How Credit Card Companies Prey on the Ignorance of Youth

In today’s world there are so many luxuries one can own and our youth crave them all. Computers, I-phones, thousand dollar video game consoles, big flat screen televisions with Home Theater, DVD, CD systems and lots more. You can find info and pictures on every advertisement available for credit cards. The ad’s, tell more of the products you can buy, than what it will cost you. It’s like using caviar for fish bait.

Years ago, shortly before my twentieth birthday, an overly generous big name, Visa company gave me a gift of a lifetime. A 5,000.00 credit line. I was so excited about my new found wealth I couldn’t wait to get started on what ended up a month long spending spree.

The odd thing about getting the Visa in the mail, not that I cared back then, I never applied for it. The year was 1979. From what I have learned since, not everyone had to apply back then. The companies simply mailed the cards out to young people they felt credit worthy. Thankfully, they no longer do this. Can you imagine if they did?

At that point of my life, I considered myself a semi-responsible near adult. I held a job. Took college classes. I even had money in the bank from a small inheritance my grandparents left me years earlier. I had my own car and apartment. Paid all my bills on time, so I guess I was credit-worthy. Financially smart, NO. Ignorant, YES.

Responsibility aside, within two minutes of getting my new found wealth, I signed the back of the card, created a shopping list, and the words CHARGE IT became my motto .

First store was a travel agency on the way to the mall. My roommates and I were going to the Bahama’s on a cruise, my treat. Two thousand dollars gone without costing me a penny, yet. Next stop, the Mall. A new color TV, clothes and some living room furniture. I bought stuff I could have gone without, but figured why bother.

It was 1979, prices were lower so you could buy more. When I learned you could get cash advances, I took advantage. Or perhaps they were taking advantage. No matter, having my own credit card made me feel rich and important. Probably the very reasons the company hooked me to begin with.

Within a month, before my first bill, I maxed out the card. Yes, in one month. Five thousand dollars. When the bill came in. I was shocked. The monthly payment was to be 340.00. OUCH !

Back In 1979, my monthly income was less than 600.00. My share of the monthly rent 250.00. Add car insurance and utilities another hundred. Car Payment was a hundred as well. I didn’t make enough money to pay the bill. And if I did pay the bill, I wouldn’t be able to eat nor buy gas. Now I was in trouble.

As always when I had a big financial problem, I would go to my Dad. He looked at the statement. Smirked and explained how some people have to get two jobs to make ends meet. I laughed, he didn’t. He asked why I didn’t show him the card before I started spending. He then informed me he would not help financially, as it appeared I needed to learn from this. Instead of financial help, he offered guidance in paying off my debt.

The advice: give up your apartment, move back home and sell your beloved car. The pain of it all. He added, never be late on your payments, it will ruin you for years.

Reluctantly, I did as he instructed. Now decades later I feel I was taken advantage of by a company who definitely preyed on ignorance. It took me over a decade to pay off that credit card. When it was finally paid, all I had to show for a decade of income was, an old couch, a few pictures of a cruise I barely remember and a cut up visa card I keep in my wallet as a reminder. Ignorance may be bliss. But it will cost you.