Student loan debt and credit cards are a harsh, staggering reality for most Americans today. People living outside of their means are mainstream lifestyles in today’s culture. Consumerism is a driving force for growing debt and shattered dreams. What does it mean for the next generation? Younger and younger kids are getting credit card offers, cell phone bills, and other debt-inducing opportunities they aren’t ready to handle. What should your teen know about money management and the risky endeavors of financial borrowing?
College Isn’t What it Used to Be
The first thing teenagers need to consider in today’s world is how necessary college is. Americans are racking up debt like there is no tomorrow; pushing through universities only to come out unable to obtain jobs in their fields. It was once believed, ‘If you go to college you’ll have a better life, a great career,’ but that is not always the case anymore. In today’s society, the number of college graduates has flooded the job market. Many people can’t find work in the field they majored in. Many can’t even find work in related fields of study; it's important to know whether college is integral for the specific career your child is interested in.
There Are Alternatives – Work Your Way Through
If the field of interest is definitely an area that requires a degree, find innovative ways to obtain it. Get a foot in the door to work your way up through a trade or field. Many companies reimburse you for college courses, so teens have the opportunity to work through college without obtaining massive debt. Attending part-time may take longer but a company may pay for most of that. Finding a company that offers those type of incentives is worth it long term.
Career Fields Are Changing
No one wants just a degree these days, they also want experience. Job shadow, and start interning. These field entrances are a much more constructive use of a year than full-time debt-inducing school schedules. Interview someone in the career path you are considering. If your passion is medicine, for example, work as an EMT to work your way through college, making connections in the medical field and hospitals while you are at it. Experience is just as valuable as a degree in some fields.
Your Future Spouse May Double Your Debt
A student may think $20,000 in student loans does not seem like a lot of money, but that may double when a spouse comes along. Whoever you marry may have student loans as well. However much you collectively have in debt for student loans may not transfer to how much money you each bring in per year to pay them back down. Keep in mind if the career field you are going into is able to give you a return on your investment.
Credit Cards Are Shark Systems
Credit cards are often a destructive habit. While many companies try to lure younger people into “building up their credit” in order to seem financially responsible, many young people aren’t equipped to handle the debt trap. Teenagers who do have jobs often times don’t have a realistic approach to money, as they don’t have bills and responsibilities to manage. Credit cards tempt people into habitually spending money they don’t have, leading to crippling financial trouble. Know that no credit card company is in it for anything beyond the bottom line, and all of the programs are systems built to accumulate interest and push people to spend more than they need to. The more you spend, the more money they make.
Consumerism Is a Choice
Commercialism, consumerism, production, and processing are all machines that feed the capitalism of our nation. Teens need to push back against those social pressures and make the choice to consume less. Self-sufficiency is a growing and exciting trend in all areas of living, but it still is not mainstream. The Greatest Generation is the one who prospered after living through The Great Depression. Having less and learning to make do clearly has its advantages in terms of long-range prosperity. We need to examine the habits and attitudes of those ahead of us to help those behind.
Owing Money Is a Monkey on Your Back
Any debt is a burden. While it may be true that certain circumstances and situations render some debt necessary, it certainly doesn’t need to be embraced and recklessly tossed about in the way it is today. Every time you owe money, you are choosing bondage over freedom. Debt, by default, is an obligation. The higher you increase your debt, the deeper you make your obligations. Realize the trade-offs before you undergo massive loans.
Money Management Is a Life-Long Skill
Learning the lessons of how to responsibly manage your money is an invaluable tool to help your teen through life. Resources like Dave Ramsey and other financial courses will always be worthwhile for people because getting out from underneath debt is just as vital as avoiding it in the first place. Spending and saving habits are purpose-filled activities and should begin young. You are never too old to manage your money well; the sooner you start, the better off you will be down the road.