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It’s not the fault of the schools

It’s not the fault of the schools

“Kids are graduating high school today and some of them don’t even know how to balance a checkbook”

“College kids sign up for a credit card to get the free t-shirt, and wind up in debt”

I’m sure you’ve heard quotes like those before, usually followed by “Schools need to do a better job of teaching personal finance”. I’d like to argue that it’s not the fault of the schools. It’s our fault. As parents and adults, many of us spend money every day in ways that are less than responsible.

For the record, I learned how to balance a checkbook in junior high. I learned how to do a tax return in high school. I knew that debt was the kind of thing that made people worry and argue, and that I wanted to avoid it. But within 2 years of moving out, I began racking up credit card debt and bouncing checks because I didn’t know how to say no, to myself or to others. While I knew what I should do and how to handle money responsibly (because the schools and my parents had told me so) I had a hard time actually DOING it.

As a parent, you can’t say “credit cards are bad” and then say yes to your kid when they want something and you don’t have the money. Even if you do have the money, but it’s earmarked for something else, you have to say no. You have to explain that if they want something, they have to go out and get the money for it first. You can’t get out the credit card and say “well, just this once”. And then this once, and that once. You can’t say “sure, you can go do blah blah blah, you can borrow the money from me”.

Handling money is about priorities and living within your means. It’s about personal responsibility. Of course you want your kid to be able to attend x event. Of course you want them to look nice and feel comfortable with the clothes they have. Of course you want your child to be happy. But if you go into debt to do it or allow them to do so, you’re telling your kid that they can want something and get it now without actually having the money upfront.

It’s the old actions speak louder than words thing. It starts with us.

View Comments (7)
  • I could not agree more! The sad part about this is parents that hover around and bend the rules for their kids — they’re not doing them any favors…

  • Agree with your comments. About 5 years ago the only students learning about credit cards, check writing and even applying for a job were those in Special Education. Reason: they would be going out into the ‘real world’ upon graduation and needed the skills. The ‘college prep’ students would do OK on their on. I suppose this explains why 2 girls in the top 20 students applied for jobs in their bathing suits on the way to the beach and a boy ran up over $3000 in credit card debt ‘because I’m only 17 and can’t be held responsible for signing a contract as I’m not of legal age”. True stories because the girls applied to my store and the boy lived 2 doors down. Somebody – parents first, schools 2nd – wake up and really start teaching these kids.

  • I think it is up to the parents because we should be giving our kids an allowance and teaching them how to manage it. Parents need things to discuss with their children. If schools taught everything, what would we talk about at dinner? ;)
    But ultimately kids will just have to learn a lot of it on their own. No matter how many times my parents told me to never build up debt I still did. But I learned a lot from it.

  • I completely agree with you. In fact driving with my daughters in the car with me yesterday, I started discussing bank fees with them. What happens with ATM withdrawls, what happens when you overdraft your account, etc.

    My parents NEVER discussed money with me. It wasn’t “polite”.

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