Cents and Sensibility
by Betty Ann Habig (TMFCatlist@aol.com)
Wednesday, October 1, 1997

It's hard to convince a small child that putting money anywhere besides his mouth makes any real sense. So to suggest to my son Jonathan at the ripe old age of 8 that he should start putting those birthday and Christmas checks into the bank was akin to suggesting he stop picking on his baby brother -- incomprehensible! I remember the look on his face when it was first suggested. He looked like a frozen deer in the headlights -- dumbfounded and confused.

It was time to get creative with Jonathan and teach him the concept of saving and earning interest. He was raking in the dough and it was just sitting there in his teddy bear bank, collecting dust instead of interest. He did, after all, enjoy looking at his money. It sat there on his dresser next to his other prized possession -- his rock collection. It was almost a religious experience for Jonathan whenever he got a new check, cashed it and stuck in his bank. "Mine, mine, mine!" could be heard throughout the house. Little kissing noises followed. I didn't want to look in his room -- it was, after all, a private moment.

I tried to explain to him that if he put the money in a bank, it would earn interest; that he would actually make money by letting the bank hold onto it. He figured I just wanted the money for myself (smart kid, but in this case, irrelevant). It was hard for him to grasp that he wasn't giving the bank his money to keep forever -- but rather, they would hold on to it for as long as he wanted them to hold onto it. All he knew was that his money would be gone and he wouldn't be able to ogle it every day. That made him nervous. No matter how hard I tried to explain that it would be a better deal for him to put his money in the bank, he still resisted.

Finally, I figured it out. Jonathan had two issues with putting money in the bank: first, he couldn't see his money (figuring it was gone forever); and second, he couldn't grasp the big WIIFM (What's In It For Me). To alleviate his misgivings about our banking system I got two big glass jars and I put them both on Jonathan's dresser. I labeled one jar "Jonathan's Money" and the second "Jonathan's Money in the Bank." Both were filled with the exact same amount of money that Jonathan had accumulated with one exception -- to the jar that represented the bank I would add the interest his money would have earned had it been in a bank account.

At the end of the first month, we counted up the money in both jars and Jonathan quickly saw that his jar had less money than the bank jar. Being the capitalistic, greedy youth I raised him to be, he expressed his displeasure at this and suggested we give the bank a try after month two.

Off to the bank we went to open the big account. Armed with $85.47, Jonathan breezed through the doors like a man with a mission. He plunked down his money, signed a few forms and never once looked back, never once shed a tear. He got a nifty faux leather checkbook, a coffee mug, and a shiny orange sucker for his troubles. In the space of 20 minutes, my son had crossed over into manhood (well, sort of… he did have the orange sucker hanging out of his mouth, which somewhat tainted the illusion).

Everyone anxiously awaited the arrival of his balance statement, rushing out to the mailbox for the pristine white envelope that would bear his name (and validate that his money was earning more money). He had a sense of pride that his money was growing and that he was one of the few eight-year-olds who actually got mail on days beyond his birthday and Christmas.

Now Jonathan knows that putting money in a savings account not only makes sense, it makes cents.

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