A DEBT TO OUR KIDS.

AuthorFarsad, Negin

Financial education is something every child should learn about, but the adults don't talk openly about it; you know, like sex education. I graduated high school knowing very little about having a bank account (and thanks to sex ed, I knew a little bit about how babies are made). Saving money was rarely part of lunchroom conversation, how credit cards work was never mentioned, and whatever the "stock market" did was a mystery.

In college, I was one of those kids who could be easily targeted by credit card companies for scammy credit cards. And targeted I was! I racked up a hefty debt of over $5,000 by graduation. Little did I know that the low interest rates balloon after a short period. By the time I started to earn (very meager) money, I was swamped with more credit card debt than my wages could cover. Then I stopped earning (very meager) money and went to graduate school, where the debt kept growing.

It took me years to get out of that mess. Of course, personal choices that involved (ahem) "fun" were a part of the problem. But I was an idiot. Everyone is, in that period of life between eighteen and twenty-five. You're technically an adult, but functionally an idiot.

I wonder what would have happened, though, if I had been warned about credit card companies--about how they lure you in with low levels of interest and then trounce you with astronomical annual percentage rates when the honeymoon is over. I wonder what would have happened if I had understood anything about budgeting, saving, accrued debt, compound interest, money market accounts, or just exactly how you're supposed to pay off debt.

Recently, the Michigan House of Representatives passed a bill guaranteeing high school students a personal finance class before they graduate. Hoorah! It's about time. In fact, fourteen states now mandate financial literacy at varying levels of intensity. But if you ask me, it's super weird that it's not mandated across the board.

Hilarious side note: In Michigan's school districts, the financial literacy class can count toward the foreign language requirement. Which makes sense, because the way our financial system is structured has always been Greek to me.

But one troubling trend about the financial literacy programs that are available is that they're sponsored by banks and financial institutions that want to market themselves to youngsters. That's the kind of conflict of...

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