I’m a family man. When my work day ends I rush to my car as quickly as possible to start the hour plus drive home to spend a few hours in the evening with my wife and children. I have to admit that during that drive home, I typically put on blinders and strictly focus on my goal of getting home safely. That being the case, I often miss a lot of things as I drive down the highway or through the towns that I navigate through. This has been my routine for the last 12 years or so spanning two jobs. For some reason, last night was different.
One of the towns that I drive through on my way home at night happens to be the town that I grew up in. The route that I take home goes through what used to be a fairly lengthy strip of shopping that included clothing and hardware stores, restaurants, an ice cream shop, and a slew of fast food places. Don’t misunderstand me, it’s not a mecca for the rich and famous, but it’s a permanent fixture in my childhood full of a lot of very fond memories.
Over the years, the once prominent strip (in my mind anyway) has deteriorated like many towns all over this great country of ours. You can speculate why that is, but I will leave that up to you. Many of the stores have closed and never been replaced or have been replaced by establishments of less…quality. This trend continues over the years, but I have recently noticed another scary trend.
Last night on my drive home, down this now rather dilapidated strip of foreclosed stores and dirty fast food restaurants, I noticed something that seemed very puzzling at the time and now just makes me very sad. This strip of stores spans about 6 blocks and in a span of about 3 of those blocks I saw 4 fast food restaurants that had been closed and replaced with places that offer title loans. When I say replaced, I don’t mean demolished and new stores built. These places have actually just moved a few walls inside and converted what used to fairly big names in the fast food game into a sleazy short term loan store.
Why does this bother me? Well, it concerns me for several reasons, but there is one reason that stands out most. Why do people tend to use short term loans? Typically because they have over extended themselves so much that they can no longer borrow money in the traditional sense from banks or even via credit cards. Not to say that credit card borrowing is OK, but it is a more established vehicle and more regulated. With title loans, you are trading your car title for cash. Once your short term loan is repaid, you get your title back. In my mind, this is just about way to plunge yourself deeper into debt. What happens if you default on your loan? They repossess your car to get the money back that you owe. So now, you not only don’t have the money that you needed, but you also don’t have a car. Sounds like a great idea.
Now before you go judging me for being misinformed and that these title loan places are giving poor people a chance, let me just say this. According to an article written a couple of years ago, approximately 120 million people across this country use these types of loans annually. Of those people, roughly 50% would more than likely classify themselves as “poor”. Poverty is a horrible thing. The numbers of around the poverty stricken in the most powerful country in the world are absolutely staggering. In that case, I’m not saying these types of loans are OK, but I can at least understand why these people would try to use them. But what about the other 50%? These are the ones that really start to scare me. Too many flat screen TVs, cars that you can’t afford, game systems, and other toys that you shouldn’t have bought in the first place? Maybe. It’s hard to tell. It’s just a sad reality that we are facing today as a society.
These problems will probably never go away. And I really don’t have a solution that will solve all of them. What I do have though is children. Children that I love very much. So my plan is simple. It’s the same plan that I try to use for every real life scenario that I run into as a parent. A plan that I feel should be extremely simple and well know by every parent on the face of the earth. Sadly, though, I feel that it is one of those that is so simple that it is often overlooked. So if you have hung in this far, I will now bestow upon you some very valuable wisdom. My plan, and hopefully yours too, is…communication.
Talk to your children. Explain to them the real world. When you open your eyes to the world around you, or even your drive home, you are given so many teaching opportunities. You don’t have to use all of them. Maybe just one or two at a time. Whoever said there is no manual for raising kids was blind. Sure there is. We were given the best manual in the world from day one. The world. It is a wonderfully beautiful and scary place. Full of amazing things to teach our children about. Good and bad, they are all there. So pick one. Talk to your children. In the end they will make their own choices so the best we can do is give them information to help guide them. They will make mistakes just like we have, but in the end, we hope to have given them enough of the tools that will turn them into thriving members of society. They are never too young. Get started today.