During elementary school, my parents gave me a dollar every Tuesday morning.
This was not a bribe! This was for Banking Day at school, an activity that started to teach us little geeks who just graduated from kindergarten the importance of saving money, which later became a life lesson. I hope The teacher had a passbook for each of us who participated (this was an optional activity as some families were unable to do this or chose not to “bank” the school). Our names were written on the passbook in dark ink. Cover and middle title page. The local bank did its part by opening each of our accounts with $1 each. It certainly felt very important that Cartlet Savings Bank did this for me. I was very proud of my passbook and watched carefully as the teacher took the dollar from me and entered it into the record. It is later handed over to the bank, who places the deposit on its books. School savings programs were a way to teach financial responsibility and develop an appreciation for savings while also improving math skills.
Then when I got to middle school (the dark ages, or “middle school”), there was actually a unit on the stock market, and I knew how it worked. The teacher gave us all the same amount of play money and taught us how to read the stock market page in the newspaper and how to “buy and sell”. I knew nothing about diversification, so I put all my “money” into Bowden’s, the company that acquired Wise Potato Chips, and it worked for a while. Then I spent all my dividends on harmless stocks and my interest quickly faded.
In fact, whether we have bankbooks at school or at home, we are all investors. We invest not only financially, but also in our friends, religious beliefs, careers and family. Every time we make a decision, we are making an investment of some kind. So when a mom decided to have a child, she made a huge investment. She is an investment in her and your life. Because the investment will not only last until your girlfriend’s 18th birthday, but hopefully forever.
Well, we have Mother’s Day again. This holiday is a time of love and celebration for many, but for others it is a sad day, perhaps not filled with memories of family dinners and flowers and sweets. Moreover, those whose mothers are no longer in their lives find this day bittersweet. I chose not to speak pompously on this subject because what may be raw to one person may be warm and beautiful to another. But the big equality factor we share is that none of us could have been here without our mother.
Kudos to all of us financial planners, stockbrokers, banks and credit unions, but to me there is no better investment than investing in people, taking your kids to special places, reading books. There’s no better investment than doing it. Write a book with them or, above all, listen to their stories. No matter how old they are or how they talk about harmless things, it matters to them, so it should matter to you as well. It was the same with my mother, and I hope it is a little more so with yours. My mother would compliment me when I did something right, but she would point out in clear words when I was wrong or misbehaving. She was my biggest defender, my toughest critic, and she loved me unconditionally. It doesn’t get much better than this investment.
Along the way, if you notice that your kids or grandchildren still have bank days at school, start giving them $1 each week. When they stop doing it, start your own banking day with them. If you have small children, buy them a piggy bank. Many children today know nothing about piggy banks. Have them pick one, then add the first penny. If your kids are older, go with them to a local bank or credit union to open an account, have your own bankbook, and be proud of it.
It may be the best investment you’ve ever made. Congratulations Mother’s Day!
Ronna Mann has been a freelance writer for The Sun for 21 years, including the feature “In Their Shoes.” You can reach her at firstname.lastname@example.org or her at 401-539-7762.