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Learning at its Best

Bullshit freedom or freedom bullshit?

Imagine this scene: — You walk into a bank with your 7 year old daughter (or son) and ask to see an account manager as you would like to open an account in her name, so she can start saving money and use her own debit card when she chooses to buy something with her own money. Do you know what will happen?

Few weeks ago we decided with my wife that a piggy bank is not an appropriate way for our 7 year old daughter to learn how to manage her finances for reasons I suspect will be obvious to the readers of this blog. After all, I haven’t seen an adult yet to carry a piggy bank instead of a wallet when going to the store. We wanted her to not only learn how to save or spend and be in control of her money, but to also make at least one part of our adult lives closer to her — thus it seemed obvious to us that she should get a bank account and a card!

Ignoring the funny looks when announcing to the reception at our local bank branch that we’re there to see an account manager we previously set an appointment with for opening my daughter’s account, I was happy to learn that our bank offers savings accounts to young children — with a debit card on their own name! Wow, what a great country we live in, I thought. Here, we trust our kids and we empower them to be equal to adults for something as important as money. If only the truth was not so different!

Anyone under 12 years old — what’s that about 12 years old being such an important milestone that so many rules and even more myths about parental do’s and don’ts revolve around? — is unable to withdraw any money anywhere with their card! You read that right, the card is nothing but a nice piece of plastic so we can all pretend you now hold something valuable and the only thing you can really do with it if you’re not 12 or older is to deposit money into your account. And good luck with earning money somehow before you turn 12.

This is all bullshit! We don’t trust our kids to let them learn valuable skills like managing money until they turn 12 — and I suspect many parents end up pushing that to 16 or later, since their now teenage child looks and behaves less trustworthy then when he or she was 7 or 8 or so. And we don’t trust the parents to decide when their child is capable of learning life skills on their own and we build rules to decide that for them. It escapes me how is this seen as freedom in our democratic society?

I was trying to calmly explain to the account manager that what he’s offering to my daughter is a piggy bank without the key. I suggested he should double check if it is possible to at least provide her with a limited access to her money, so she’s allowed for example to pay stuff with her card for up to $10 or $20 a day or so — thus limiting the potential damage if someone stole her card. Unfortunately his response was negative — such a decision was outside his control.

Frustrated by now I decided we shouldn’t walk out empty handed and still open the account — thinking for myself that I will let my daughter use my card in the store to pay for her own items. And then I got stunned:

“Let’s not set-up a PIN for her card as I don’t think she could remember it.”

Who are you to judge what can my daughter do or not do! You don’t THINK she can remember bunch of digits?? Do you want her to write a standardized test for you so if she passes she gets the honor to enter her own PIN for her own debit card that she can’t use for anything??

Unfortunately I didn’t say all that to him — though I snarled back: “Sure she can!” — and my daughter typed her own number with a big smile on her face! On the way out of the branch she said to me “I keep remembering the PIN number in my brain” laughing happily that she had mastered that skill!

In retrospect, I should’ve used the opportunity to show to my daughter that her dad would not let some overpaid account manager to tell her what she is or she is not capable of doing! 😉

About kima

Organizer: Father. Agent of change. I learn for a living. Curiosity is my passion. Writing is my dream. I believe in the value of social media as a way to meet new people and love double espresso as a way to feel warm with old friends ;-)


8 thoughts on “Bullshit freedom or freedom bullshit?

  1. Interesting anecdote kima, but what does that have to do with freedom and democracy? Generally speaking, children have limited freedoms. Having a well-intentioned parent present doesn’t change that. Don’t take it personally as a criticism of your parenting skills-it is more about the bank covering its butt.

    Posted by tim | June 25, 2011, 4:18 am
    • Hey Tim, thanks for checking my rant 😉

      I think it has to do a lot with freedom and democracy … we expect responsible citizens but don’t give them freedom to learn how to be one … we think raising kids to match society’s expectations is the responsibility of parents or teachers but the fact is neither function in a vacuum … safe environment to learn skills that a child will need for adult life should be provided in a democratic society as a basic freedom granted to kids … if that is not the case, then banks and other organizations that parents and children may try to reach out to provide a service in support of learning will always choose in the interest of covering their butt

      It could be worse … an equivalent of standardized testing for evaluating such services by organizations other then schools will kill learning forever as a freedom

      Posted by kima | June 27, 2011, 3:08 am
  2. We opened savings and chequing accounts at BMO for our 7 and 9 year old daughters and they let us decide whether we wanted them to be able to use the debit cards only at the ATM or at any interac machine. The account manager was great, treated them respectfully and offered them suggestions about what to do if their friends were asking them to buy stuff for them, etc. It might be worth trying another bank or branch if you’re not getting the service you want.

    Posted by Shauna | June 26, 2011, 1:32 am
    • Thanks Shauna! I recently learned about BMO Smart Steps as my friend working for sponsorship for the conference I am organizing, TEDxKids@BC is trying to negotiate with BMO to support us. I am so glad to hear they empowered your daughters and know the importance of learning how to manage finances from young age. This is what I found from their Smart Steps program in reference to 7-8 year old’s:

      “Seven and eight-year-olds are learning machines! They not only understand how money can help them get things they want, they are starting to grasp the bigger picture of where Mom and Dad’s money goes.
      – Able to count and make change
      – Recognizes the benefits of saving toward a specific goal over a modest period of time
      – Can approximate what items may cost at the cash register
      – Understands that money can be earned by doing work
      – Able to name at least one charitable organization”

      When we decided to let our 7 y/o daughter have her own budget and choose whether to spend or save them, she decided to stop eating chocolate to save for something she wants and will require her to save for some time! We didn’t think of this as a way to reduce the chocolate intake and as a matter of fact feel a bit bad so we started buying a family chocolate every once in a while 😉 but it goes to show that kids at her age are capable of making long-term plans and give up short-term benefit when they’re in control to make such decisions.

      Posted by kima | June 27, 2011, 3:21 am
  3. Kima, We ran into all the same hassles for our four children in trying to open bank accounts for them when they were 12, 11 and 9. Then the bank “withdrew” a $20 service fee from all of their accounts over the next several years, in some cases draining their accounts completely. It was a bit of a disaster. One of my anarchist sons now refuses to have a bank account at all, and another son uses only Hello Kitty embossed bank credit cards.

    Your daughter will remember this event, and the hundreds more that suggest to her how much you and her mother believe in her competence and ability to organize her own life, and she will change the world because of it.

    In solidarity,


    Posted by Kirsten Olson | June 26, 2011, 8:18 am
    • Thanks Kirsten! I knew I could count on your support! 😉

      I guess what we could do as parents is find ways to work around limits that make no sense … in my case I would be letting my daughter use my own debit card so that she could buy her own stuff in a store 😉 … not unlike what many of the teachers in this group do, when the system stops the kids from learning!

      P.S. Your son with the Hello Kitty credit cards must have lots of fun watching cashiers looking at him when he gives them the card to pay 😉

      Posted by kima | June 27, 2011, 3:28 am
  4. PS Kima, I doubt the account manager was overpaid.

    Posted by Kirsten Olson | June 26, 2011, 8:49 am
    • Maybe … he told me the first time he got his own money was at age 16!! … also, he was not skilled in using the system to process the account (bet he didn’t get a 7 y/o before) as he couldn’t find the option to apply the limit to deposit only and had to call in support to help him … I told him I won’t mind if he fails applying the limit 😉 … my daughter got restless and started asking why it is taking so long for her to get her card … the only thing that was on my mind was that that was a good question 😉

      Posted by kima | June 27, 2011, 3:33 am

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