I set my kids up with checking accounts with debit cards to teach them about finances and how to manage money BEFORE they graduated from high school. In early 2017, I found myself in the throes of trying to explain bank logic to a 14-year-old including why the bar mitzvah check he had kept in his drawer for a year didn’t count as “savings.”
Yesterday my Shane called me on the way to his bank to ask me if he should start using checks to pay his rent. I began explaining check registers and reconciling check registers to him and that there may be a charge for getting checks from his bank. Finally, he said to me, “Mom, I think I’m just going to get a cashier’s check for this month’s rent.” I said to him, “I think that’s a great idea.”
Today Shane called me and asked me if I could confirm that he had written his first check correctly. He’d decided to go with getting checks. He asked me what the various items on the check register were and we covered how to fill out his check register and how to reconcile his account. He got it all. Perfectly. I said, “You’re doing a lot of adulting today.” He said, “Yeah, I’m not sure I like it.” I’m damn proud of him. And yes. Adulting sucks.
I never learned in high school how to balance a checking account. In high school I learned how to sew a straight hem and bake muffins (I still cannot do either, thank you). I did not know what a checking account was or that I had to balance it until I got my first job as a legal secretary after college and bounced multiple checks. It was not until after law school that I finally figured out how to balance my checkbook. And it was not until after my divorce that I actually began to do it.
One of my favorite bands, Poi Dog Pondering sings, “Complicated – it’s all right. Wanna get it right this time.” I am grateful for all that I have. For sure, it’s complicated. The law degree. The home. The car. The stuff. The shoes. I want to get it right this time. I really hope I get it right this time.
I did not go to school and graduate just to pay for school for the rest of my life. My dream of being an attorney should not be subjugated to the loan that paid for it. I do not want my kids to believe that dreams die for mortgages and debt. Yes, pay off your shit. But your salary, your debt, and the money in your bank account do not represent your value.
I think our available balance is the difference between infinity and some random number (eight dollars did not then or now at all represent the Maximum-ness of the Max for sure) in a bank. I think our current balance is the minutes left in this day. I think our true currency is love and we need to spend it every damn day and as often as possible. I think our value is defined by how much we give, not how much we keep. I believe, maybe, it isn’t that complicated. And we’re all going to get it right this time.