Why Aren’t You Worried About Debit and Credit Cards for Teenagers?

by Kevin on May 10, 2010

I’ve told you I think educating our youth on maintaining a check register is a step in the wrong direction.

Some of my readers commented on that post arguing there will always be a need for a check register. I’ll tackle that in a future post.

Today I want to focus on why you should be engaged in educating the next generation on money. I think it is vitally important.

Banks Target Teenage Spending

Our teenagers are under siege. They’re in the cross-sights of major corporations across the country. Boardrooms are filled with directors trying to figure out how to get their hands on some young and impressionable kids.

Our kids will see thousands of commercials in their lifetimes. They’re being trained to spend, trained to keep up with the Joneses, and trained to continue the debt spiral that our society craves.

Why Target Teen Money?

In my opinion there are three reasons teens are targeted.

Teens are… teens.

Very, very few of the teenagers you run across these days are focused too far in the future or saving money.

They are living in the moments, and focused on today. Yes, as teens get older they start thinking about the future more (college, dating, etc.). But your average 13 to 16 year old doesn’t.

Just like at any other time in your life, without a thought to the future it is easy to splurge today.

Teens control a massive amount of money.

“How is that possible?”, you might ask. “Most young teens don’t even have jobs!”

You’re absolutely right, but their parents have jobs. And those red-blooded American parents don’t want Jimmy and Jane to look out of place at school. They also want them to have every opportunity and experience possible.

What Jimmy and Jane want, generally speaking, Jimmy and Jane get. So even without jobs these kids control a massive amount of their family’s money.

That’s two reasons, but the third is most dangerous…

Companies Want Teens Trained to Swipe, Swipe, Swipe

Have you seen the Visa debit card commercial where everyone uses their debit card to purchase items, there is lots of dancing and happiness, and then the guy comes up and tries to pay with crummy old cash? The world, dancing, and happiness end.

Come on man, cash is old! Swipe that card!

It is messages like these that our youth sees multiple times per day.

Yes a debit card is a better option than a credit card. But to me the message is clear: swipe, swipe, and swipe some more.

The further they can push the next generation away from the tangible, physical connection to money, the easier it will be to convince them to just keep on spending.

How to Financially Fight Back

In the past I have argued for the safe and intelligent use of credit and debit cards. (See Credit Cards are Not Evil then check out all the posts I’ve written on credit cards.)

I stand by that assessment. The safe and informed used of credit and debit cards is not a bad thing. But education is key.

In my next post I will share how I would fight back against big banks and companies that tried to alter my kid’s understanding of money.  One of the first places I would start them off is with a solid budget worksheet. (You know, if I had any kids.) If you’ve been reading this blog for long you know I’m a huge fan of spreadsheets.

Stay tuned via RSS or e-mail updates so you won’t miss the next post.

{ 2 trackbacks }

Graduation Roundup
May 16, 2010 at 8:04 am
Planting the garden | Roundup
May 18, 2010 at 6:24 am


Jenna May 10, 2010 at 1:13 pm

I agree with everything you have to say (especially with the swiping – hello student IDs). However, I would also like to point out that once teenagers start working (first real jobs) their views on money change – drastically. Hopefully it will spark conversations between parents and teenagers.

michele May 10, 2010 at 7:21 pm

I have a teenager that has had his lawn care business since he was 13. About a month ago I took him to get a checking account with a debit card. I see this as a life skill that he needs to learn. He keeps the debit card register faithfully and hasn’t overdrawn. My experience so far has been a very good one using this method. Before he opened the account, it seemed easier for him to ask me to front him money for a couple a days if he knew he had a job in the near future. The deal with allowing him to get the debit card was that there would be no more loans. He hasn’t even asked. I think at almost seventeen years old and having several years under his belt of handling cash he totaly “gets” the abstract of using the debit card. He has a little money built up in the savings to use as a cushion in case he does make a math error. Now my main focus is to help him “see” the benefit of building up the savings for a longer term goal.

debtbuster May 31, 2010 at 1:04 am

I agree with everything you’ve said. Is there any reason why so many young people these days are in debt? Wish they were all responsible money (in this case credit) users. Unfortunately this is not the case. I agree education is important. Especially in this advertising filled society. If no one teaches them they’ll learn from what the television tells them and that’s to spend, spend, spend!

Comments on this entry are closed.