Here’s where all you lovely people who left nice comments yesterday will turn against me. But it has to be said. This financial crisis? It’s your fault. Well, not all your fault, but you are a component of this complicated mess. No, no, not you personally. Well maybe you personally, I don’t know, but I mean you and me, the American public — Democrats and Republicans and yes, even those wacky Independents, those crazy kids.
This crisis has been in the making for the last 40 years. Universally speaking — which means I’m speaking generally and not specifically about you or your child, because no, you are charming and responsible as is your child — but we have done a cruddy, cruddy job of teaching our kids about money, teaching them to understand its power and teaching them to respect it. We’ve not taught our children to delay gratification, to save up, to be good stewards. We’ve got to do better and not to overstate it, but our nation depends on it. We can’t keep going on this way.
I think most of the people who got caught up in mortgages they couldn’t afford were not bad people, but people who did not understand what they were getting into, people who were drunk on the notion of getting nicer homes for their families, people who did not understand money. I think mortgage lenders took advantage of them because they could and because they were getting rich in doing so. I don’t want my child to be taken advantage of in this way, I want him to understand how the system of money works.
So then, Step Two of Antique Mommys Bail Out Plan includes Mandatory Financial Education starting in 1st grade or sooner.
Yes, you read that right — 1st grade. Or sooner.
I personally think that financial education, like sex education, would best be taught at home where parents can teach their children not just about the mechanics of money, but also about respect. Since that obviously is not happening, our education system needs to teach kids the fundamentals of economics, credit and compounding interest and the importance of saving and the consequence of buying things you can’t afford with money you don’t have. And I just don’t think you can start too soon.
Earlier this year, we bought Sean the book The Ox Cart Man, a very simple story about a farmer and his family who work the land and bring the fruits of their labor to market. It is a story that explains at the most basic level the economic cycle from farm to market and back again.
Reading the story has presented us with many opportunities to talk with Sean (a four-year-old) about how the things we buy at the store get there and how we pay for them, where we get our money to pay for the stuff we buy at the store and how our family always always has to balance our supply of money with our demand for the things we need so that we don’t run out of money – not just for today but well into the future. He has been hearing this message since he was about two. By the time he’s 18 and heading off to college, hopefully it will be engrained in his thinking that money is a powerful and precious resource that is to be handled with care and respect. If not, he will be in for a hard lesson because, unlike the government, his parents will not bail him out.
I urge you strongly to start talking to your kids about money right this very day and to make it part of your daily conversation. Look for opportunities for them to experience the consequences of good and bad financial decisions now while the price of a mistake is low. But more importantly remember that you already ARE teaching your kids about money by your own spending and saving habits and attitudes. They are watching you closely.
So then. What are you going to do to be a part of the solution? Other than the extra $7000-$10,000 you’ll be paying in taxes. What are you going to do to equip your children to be financially responsible adults and change the fate of our nation?
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Step Three of Antique Mommy’s Bail Out tomorrow which involves making it illegal for credit card companies to send me blank checks and unsolicited credit card applications. Leave a comment or email me with your suggestions for reform and if I like them, I’ll incorporate them and give you credit for your super awesome fiscal fabulousness.