Swipe, swipe, and swipe again.
Watching someone buy anything they want with just the swipe of a card makes it easy to believe that money actually does grow on trees. So, with the common belief that teenagers don’t understand the value of money, is it logical to give your teen a credit card?
Teens may seem reckless and unable to handle large responsibilities such as money, but with the proper guidance it can actually benefit them in the future.
It’s easy to watch Mom and Dad buy flat screens, computers, the latest iPhone, and other luxuries with a piece of plastic. If given the wrong impression, they might actually think it is that easy. If parents just take the time to show their teens how to manage finances, then they can learn for themselves how important and dangerous
money really is.
I received my first credit card when I was in the 6th grade. And because I didn’t have a driver’s license, my Mom took me to the DMV to get an under-21 identification card. She sat down with me and showed me how to access my account to check my balance and how to work a checkbook. I was responsible of keeping track of all of my transactions by writing them down and checking my bank account online to make sure everything matched. And since I was still very young, Mom always kept a close eye on my spending, as well, so she could monitor what I was buying.
As I got older, I was given more freedom with the card and was allowed to take it with me when I went to the mall with friends. I could only spend a certain amount. I was virtually the only 13-year-old girl with a credit card, which made me feel pretty special, and shopping seemed to be a blast. I felt so professional with my credit card and being able to prove that the name on the front of the card was mine, and not my parents. Although it was tempting to go over the limit I was given, I never did because I had been taught how dangerous that could be.
Now that I have a job, things have taken another big leap forward. Now it is my own money being spent and since it’s more than $20 from babysitting, I have full control of my card and what I spend, where I spend it, and how much I decide to spend.
At the age of 17 my mom still had to show me how to write deposit slips to mail in my paychecks. Now, whenever payday comes around I pick up my check and hurry home to fill out a deposit slip and mail it off so I can go shopping and blow all of my money as quickly as possible. ... Not really. Now that I am older and have more freedom with the card, more responsibilities have come with it. I have to pay for more because teenage girls can be fairly expensive to keep up with. I pay for food whenever I go out, clothes, etc. My parents only pay for the necessities, and because I have been given more responsibility I never want to spend as much on things I don’t actually need so I have learned to save my money and make sure I always have
a decent balance so that if I do see something spectacular I can get it.
As everyone knows, my generation has grown up with technology and to tell you the truth, I really can’t see myself without a cell phone, computer, Internet, or iPod. These things may seem like obnoxious distractions but they can be just as helpful as they are annoying. On most smartphones you can download apps for your bank, so that whenever you are on the go you can check your account or pay your bills. For teenagers, who always seem to be on the go, it seems to be especially helpful. I constantly check my balance on my phone or see if my check has been deposited. I have my bank account app on the first page of my iPhone right next to Facebook and Twitter.
I love it that my parents taught me the proper way to manage my finances when I was young by giving me the responsibility of a credit card. Although I still have a lot to learn about finance in general, I have a tremendous head start for college. It is a huge benefit to know how to do all of this stuff early because once you hit high schools things become chaotic and it's hard to find time to learn everything.
Encouraging young adults to learn about finances will usually always do more good than harm. I do not think everyone should just hand over a MasterCard to their 13-year-olds and tell them to go out and buy things, but if the child has earned the privilege to be taught how to properly work with the card, then it will benefit them in the long run.
Yes Mom and Dad, I promise you we are all very aware that “money doesn’t grow on trees.” We just want to learn how to handle it ourselves.
Teen Talk columnist Christine Baker is a senior at McKinney High School. Watch for her column on Fridays.