The Dol­lar­mites rebel

The Sunday Times - - YOUR MONEY -

Barry asks: I bought your lat­est book, The Bare­foot

In­vestor for Fam­i­lies, and gave it to my nine-year-old son, who has taken to it like a duck to wa­ter. He is en­thu­si­as­ti­cally help­ing with cook­ing and has set up his three jam jars. He has a pre­sen­ta­tion at school com­ing up and, due to in­spi­ra­tion from your book, he wants to do his talk on why his school should give Comm­bank the flick. I don’t want to dis­cour­age him, as I too be­lieve in the cause — but is it some­thing best left for par­ents to bring up with the school? Bare­foot an­swers: What do I reckon? I reckon this sounds like a life les­son he’ll re­mem­ber for years to come. Here are a few things I’d talk through with your son.

Ex­plain that a credit card is a very ex­pen­sive loan from a bank. Young peo­ple of­ten get them­selves in a lot of trou­ble with credit cards by bor­row­ing too much. Credit cards tend to make ev­ery­thing you buy much more ex­pen­sive. For most peo­ple — es­pe­cially young peo­ple — the best credit card is no credit card.

And per­haps he could ask: Why does Comm­bank’s Start Smart Pro­gram teach kids — in Grade 3 — about the ben­e­fits of credit cards?

Then he could ask his teach­ers: Have you ever got in trou­ble with a credit card? When we get older, should we get one?

A big part of fi­nan­cial ed­u­ca­tion is to be scep­ti­cal about what banks (and ad­ver­tis­ers in gen­eral) of­fer up. You’re teach­ing your son to be an in­de­pen­dent thinker and to in­tel­li­gently and re­spect­fully ques­tion au­thor­ity.

In this case, he’s got truth on his side. There is no jus­ti­fi­ca­tion for al­low­ing a bank to spend mil­lions of dol­lars for the ex­clu­sive right to teach our kids this core life skill, much less for rolling out a mar­ket­ing pro­gram that is worth, ac­cord­ing to one an­a­lyst, as much as $10 bil­lion.

Let me know how he goes.

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