Why Educating Kids on Checkbooks is a Step in the Wrong Direction

by Kevin on April 13, 2010

When I was in high school one of my classes taught everyone how to write a check and then balance your checkbook.

Less than a decade removed from my senior year I find myself wondering if high schools across America are still teaching check writing.

Are checkbook skills going to valuable to the upcoming generation?

Checkbooks Are Outdated

Let’s face it. Checks have been around a long time. (We’re talking ancient Romans and the Middle Ages). They are a piece of an old, outdated system.

Technology is slowly, ever so slowly, phasing checks out of existence. Your average high school or college student will likely use a combination of debit cards, credit cards, and direct electronic payments in his or her lifetime.

With debit and credit cards the banks send you a card for free. The card is obviously reusable. You can swipe to your heart’s content (and unfortunately with credit cards, even more after that). Nonetheless the bank wants your business and makes everything convenient for you.

Plus debit card programs generate revenue for banks while check imaging software is expensive.

Writing checks is not only inconvenient, you also have to buy more checks when you run out. (So much for it being “free” checking!)

And let’s be honest. How many times have you written a check in the last week? What about the last month? The last year?

We write one check per month to our church. That’s it. Everything else goes on the debit or credit card.

Checking Accounts are First Steps

On the other hand I can see how checking accounts are a first step in educating a student on the financial system.

Using checks and checkbooks emphasizes that you can only spend the money that is in your account. You can’t spend more.

Maintaining a checkbook also encourages the student to be aware of the balance in the account. Write a check, deduct the amount from the account in the check register.

Emphasize Both Debit and Checkbooks

Yet we live in an ever increasing digital age. I am fairly confident that physically writing checks will disappear during my lifetime.

We should be training the next generation on debit and credit card use. (I’ll write more on credit cards targeted at the younger generation in my next post.)

Instead of teaching students how to master a check register we should be teaching them on tracking your balance with online tools or spreadsheets. We should educate them on avoiding phishing scams and keeping their debit card numbers safe.

Above all we should make sure they understand the critical difference between debit and credit.

For those of you with kids, what are you doing to educate them on basic financial matters? Are you aware of what, if anything, your school is teaching them? Leave a comment!

(Photo by Hello Turkey Toe)

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