We’re back! I hope everyone had a great summer with a little bit of sun and fun. Of course, all good things must come to an end, and with children heading back to school (during the warmest week of the entire summer no less! Cruel, cruel nature.) I’ve been thinking about some of the things they end up learning outside the classroom. Many of the lessons that we learn in school don’t become relevant until long after graduation; unfortunately some of these lessons can be very painful, and learning them the hard way can have a huge negative impact for many years into the future.
Before I attended my first class at the University of Alberta, I had a “free” travel mug (a gift for signing up for a new Visa), sports bag (Mastercard), and t-shirt (American Express). They handed these cards out like candy.
“You should start building a credit history,” was a popular line from the smiling, attractive sales reps. Not that I needed to be sold; I was an adult now! I could handle the responsibility! I had a weekend job, and not too many bills. What’s the harm?
Ever hear the analogy of giving a child a loaded gun?
“Big Cajun Man” wrote on his website “Canadian Personal Finance Blog” about having similar experiences:
Students: Banks’ New Markets
For those of you who are unaware, Banks try to capitalize on attracting new (and young) customers on campus these days (most Universities have entire bank branches on campus). They are quite aggresive in their marketing to these new potential clients, enticing them with iPods and other “perks” to open new accounts.
Banks are always on the look out to get NEW clients that want to pay Bank Fees and put their savings in their banks for the bank to use as well. When you send your child/student off to school keep this in mind and maybe talk to your kids about banking and the in’s and out’s of the “Banking Game”.
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I’m a firm believer that the real education that takes place at college/university happens outside the classroom. Up to the point that they are sent off to school (or even well past that), most children have been totally dependent on their parents for housing, groceries, phone/tv/internet and other utilities, vehicle costs, maybe even allowance income. Even if they have been fortunate enough to have someone build an RESP for them, it’s still more money coming from “nowhere” that takes care of things for them. Some may have had part time jobs, learned a little bit about the value of money, but until you’re buying your own toothpaste…
“Big Cajun Man” says it well:
Teach Your Kids To Be Frugal At Back To School Time
The point of University is to learn, and one of the things that kids need to learn is how to cultivate and develop their own Inner Frugality. If you buy your kids $3000 worth of furniture for their apartment, they are effectively living YOUR lifestyle (i.e. it’s just like home), whereas maybe they should be learning to live a frugal lifestyle instead? At University I had a treasure trove of old, used and scrounged furniture, and I loved it. No, my living room was not something out of “Better Homes” but it was mine (mostly my parents gave me an old dresser), and that is (I think) one of those things a kid in post secondary education (or one that has just moved out) needs, that sense of self.
Teach your kids to live within their own means, when they spread their wings and leave the nest, and that may be the most important thing they learn.
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To borrow another well-known phrase: “If you don’t talk to your kids about money… someone else will.”