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Financial life lesson for kids: how debt is like swimming

Walking on the BeachWe’ve learned enough about debt to make wise decisions. But there’s a lot more we could learn. We haven’t touched on credit scores, revolving debt, secured debt, points, cashback, etc. The truth is, debt can get very complicated very quickly.

So, in our financial life lesson this month, we have an example you can share with kids of all ages, that they all can relate to! Think of this lesson as a “story” you can tell to keep the kids engaged, with a valuable lesson about debt at its core.

Important Note: Feel free to tell the story in your own words or use a completely different analogy that is appropriate for the child/your child; this is just one example of a relatable story you could use.

Think about going to the beach (or the pool) and going swimming.

The further you wade into the water, the harder your movements need to get to stay afloat, right?

  1. If you are only knee deep, there’s not much concern at all about losing balance or drifting from where you want to be.
  2. What happens if you’re waist deep? Can a strong current move you then?
  3. Now, what if you’re neck deep? What do you have to do to stay afloat and to keep from drifting further away from where you walked in?

How does it feel to be “neck deep” in the water?

Do you feel like your effort and attention goes just to staying afloat? Are you worried when you can’t touch the bottom? It’s hard to fight the current, and you might even be wondering what’s crawling around down there below the water!

Debt is a bit like swimming.

Well, debt is the same way. The further you wade into debt, the more you must struggle to maintain your direction. When you’re knee deep or less, things stay simple and you can manage it. But the further you wade in, the more you will struggle. You will have to focus more on the debt (swimming just to stay afloat) instead of enjoying your life (or the swim.)
Change Jar

How to avoid “wading” too far into debt

What have you learned that can help you avoid wading too far into debt, which we’ve also learned in a previous lesson is a “promise to pay?” What can you do to be able to afford the things you want without having to borrow money? Which is more important to you: having what you want now and possibly wading too deep, or having what you want later by way of discipline and staying afloat?

Some other questions to ask your kids about debt

If your young ones say that no, they definitely don’t want to wade too deep, here are some other questions you can ask to get them thinking:

Notes for parents

As I mentioned in the beginning: if you have a different analogy/scenario that you want to use that conveys a similar concept, or if you need to use a different example that is more appropriate for your child — use that! Tell that story in a way that relates to whom you are teaching. I’d love if you shared your idea with me, too.

The key here, no matter the example, is to have your kiddos bring up past lessons that fit the goal of understanding the impact of debt in a way to which they can relate. Today, we want the wet concrete we laid in earlier lessons to dry and set!

Delicious SandwichRandom Fun/Brain Break

Make a sandwich, but let each child decide on an available ingredient to include in the sandwich —no matter what it is. Cut the sandwich so that everyone gets a bite. And, of course, enjoy the facial expressions!

(At my house, when we tried this, we ended up with sour cream, mustard and banana sandwiches. Not good.)

March 2020