Q. My husband and I are cautious about money. We’ve always saved for rainy days. We pay our bills on time and we live comfortably. We’ve never gone into debt other than for our house and our cars. Our son and daughter, both in their twenties, have a different attitude toward money. They received unsolicited credit cards in college and have gone wild spending money they don’t have. To make matters worse, our son likes to gamble. They are both in debt way over their heads.
Why did this happen? We thought we taught them about the careful use of money. What will help them get out of debt and gain a realistic view of money?
A. Many of our values about money have been eroded by the changes in our society in the last fifty years. Thrift was a virtue and saving money was a primary goal for everyone. Children were taught these values in school, church and home. No one bought on credit. Any charge cards were paid off at the end of the month with no interest. Similarly, gambling was viewed as wrong, as an attempt to get something for nothing.
Gradually we have become mad about money, driven to spend and spend and spend for more and more things. Our favorite pastime now is going to the malls. There were no malls 50 years ago. Shopping was done downtown and trips there were infrequent. Purchases were based solely on need rather than want.
With the advent of credit cards and easier and easier credit came the opportunity to have what we want before we pay for it. This has helped fuel our economy as the more we spend on things the more our industries flourish. To help these industries, advertisers do all within their power to make consumers want to consume. Commercials are slick and enticing. Credit is easy to obtain. Catalogs inundate us with choices of things we can buy. And it’s fun to shop. It is fun to have a new outfit to wear, the latest electronic gadget and it is more convenient to buy a book than to go to the library.
In addition, the acceptance and increase in state lotteries and gambling casinos enables us to gamble near home, not just on vacation and we can even take our children to some casinos where there is child care.
Your son and daughter grew up in this new culture and fell for its seductive offers without understanding the cost of credit or the cost of a life built on material things. Hopefully, life experiences will teach them that money and things do not satisfy.
To help them get out of debt send your son and daughter to the Consumer Credit Counseling Service. This is a non profit agency that will help consolidate their debts and work out a manageable budget - or they may recommend bankruptcy if that’s the only way out. Some churches also offer excellent classes to help couples manage their finances.
Your son and daughter may be addicted to spending and/or gambling. If this is true they may need help from Gambler’s Anonymous or Shopaholics Anonymous. Those who are addicted get a high from whatever it is they’re addicted to. They attempt is to avoid inner pain or inner emptiness by spending or by gambling.
A renewal of faith can help. God will fill an Inner emptiness that nothing else satisfies.
“A person without self control is as defenseless as a city with broken walls.” Proverbs25:28