It is strangely ironic that the freedoms and affluence we enjoy in our society are the very things that stand to ruin our children if not addressed early and effectively.
The consumer-credit industry is doing all it can to get your kids to fall for the buy-now, pay-later lifestyle. If you do nothing to intervene, statistics indicate that your child is headed for a life that will be severely impacted not by credit — credit is not the problem here — but by the debt it can create.
When the following three characteristics occur at the same time in the heart and mind of a child, they create a kind of “perfect storm” that has all the likelihood of creating a disastrous situation:
Attitudes of entitlement.
Glamour of easy spending.
For our debt-proofing purposes, “entitlement” is that demanding attitude that says, “I deserve it now even if I haven’t earned it or cannot pay for it.” Some call it the “gimmes,” others the “I-wants.” No matter what you call it, this attitude is running rampant, and not only among kids. Entitlement affects kids and adults alike.
Entitlement is subtle. It creeps into our lives when we compare our lifestyles and possessions to those of the people we respect and want to be like. It shows up in new parents who throw all caution to the wind when it comes to nursery furnishings and “mandatory” equipment. It shows up in two-income families who, because they work so hard, feel they deserve to have nice things. It shows up in adults who feel compelled to conform to society’s relentless ratcheting up of standards.
Entitlement is the standard message of marketing and advertising. Look carefully at everything that shows up in your mailbox this week. The message to keep up is relentless. The push for conformity creates attitudes of dissatisfaction and entitlement.
At every turn, it seems something or someone is fanning the flames of entitlement in our lives — and our children’s lives, too.
Attitudes of entitlement, both yours and your children’s, are an enemy that, if not dealt with, will surely sabotage your efforts to develop financial confidence in your kids.
A frugal lifestyle, where you live below your means, is the best environment in which to raise kids. When children observe their parents consuming carefully, making wise spending decisions, choosing not to buy the biggest and the best, and not living on credit, they begin to assimilate those values.
By telling your children, “We don’t choose to spend our money on that,” you send a positive message that you have money but make intelligent choices about how to spend it.
Clearly, attitudes of entitlement are a serious problem. But they are not terminal. Diligent parents who are willing to be consistent examples and limit-setters will find success in tearing down attitudes that have the potential to do great harm.
Excerpted from “Raising Financially Confident Kids” by Mary Hunt (Revell, 2012).
Mary Hunt is founder of www.DebtProofLiving.com.
You can email her at firstname.lastname@example.org, or write to Everyday Cheapskate, P.O. Box 2099, Cypress, CA 90630. To find out more about Mary Hunt and read her past columns, please visit the Creators Syndicate Web page at www.creators.com.