Talk to Your Kids About Credit Cards & Debt

My son went shopping yesterday for a new bathing suit. He came home with a new Speedo and a department store credit card. First, let me clarify that the Speedo is a pair of swim trunks and not a piece of stretchy material that is typically imagined when one thinks of a Speedo.

Now that we have that particular visual addressed, I’ll get back to the issue at hand — his first credit card. My son is a recent college graduate. He’s 22 years old, so clearly an adult who can make his own choices.

And yet, I feel highly protective (and frankly, a little miffed) that the store associate “pushed” this offer onto him.

I’m sure it didn’t take very much convincing. He just started his very first “real job”, with a new paycheck burning a hole in his pocket. But the prospect of getting 30% off of this purchase was too much to pass up.

He came home with a huge grin on his face at making this grown up decision. Not only had he found exactly what he was looking for, in the SALE rack no less — but at even more significant savings!

Enter Mom, the Resident Buzz Kill.

Mom: So, it’s probably not a good idea to use that credit card.

Son: It doesn’t cost any money to own, does it?

Mom: Well, no, it doesn’t cost money to have it. What costs money is if you use it too much and then carry a balance. Before you know it, the interest will take over, and you will barely be able to keep up with the minimum payments.

Son: I won’t do that. In fact, I only applied for it to get a discount. I saved $8 because it was 30% off.

Mom: *sigh*

Honestly, I know he needs to learn this for himself. But I don’t want him to learn the hard way. The way I learned. And keep on learning.

Am I a Hypocrite if I Lecture My Child Not To Do the Same Things I Have Done?

(Cue classic Kenny Rogers country ballad “Promise me son/not to do the things I’ve done…”)

At any rate, I have found myself in the midst of this teachable moment. How can I possibly let it pass me by? I *vow* to be open and honest with my child about my financial ups and downs.

I owe him that much since with age comes experience, and with experience comes wisdom. And Lord knows I could’ve used that wisdom when I was 22. Back when I applied for my first credit card.

Before I knew it, I’d racked up $500 worth of fashion must-haves, late-night pizza deliveries and ABBA’s Greatest Hits CD collection.

Have you ever found yourself in a similar teachable moment? For example, did you have a discussion with your children when they got their first credit card? Were you able to be brutally honest about your personal situation, or did you find it hard to “own up” to mistakes you might have made in the past?

How would you suggest approaching this type of conversation?

Thank you for your feedback. I appreciate any other perspectives that might be out there!

Robin : )

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