Fashion or Driving: The Teen Dilemma

This just in: America’s teenagers are not using their own money to pay off debt. Well, I, for one, never would have guessed. Maybe that’s surprising to The Allstate Foundation and Junior Achievement, who compiled a survey on teen spending habits, but to everyone with a kid under the age of 18 it’s just one of those hard, cruel facts of life: if you decide to procreate, better make sure your pockets are big enough for two.

The two groups, who have conducted this survey nine times, reported that 10.4 percent of teenagers now use credit cards, as opposed to last year’s 8.5 percent. The real shocker, apparently, is that gas tops the list of the items kids buy with their plastic, pushing clothes to a shameful second place. The survey discovered that 70 percent of teens buy gas on credit, jumping almost 20 percent from 2007. OPEC must be so proud.

Of course, to everyone out there who remembers that we’re mired in a slow economy and a war in the Middle East, is it really all that startling? "No," says Nicole Alley of The Allstate Foundation, “given skyrocketing gas prices, it isn’t surprising. It says a lot when a t-shirt or a pair of sunglasses is the same amount as two gallons of gas.”

Naturally, we know who gets to shell out to cover all this gas. Parents are taking care of 13 percent of credit card bills. Of course, this absolutely begs the question, whose dumb idea was it to get a 13-year-old a credit card with unlimited spending in the first place? If you know the answer to that, you’re probably already paying off about $400 worth of lip gloss and Hannah Montana tickets. To head off such purchases, Alley recommends, “[Have] frank, candid discussions about money and [try] to set a good example.”

Nonetheless, if The Allstate Foundation and Junior Achievement actually want to see teenagers take responsibility for their financial security, there’s really only one solution: a time machine set to 25 years in the future. Nothing like 3 kids, a broken water heater, and a second mortgage to make a chronic spender shape up.

--Maddie Wolberg