When I was 10 years old, my dad offered me an incredible deal. He said he’d help me buy my first car by matching every dollar I saved with a dollar of his own.
As a kid, I had a vague sense that this was generous of him. As an adult, I’m like, WHOA. My dad was offering me 200% interest. In the real world, 2-3% interest is considered pretty darn good. 200% is not a thing that exists.
And all I had to do to earn it was learn a lifelong lesson in responsibility. That’s where our community credit union came in.
Swapping my piggy bank for a dividend-paying account
The next weekend, my mom drove us to the credit union around the corner from our home in Shreveport, LA.
We chose a credit union because she knew the CEO/founder personally, so going over there felt more like going over to a familiar neighbor’s place than to a financial institution.
Plus, the credit union was invested in our community — they had a scholarship program for members graduating high school and participated in various improvement projects. It was a sweet place full of nice people; the perfect spot to build my nest egg.
At the time I had $5 (in quarters) to my name. Lucky for me, that was exactly the minimum deposit requirement!
Feeling like a big kid — my account, my responsibility
My mom made sure I did as much as I could all by myself. She watched me fill out the paperwork, explained what to write on the deposit slip, and walked with me to the counter where a very nice service representative opened the account.
I still remember how thrilling that moment was. I was on my way to owning a car! Even as a 10-year-old, I realized $5 was nowhere near the thousands I’d eventually need for even the junkiest hunks of junk. But I’d gotten through the first step: opening the account.
Watching my savings grow over time.
For the next six years, I put away most of my monthly allowance from my parents and eventually part of my paychecks from my first job. In the process, I learned all kinds of things, like:
Earning dividends is basically getting paid to bank somewhere.
My credit union offered a very decent rate, and it was awesome to see that bump up the balance each month. (Although it would have been a bigger bump if Kasasa were around back then!)
Community financial institution service reps are so nice!
Coins, bills, checks… they took it all and divided it up into any crazy combo I requested. I never saw a single eye-roll, and that was pretty amazing considering how complicated I made some of those deposits. (I’d like 20% of this check cashed, and 80% deposited toward the car, along with this roll of nickels…)
How checks work: the money sits in the account of the person who wrote the check until you deposit it.
You’re probably thinking “duh.” But that’s totally not a thing you just know. It’s something you learn when you get a call from your dad who’s been tearing his hair out trying to balance his checkbook only to realize the amount he’s off equals your allowance for the past two months.
The incredible level of satisfaction you get from watching your balance grow with each deposit.
Every month I was a bit closer to that car, baby!
Meeting my goal and enjoying the sweet taste of victory.
I eventually did save up enough for the car — $3,100. Matched by my dad, that was plenty to buy not just any first car but my dream first car: a 1992 BMW convertible. It was burgundy and beautiful, and my friends and I felt like movie stars driving into high school with the top down singing Dashboard Confessional songs at the tops of our lungs.
I love that I have those memories, and that I earned them (with the help of my parents and my community financial institution, of course)!