Just one word: Plastics

Published 1:56 pm Wednesday, September 3, 2008

AFI has gone to all the trouble to give us a list of the top 100 memorable quotes from movies. Did I agree with their system of prioritizing, no, but then my family has their own collection. On the list, somewhere in the middle, was the quote from the movie, “The Graduate” where Dustin Hoffman has just graduated from college, his mother throws a party in his honor, he feels awkward and bored when a older, established business man takes him aside and says, “I have one word for you — Plastics.”

What advice! Plastics! Hoffman was more interested in Mrs. Robinson and her daughter rather than the wise words of the business man.

Plastics is the theme of the college graduate. Many get their first credit card around this time. Plastics, a dangerous tool, especially when mixed with teenage rationalization. So, if you have one of these young adults with a new card, beware and put away cash quick!

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The out-on-his-own college/career adult has to learn how to use a credit card responsibly, to buy what they really “need.” This is a term vastly in “need” of defining!

Need vs. Want: I need a new tire for my car to get to work or school…

I want a new computer since mine is too slow.

I need a new pair of shoes since mine has fallen apart…

I want a designer purse to go with my designer blouse.

To be responsible with plastic a teen should pay his balances in a timely manner. The most ideal situation is to never carry a balance, but to pay off the debt each month. But responsible behavior and teens most of the time does not mix, maybe that is why we put the drinking age at 21.

The formula for financial ruin is taking a credit card balance for new tires $200, new computer: $800 equals $1000 debt. Young College Age Teen works at fast food place twenty hours which equals in a week $100. At the end of the month, a teen has used his cash for eating out, movies, a new cd, exuberant cell phone bill, gas money, and his cash balance is usually a negative $50.

Payment to credit card equals the minimum amount they can squeeze out to get by… and then the cycle begins the next month. “I need…” they call and say.

What can a parent do? An eighteen year old is considered, in the eyes of the law, as an adult and can now enter into a legal contract. They can even take out a mortgage at this wise age. As an adult, they are responsible for their own way, (except if he is going to college).

The only place a teen adult is not responsible for his own way is if he is going to college. In the eyes of the financial aid department and government, if an eighteen year old has a parent, then they have connections to a purse string. This is not always true. Some teens suffer financially because they have to pay for school with no help from the government, from the college and no help from parents.

To be successful with plastic is to build a good credit history which will open the doors of opportunity when you want to buy important stuff like cars, rent an apartment and eventually the family home. Making bad decisions with that little piece of plastic at 18 can haunt you for seven to ten years and build bad habits that last a life time.

To aid in keeping the temptation factor out is to keep a low credit limit and refuse when VISA or Discover or MasterCard wants to raise your limit. It’s easy, just make a call when they announce on your statement they have done you a favor and raised your limit. Just Say No! It’s like being on a diet and having your pantry filled with doughnuts; will-power is the first to go.

Skinny plastic used wisely is a good thing because fat plastic is evil. Hmm?

Not only is a credit card a potential problem for the young graduate, but the rise of plastic surgery for grads is a concern as well. Hopefully, teen adults are not charging their plastic on their plastic?

Strangely, the gift of surgery is from loving parents. Plastic surgery is not a gift you can exchange or decide later you don’t need and then donate to Goodwill. The rush to implant or tuck is not as easy as piercing a body part which, if later you don’t like, you let it grow back in normal. This is a lifelong commitment because maintenance is an issue. These things just don’t last forever.

A parent should pursue the reasons why their young adult is requesting this change before calling the local plastic surgeon. A nose job can enhance a teen’s self esteem, but parents are not doling out nose jobs. The most popular gift is breast implants. Does size matter to a teen girl? Apparently it does.

How does one approach a father and ask for such a gift? I can think back and I would have died of embarrassment if I had to request a bigger bra size from my Dad! Plus, do you have to show your Dad the gift he paid for… gross!

Gifts for a graduate should make some contribution to their future. A computer or a car can help them meet their goal of college or career. Can a bigger bust size contribute to an average Jane Smith who wants to be an accountant? It can if your child’s goal is to pay her way through school as a stripper! Then the gift of plastic might be a thoughtful and helpful gift after all!

Plastics — can’t live without it! Can our youth learn the real future with plastics? Will our next generation learn from the mistakes of the past? Or will they look better dressed in designer jeans that took them 18 months to pay off and a sexy top that says Hooters because they didn’t finish college!

I weep for the future.