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Setting Up Your Child's First Bank Account

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)!

Tags: Parenting Tips