Kids + Money on HBO
This weekend I had a chance to watch Kids + Money, a new documentary on HBO. It’s a short film (30 minutes) that illustrates the role money plays in lives of young people in Los Angeles. I posted a trailer above. The film is a must-see for credit union youth marketing & education professionals (or anyone else involved with financial literacy). The film does a great job of exploring the money habits of today’s Gen Y. More importantly, it shines a light on the one thing many financial literacy programs overlook: the overwhelming effect of peer pressure and money.
For example, there’s Annika (12 yrs old), who describes a typical day at her school:
“At my school, you’re walking down the hallway, and you have like, fifty people just analyzing you and judging you based on your clothes. And everybody will kinda just stare you down if you’re wearing the wrong clothes, and if wearing the right clothes you just kinda get this look of approval like, OK.”
And then there’s Phoebe, 16 years old:
“In seventh grade, girls are wearing colored Louis Vuitton [bags] to carry their pencils. It doesn’t stop in high school. It doesn’t stop in your twenties. What car you drive, where you work, what kind of suit you’re wearing … it’s a whole image thing that Hollywood sort of forces you to try to fit into.”
Matthew, 17 years old, puts a whole different spin on the topic:
“It’s gotten to the point where race doesn’t matter anymore. It’s almost to the point where money is all that matters to some cliques and groups in schools. It’s a lot better than saying, oh, he’s black, he’s Mexican, he’s white, he’s Asian.”
After just a few minutes of watching Kids + Money, you may feel that your financial literacy outreach seems a bit inadequate against the pull of an Ed Hardy tank top or Abercrombie shopping spree. This inevitably raises the question: how can we help kids deal with this immense pressure to spend money?
I think we should engage younger members and be frank about the subject. We need to see the forces at work through their eyes and experiences. We can only do this if we truly understand the trials our kids are going through to be accepted. The HBO documentary is an important first step in learning about these challenges. Focus groups and research can also help uncover the subject of financial peer pressure.
Credit unions are facing a generation that spends and consumes more than previous generation. It’s an accepted part of today’s youth culture. I think Annika put it best: “I only really get the feeling of needing something if somebody else wants it.”