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! ;-)