It is strangely ironic that the freedoms and affluence we enjoy in our society are the very things that stand to ruin our children if not addressed early and effectively.
The consumer-credit industry is doing all it can to get your kids to fall for the buy-now, pay-later lifestyle. If you do nothing to intervene, statistics indicate that your child is headed for a life that will be severely impacted not by credit—credit is not the problem here—but by the debt it can create.
When the following three characteristics occur at the same time in the heart and mind of a child, they create a kind of "perfect storm" that has all the likelihood of creating a disastrous situation:
- attitudes of entitlement
- financial ignorance
- glamour of easy spending
For our debt-proofing purposes, "entitlement" is that demanding attitude that says, "I deserve it now even if I haven't earned it or cannot pay for it." Some call it the gimmes, others the I-wants. No matter what you call it, this attitude is running rampant, and not only among kids. Entitlement affects kids and adults alike.
Entitlement is subtle. It creeps into our lives when we compare our lifestyles and possessions to those of the people we respect and want to be like. It shows up in new parents who throw all caution to the wind when it comes to nursery furnishings and "mandatory" equipment. It shows up in two-income families who, because they work so hard, feel they deserve to have nice things. It shows up in adults who feel compelled to conform to society's relentless ratcheting up of standards.
The 18th-century French philosopher Denis Diderot wrote an essay entitled "Regrets on Parting with My Old Dressing Gown." It seems someone gave Diderot an exquisite gift—a scarlet dressing gown (not something your typical guy today would get too excited about, but remember this was in the 1700s). Diderot was so happy to get a new dressing gown that he promptly threw his old one away. Curiously, he hadn't noticed how tattered the old gown was because it was comfortable and blended into his surroundings.
The contrast between the new scarlet gown and everything else in his study was startling. While Diderot was wearing the gown, he couldn't stop noticing the threadbare tapestries, the worn chair, and the beat-up bookcases. Piece by piece he replaced everything with something more closely suited to the elegance of his robe. Diderot closes his essay regretting ever receiving the scarlet robe that forced everything else into conformity. Today, marketing professionals and consumer researchers call this constant reach for conformity the "Diderot effect."