The Dollarmites rebel
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.