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Senior Moments

Category: Financial / Topics: Choices and Decision Making Planning


by Dan Seagren

Posted: November 13, 2011

Yours truly finished high school in 1945, right on schedule. As a 17 year old, many of us were not thinking or dreaming college.…

Yours truly finished high school in 1945, right on schedule. As a 17 year old, many of us were not thinking or dreaming college. The war was raging and we knew that when we hit 18 Uncle Sam would tap us on the shoulder. And he did. My stint in the Navy awakened a dormant dimension and I was off to school for seven straight years (college and seminary). Unimaginable seven years earlier, and accomplished debt free.

My father during that period of time managed on a modest salary by saving religiously 10% and tithing another 10%. I learned early in life to manage on a nickel a week allowance and at twelve I forfeited my allowance as I was able to earn fifteen cents weekly, if lucky, delivering magazines. My mother was an RN but was a stay at home mom until cancer ravished her body. My step mother, also an RN, was a homemaker as she inherited two little ones and added three more to our family.

Consequently, when I read The Student Financial Crisis in Time magazine (9/6/2011), I learned about CARD (Credit Card Accountability, Responsibility and Disclosure). Jean Chatzky was blunt saying “Our college kids can be dunces about money . . . about budgeting, credit cards, and splurging on Starbucks.”

Since schools and credit card issuers are not much help, there is only one solution to the problem. She proposed that it is up to the parents with four points to ponder: Wants and needs are different things; These are your means [students] and they are limited; Put some skin in the game [to respect money have your kids earn it]; Be cautious with credit cards.

Sound advice to be sure. Chatzky pointed out that the average 2011 grad had a $4,138 credit card debt plus $22,900 in student loans and predicted that the 2015 grads will exceed that. Someone has said that in many high school parking lots you can easily tell the student lots from that of the faculty which seemingly affirms her prediction.

There is also a rising number of students taking 5-6 years to finish a four-year curriculum. And there is the not so subtle behavior of students with affluence enjoying lavish amenities setting an aspiring but unreasonable goal for many. Chatzky is not far off in having students learn the importance of those four items above before they matriculate.

Ironically, CARD could imply a tie which binds (unreasonable indebtedness) as it attempted unsuccessfully to encourage financial literacy courses rather than make them mandatory. As seniors, we can contribute both positively and negatively to the problem as we evaluate our own concerns with upcoming generations prone to underestimate the dangers of excessive indebtedness, especially when it need not occur.

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Dan Seagren is an active retiree whose writings reflect his life as a Pastor, author of several books, and service as a Chaplain in a Covenant Retirement Community.

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Posted: November 13, 2011

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