caught that taught”, and having been a parent for the past six years, I can vouch for the truth of it. Your kids are watching what you do, and learning from it. They’re watching you spend, and save (or not). They’re watching what you buy, and they’re listening to what you say about money in your home. If you’re having financial struggles, they may be watching you and your spouse fight about money. If you’re not purposefully explaining your actions regarding money, your kids are going to come up with their own interpretations of what money is all about. You’d be surprised what your kids have picked up about money along the way, but don’t leave their education half-finished.
Continue reading Having The Money Talk With Your Kids: Part 1