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What was once a $2,000 bill to start eventually crept its way
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canada goose What I did with my first credit card is the perfect example of why teenagers shouldn't have them Mikey Rox, Contributor Apr. 3, 2015, 12:13 PM Author Mikey Rox. Mikey Rox My parents never provided me with a credit card of my own. I grew up in a relatively modest-income family, and my early onset of spendthriftiness was not a character flaw they could afford. You can imagine, then, that I jumped at the chance to own a couple credit cards when MasterCard and Discover called me shortly after my 18th birthday. “Congratulations, Mr. Rox,” they said. “You qualify for one of our cards.” Really? Lil’ ol’ me? I could barely contain myself. I was Sally-Fields-at-the-1985-Oscar-Awards — no, wait — make that Tom-Cruise-jumping-on-Oprah’s-couch excited, and when the cards arrived in the mail several days later, my adult life (and the ensuing consequences) had finally begun. I didn’t understand — nor did I care — about the fine print. One of the first and most lasting mistakes of my overly eager anticipation of receiving those rectangles of endless riches was that I never considered the fine print associated with the cards. Because who cared about the fine print? Not me — and I paid for it dearly. An interest rate of 23.99% plus substantial late fees plus annual fees quickly started to add up while my income did not. I didn’t appreciate the value of a dollar. I started working young. I shoveled snow and helped elderly people around their homes when I was a kid, and starting at age 14 I took on better paying seasonal and part-time jobs. While my work ethic was positively cultivated, my appreciation of money wasn’t because I didn’t have any expenses. Zero. Zilch. Instead, I spent my money (cash at the time) on recreational activities with my friends (I’ll leave it at that) and clothing, shoes and accessories. (In my defense, I was voted best-dressed male student at my high school; I’ve got to justify this somehow.) When I went to college, however, the money dried up while the clothes-buying habit remained. But I still went on a shopping spree, anyway. Yep, when I entered college I bought a whole new wardrobe with my credit cards without any regard for how I was actually going to pay for it. Maybe in the back of my mind I was hoping to be my alma mater’s best-dressed new student. Unfortunately, institutions of higher education don’t have those juvenile superlatives, and I just ended up poor but stylish. Credit cards have limits, and the author hit them.NextAdvisor I maxed my cards out in a matter of months. I can accurately tell you that by October 15 of my freshman year, my cards were maxed out at $2,000. Not sure how or why I remember that, but I do. I had a great time spending the money, of course, but now I was faced with how I would pay it back. I didn’t have a job, and I knew my parents wouldn’t bail me out. The only other option? Start earning cash, stat! I couldn’t afford the payments. Unfortunately parka , my new job working in the call center of my college at $6.25 an hour for nine hours a week didn’t quite cut it. And let me be even more transparent here: when I got my paycheck on Friday nights with parties on the horizon, there was no way any of that money was making it into a mailbox. I brushed off the bills hoping they’d magically disappear. Those collection calls were nonstop for a while, but I learned how to avoid them: I swore off answering the telephone altogether. And because I couldn’t afford to pay the bills, I just tossed them in the trash. Out of sight, out of mind, I thought. This tactic helped me take my mind off the mounting debt in the short-term but it wasn’t going anywhere, and it just got worse. The bills kept piling up.Flickr / Kate HiscockBecause of that, the debt piled up and haunted me for years. What was once a $2 www.ferienhaus-starnberger-see.de ,000 bill to start eventually crept its way up to $3,500. In hindsight, that’s a relatively small amount to let compromise your good credit standing, but when you’re broke, you’re broke. The black cloud of debt followed me everywhere I went — job interviews, apartment applications, car loans — for years, well into my late-20s in fact, and I became a bit depressed about it. After giving up hope that they’d receive the full balance, the collection agencies offered me payoff deals at about 50% off the current balances. I took the deals and was relieved to end the nightmare that I stupidly created, but the after-effects lingered for several years more. In the end, I was wise enough to make the most of the experience — but your kids may not be. Ever resourceful, and keen not to make the same foolish mistakes again, I was able to turn the horror story of my first credit cards into a success story by becoming a personal finance expert and blogger. I had plenty of firsthand experience, so my interest in personal finance developed organically. That doesn’t happen to everyone, though — most people, actually — so chances are you’ll wind up paying off your kid’s debt while he or she accepts the low-paying ‘fun’ job instead of the career-building professional path. (Which, quite interestingly, makes me thankful that I chose to have credit cards instead of children. No offense; lesser of two evils and all.) Head this scenario off at the pass — and send me a gift basket in a few years because your kids treat credit cards responsibly — by using my cautionary tale in your teachings. Mikey Rox is a personal finance expert whose work has been published by more than 100 outlets across the world, including CNN.com, The Huffington Post, Wise Bread MSN Money, Money Crashers, Avant Credit, Time magazine, and Business Insider, among many others. He splits his time between homes in New York City and the Jersey Shore with his dog Jaxon. Connect with Mikey on Twitter @mikeyrox. SEE ALSO: How rich people use credit cards differently from the rest of us NOW WATCH: Animated map of what Earth would look like if all the ice melted canada goose parka