Dear Kid,

Your signature is an important and valuable thing.

The large print giveth, the small print taketh away. Tom Waits. DearKidLoveMom.comNot because you’ve starred in a blockbuster movie or because you’ve built the world largest house out of blocks or even because you walked around the block, but because it’s yours.

So you need to be careful where you put it.

Riddle: What can you put down many times without ever picking up?

You need to be careful when you sign a check. You can be less careful when you sign a birthday card.

You need to be very careful when you sign a contract.

When you sign a contract you are agreeing to all the terms of the contract—whether you know you’re agreeing to them or not.

Cool, huh?

Which means that you need to know what is in an agreement before you sign it.

Saying, “I don’t like that clause” works just fine—before you affix your John Hancock to the document. You can negotiate, refuse to sign, get advice, go out for coffeebefore you sign. Post-signature, those options are not available to you (except, presumably, for the coffee).

Saying “I didn’t know” gets you exactly nowhere (unless you were hoping to get A Look implying you’ve left your brain elsewhere and I’m happy to provide that any time you’d like).

Before you sign, take the time to figure out what you’re agreeing to. If it’s something short and simple to read, read. If it’s long and complicated, take the time to get help from someone who Knows About These Things.

Yesterday, I heard an Adult Who Should Know Better (I am not making this up although I wish I were) say, “That was an 85 page contract. You expected me to read the whole thing?” You will not be surprised to hear that he said that when he found out there were things in said contract he didn’t want to have to comply with.

You’re smarter. Stay smarter.

Love, Mom