I Keep My Bling in the Bank

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Represent, New York

When I got my first paycheck from my summer job, my supervisor asked me if I had a savings account. I laughed.

“I don’t have any money! Why would I need a savings account?”

I thought only rich people used banks. I had never been in a bank or known anyone in my family to use one. My grandmother, who took me in when my mother disappeared, pays all her bills with money orders.

My supervisor told me it was important to start saving now in order to plan for my future. She took me to a bank where I could cash my paycheck and not have to pay a fee, unlike a check-cashing place. I was a little nervous and had a million questions in my head: Is a bank card like a credit card? What is the purpose of having a savings account? When you put money in a savings account, where does it go?

My supervisor had her own account at the bank and introduced me to the manager, saying, “Jarel is here to cash his check. He also wants to know how to open an account.”

He said, “Oh, how nice! Sure! Let me sign that check really quick.” He pointed out the different tellers and told me to come back to him when I finished cashing my check.

The bank teller was really cool and down to earth. After she gave me my money, the manager and I sat down and talked bank business. He explained that I could open up an account with as little as $100, and that the longer I left money in my savings account, the more my money would grow. He explained how interest works.

He also explained that opening a savings account would help me establish credit, in case I ever wanted to buy a home or a car or get a credit card. Best of all, having an account would allow me to cash all my checks at the bank without ever having to pay a fee.

Then the manager told me that I needed a state ID, my school ID and my most recent report card to open a student account. I didn’t have any of those things! “When you have those ready, come in and we will open up this savings account,” he said.

It took me a month, but I finally got a state ID and all the other things he asked for and went back. The manager remembered me right away. I signed a lot of papers, and he copied all the papers and ID I brought in. Then he gave me a booklet explaining all the bank’s policies and rules, and a deposit book that lets me record the money I put in and take out of my account. “Your ATM card should be arriving at your house shortly,” he said. I left excited. In time, I also opened up a checking account.

My future plans include building a house, and for that I will need excellent credit. When it comes time for me to get a credit card, the banks will be able to look at my accounts and see that I’ve been responsible in handling my money. Also, I want to make sure I have something to fall back on in case I get fired from my job or just have an unexpected expense.

Now I deal with my money much differently. Before, if I had a check in my hand, I’d cash it and spend it all on clothes, shoes, CDs and DVDs. But since my money goes right into my account, I don’t spend it on things I don’t need.

I don’t know how much I’m saving by not using a check-cashing place, but I know it’s a lot, because I don’t have to pay fees to cash my checks or get money orders. And I don’t have to stand in those lines, either.

© Youth Communication/New York Center. http://www.youthcomm.org.