Yet Another Journal

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» Sunday, March 15, 2009
Life Lessons
They had a little snippet on the news tonight about a teacher who instructs her kids about money: about saving, budgets, buying items, etc. I think this is a great idea. I've always said they should have a mandatory "life course" in public schools. If you think this is the sort of things parents should teach children, well, sometimes parents don't know how to do those things themselves. My parents paid cash for everything. They never bought anything on credit, which got them into trouble when they went "housekeeping" in 1951. They had to get a private loan. (I have no idea what kind of loan it was; I was told it was none of my business. However, our mortgage was paid off in 20 years.) So they both got "charge plates" from stores they shopped at, charged purchases, and then paid them off in full when the bill came due, and established better credit.

Still, they paid cash for almost everything else. When the utility bills were due Mom went to whatever drug store took those payments and paid the bills. (For a long time it was Phred's.) When Dad wanted a car he saved up and then paid cash. Mom went to City Hall every three months to pay the water bill.

The first checking account in the house was mine, after I went to work. I was really embarrassed to realize I didn't know how to write a check! (I know, it's simple, but if you've never done it, you don't really know if you're doing it right.) Thank God the World Book Encyclopedia had an article on check writing and balancing a checkbook!

(Eventually my parents got a checking account and every month when my dad balanced the checkbook he used to grumble at me. "You started this!" he said. LOL. Dad didn't like numbers any better than I did.)

Anyway, a "life course" would be just the ticket. You learn about checks and debit cards. How to write a check. How to apply for a credit card and about the hidden pitfalls. How to budget. How to apply for a job. How to do a job interview. Everyone takes home ec. You don't learn how to bake dopey pineapple upside down cakes or make a skirt like we did. You learn how to boil water, make simple meals, plan a menu, about calorie counts; you learn how to sew on a button or fix a hem; basic housecleaning so if you aren't neat you're at least sanitary. You learn to read grocery labels. You learn about interest, simple and compound. How to take out a loan. You learn how to shop for essentials, from food to clothes to a car. How to read a lease. What to check for in finding a place to live. You learn what to do in emergencies: CPR, Heimlech, what to do for bleeding cuts, sprained ankles, and more.

I would have sure appreciated something like that. I learned a lot from my parents, but there are always better or alternative ways to doing things. Some kids have parents that aren't responsible. It would be a great help to them. Maybe if we gave everyone a leg up we would have fewer folks who accepted bad loans or got suckered by scams.