Raising a Fool
By sgresham (Shawn.Gresham@HQDA.Army.Mil)
November 20, 2000
I am the proud father of two wonderful daughters. Like all fathers, I try to extol the virtues of Foolishness to my children so that they can sidestep the mistakes their parents made in their younger years. Most of the time, my "extolling" is largely ignored -- or so I thought.
My oldest child is in her senior year of high school. You recall that wonderful time when your hormones are raging and you are either part of the "in crowd" or one of the "everyone else" crowd. All of these social stresses coupled with the demands of a part-time job and college applications are enough to drive anyone crazy, including the father of a teenager. But last week I discovered a little bit of my Foolishness wearing off on the eldest offspring.
She has always been a mature, responsible person. She works after school, helps around the house (with enough parental encouragement), and pays her debts on time. Several months ago, she received a credit card offer in the mail. Since she is under the age of 18, she needed a co-signer to be approved for the card. I agreed to co-sign only on the condition that the credit limit be no more than $300. I figured that would be a good level to start teaching her about credit and all of the joy that it brings.
Weeks passed and that glorious day finally arrived when the credit card showed up in the mailbox. Of course, she had to break it in right away. What with the new school year fast approaching, she needed a new wardrobe, manicure, etc. -- you get the picture.
Before she could say "Charge it!" she reached the credit limit -- "a mere $300," as she lovingly put it. Then, the real fun began. This card's 20% interest rate meant that it could take some time for her to pay down that $300 debt if she opted for the monthly minimum of $10. But she labored extra hours at her job and voluntarily applied the extra income to her debt. Before she knew it, the card had a $0 balance.
I waited to hear that familiar call, "Dad, please take me to the mall," but to my surprise, I heard a different call. It was music to a Fool's ears. She said, "Dad, I don't think I need this card anymore. I want to close the account. Besides, I can probably find one with a lower interest rate later on IF I really need it." I gushed with joy as I realized my baby is maturing into a second-generation Fool.
All's well that ends well, right? Wait, there's more. Her accomplishment did not go without temptation. Within a week of her officially closing the account and ceremoniously cutting the card into tiny pieces, the Big Bad Credit Wolf (a.k.a. the telephone credit card solicitor) came calling. My new Fool was being solicited over the telephone for a new credit card with a "better" interest rate and many more bells and whistles because she was such a responsible person (a.k.a. a good credit risk). She brought joy to my heart once again when she politely, but forcefully, told the solicitor, "No thanks, I don't need a card right now -- I'd rather pay in cash."
Sign me... a proud, Foolish mentor.