There are a lot of things about college students today that initially surprised me when I first became a professor. One of those things was how so many of them did not know how to write a check or balance a checkbook. I don’t remember when I learned this skill, but I have a vague recollection of my watching my mother and also writing checks in fifth grade from a class account. What I do remember is going with my mom to a bank on Main Street in Newark, Delaware to open my first checking account. I knew how to write a check and how to balance my checkbook. In some ways it was a step into adulthood. Realizing there are adults who don’t even know how to write a check, I added this to my mental list of topics I need to make sure my children learn.
This year I found the perfect way to introduce checking accounts to them. The story really starts with my parenting fail. Every week the kids would do their chores and earn some money. I never seemed to have the right change to give them their weekly earnings, and then they would have to wait until I got a pile of dollar bills or at least something smaller than $20 bill. It was getting ridiculous. That was when I got the idea to turn my parenting fail into a financial literacy win.
Now when the kids earn money, they get a deposit in their “Bank of Mom” account. They each have their own checkbook register, and they know how to enter in their deposit. You can find a nice printable check register here or here (we use these because you can download them in the color of your choice, which the kids love). When they want to use money in their “Bank of Mom” account, they can write a check for cash or write me a check for the purchase. You can design your own checks here, and you can also find checks here with brilliant instructions for making the checks bound and perforated (I strive to be this much of a craft master). Then, they enter the check and withdrawal in their checkbook.
When my daughter turns 12 later this year, I will carry on the tradition of taking her to open her first savings account. By then she will have plenty of practice understanding bank accounts. Maybe she can come teach some college students.
Do you remember learning how to write a check or opening your first bank account? Who taught you and how old were you?