The statement was as jarring as it was unexpected: “I never want to have a credit card.”

 

It came from my almost-18-year-old daughter, who likes to shop, not to excess, but certainly enjoys the process, which usually involves a credit card—mine.

 

It’s a statement fraught with potential difficulty for the economy if there are many more of her age group with the same attitude because it stems from a belief that debt is bad. That is the lesson she has drawn from the subprime crisis, which I like to label “subprime creditoma,” the injury underlying our current economic problems.

 

I tried to explain that credit is not bad. It’s credit that is handled badly that is bad.  Credit used properly is a very useful tool and because few of us ever have enough money to buy a house with cash, it’s essential.

 

However, the lessons learned before adulthood can be those that shape our attitudes for life. My father, a child during the Depression, spent his life waiting for another. A psychologist once explained to me that there were many Southern men of his generation (the hill country of southern Indiana is Southern in many attitudes) who were in life-long emotional depression because of the economic one.

 

Looking beyond the millennials, there are attitudes among the generation in high school and entering college that are different from the older groups. They are more communal. They “hang”. They don’t go on dates. Girls and boys still pair off, but they more likely to go to the movies with a group of 10, rather than as a couple. They share more, including money.

 

They are being left the debris of the Baby Boomers, my generation, which will probably be reviled for its selfishness and its willingness to exhaust resources and leave those coming behind with less.

 

And if our appetite for credit leaves a bad taste in the mouths of the current high school and college students, it could spell the end of the consumer economy as we know it.

 

Isn’t college where credit card companies try to hook students on credit? My daughter's class was the one before the school age population started to explode in the rebound boom. What if those behind her also eschew credit?

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