One of the warnings we (Jim, Julesie, and me) gave the older boy before he left for college was to stay away from credit cards. They are dangerous if not used properly, and can make life miserably expensive for decades.
I remember when *I* was in college, companies were constantly trying to get us students (and newly-away-from-home-and-doing-whatever-we-wanted-to-do teenagers) to accept the cards they “pre-approved” for us. Back then (late 80’s), credit cards weren’t as big of a problem in general as they are today. People were still paying for most things with cash or check, and layaway programs were readily available in department stores. I was able to easily ignore the offers.
When Jim and I got married, we made the decision that we wouldn’t get any credit cards. Our income was miniscule anyway: we were used to not shopping for anything but necessities.
Eventually (I think it took about two years), we decided to get an Exxon gasoline card. Then? A JCPenney card. For the most part at that time, we used the cards we had in a very, very responsible manner. Later in life, we added several other credit cards and, though there was one point in time when we had total balances that were far above the national average, we buckled down, paid it ALL off, and cut up all but one credit card. Now we pay off our one credit card (yes, only ONE!) at the end of each month.
The way our country has become a credit-based society worries me; it has for a while now. I feel certain that a majority of people (more than we can even imagine) are living beyond their means. Although the state of our economy has forced many people to make cutbacks, I wish there were more people who would voluntarily cut back on their use of credit. So many kids today have been brought up seeing their parents charge all kinds of things they have no business buying, and I believe that this is part of the reason that there is an outrageous sense of entitlement among young people.
So when the credit card companies of today stalk college students (and newly-away-from-home-and-doing-whatever-we-want-to-do teenagers)? It’s a different story than it was twenty-five years ago. So many of them will readily accept these pre-approved cards and then use them irresponsibly. This will add to the nation’s madness, as well as put young people way behind the eight ball by the time they graduate from college.
The older boy has received, here at our home address, more than five credit card offers in the mail since he left for school just four weeks ago. For now, he knows that it’s ridiculous for him to sign up for them: he’s not working regularly and the money he does make, needs to go towards tuition and the occasional pizza (or Easy Mac, for which he walked to the grocery store on Saturday, over three miles each way!). I’m happy that he is also a young man of simple tastes; we talk about financial stuff all the time in this house: he knows what things cost and he has always had to work for things that are on the high-end side of his wants, like his computer, iPod, CAR…
I think we’ve done a great job preparing him (and his brother) for what lies ahead. I believe that when he does sign up for a credit card, it won’t be for a few years until he has a regular job, and I think he will use it responsibly. (At least, I hope so!)
What about you? Do you talk to your kids about the pitfalls of credit cards?
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