Saturday, January 6, 2018

Want a Debt Free Kid? Helicopter Away

I tried, and failed, to get my son to avoid debt on his credit card. I would have modeled paying it off each month, but he was seldom around when I paid bills, and just telling someone to pay them off each month isn't enough, I've found, to get him or her to do it.

Now, he has run up about a $2,900 credit card bill and I cringe just to think of it. He has promised to pay it off once he graduates because his school is supposed to be giving him about $2,500. I hope so. I will let you know.

I've written about money before, but not credit card debt, because I wasn't aware of it earlier. Now I am, it makes total sense, since credit cards bombard our kids daily with offers and will always win unless we can figure out how to stop them.

Obviously, I did not.

I suppose I should have started early and drummed it into my son's head that you have to pay off each month's bills religiously. I was involved in trying to teach him so many other things, this one slipped through the cracks. But it sounds like all I'm doing now is looking for excuses, and maybe I am.

Never mind the shoulda-woulda-coulda stuff. If you can possibly stand to be a true helicopter parent when it comes to hovering over your kid and teaching them how to stay out of debt, I recommend it. The FIRST time they want something, meaning as little kids, start an allowance and make them save up to get it. Do this for at least one thing they want every year until they are close to ten years old.

And oh, make them work for it. Carrying out the garbage, raking leaves, cleaning the house (not just their rooms) are where I'd start. My house looked like a hurricane hit it for too long until I started paying my son to clean up his mess. But he should have been cleaning it up and doing a lot more than that. (What did I say about excuses)?

When your son or daughter becomes a tween, show them your budget and sit them down to make one. If I tell you how many times I wished I'd done this, you'll stop visiting me here. But trust me, you're going to want your kid to know how to budget better than mine does--I promise you.

If your kid wants more than one thing, tell them they have to choose one and defer buying the other until they've saved the money. Open a bank account that belongs to them and encourage them to save a little bit each week.

Finally, you can't keep the credit card companies from overwhelming your kid with offers when he or she goes to college. You CAN keep asking them if they are paying it off (and make that a mantra every night before they go to sleep, along with prayers or whatever they say at bedtime).

Thou shalt pay off thy credit card bills monthly. Thou shalt not run up a debt throughout the year.

Do this and you can avoid my excuses. And here's a few more tips for you on how to raise children who don't get into debt:

9 Ways to Teach Your Kids About Money

Teaching Kids About Money & Finance

20 Tips for Keeping Your Kids Debt Free

Credit card bill time photo: Jason Rogers