My sister recently left a comment that she’d gotten her first credit card. She’s a highly responsible person with an even higher net worth than I had before the marriage, so I think she’ll do well.
She included the phrase: “Dad’s made me paranoid enough about credit to keep me from actually carrying over a balance month to month.”
I was curious about this, because I’ve also been pretty paranoid, and so I asked: “Were you more scared by mom and dad’s big credit card debt that they were paying off when we were kids or by dad’s stories from customer service?”
She responded: “I’d have to say that it was a combo of both. Mom’s stories about the problems with debt and Dad’s about customer service. Very frightening.”
I didn’t know too much about credit cards as a kid, but when I was maybe 8 or 9ish, I learned that my parents had a large credit card debt from using them irresponsibly for a short period. At least that’s what I think it was. I got a short explanation of how credit cards work—basically that you pay money to spend money—and that one shouldn’t use them for things one can’t afford.
Didn’t ever learn more and I wasn’t too panicked because I knew we could afford food and our house, which was what mattered most.
One of my mom’s best friends also got into credit card debt and even though her husband could have paid it off (eventually), she got a part-time job to take responsibility for it. My mom admired her for that. (It may have also been a good sane way to get out of the house sometimes.)
Then, our father got a software engineering job at one of the major credit card companies. He’s mostly worked in things like beefing up the fraud-protection services (yay!), but his company also required him to be a CSR for half a work day each month.
So every month, he’d come home and tell us stories of all the different cases he handled. I think it was his way of decompressing and it was certainly interesting. I learned a lot about credit, carrying balances, how interest gets computed, that kind of thing. I also heard about waiving late fees for responsible borrowers who’d done really well except this one time.
I think those were my biggest childhood/young adulthood influences concerning credit cards and credit.
I’m also of the opinion that the stories we hear shape our view of the world. They can be more persuasive than statistics and they really bring home the experience.
What sorts of stories did your parents tell you about credit? What did you observe growing up? Do you think that made a difference in your adult decisions?