Something that has never crossed my mind until recently was how I became a saver. My whole life I have always been more apt to put money in the bank than spend it and recently I think I figured out why I became the saver I am. I traced it back MANY years ago to when I was in 1st grade at an elementary school in Maine…
So, how did I become I saver? I attribute it to the local credit union and my parents. When I had just began elementary school the local credit union would visit our classroom often. They were there to see if any of the students had any money to deposit into their savings accounts. Can you imagine that? 1st graders with savings accounts. Well, I was one of them!
So how exactly did they encourage me to want to save money? They had this great incentive for kids to deposit money! The credit union had a mascot of sorts, Monty Moose, that they created to identify with kids. Whenever I would deposit money I would get one Money Moose dollar for every US Dollar I deposited. My parents could then take me to the credit with my Monty Moose dollars and I could use them to purchase gifts from the Monty Moose drawer! These gifts weren’t anything fancy but everyone knows that as a kid you think little junkie cheap plastic toys are the best thing ever. They were even more awesome because I had saved up my Monty Moose dollars to buy them and felt that I had earned them.
But how did it work? When the credit union representative visited they would leave deposit envelopes for the kids to take home. Whenever I got one the first thing I would do when I got home was beg my mom for money to deposit so I could get more Monty Moose dollars. I didn’t get an allowance or any other money at the time so my mom didn’t mind giving me one or two dollars a week to deposit into my savings. When you turned your deposit in to the banker the next time they visited they would give you your Monty Moose dollars. However, they didn’t keep any gifts with them so you couldn’t turn around and immediately spend your Monty Moose dollars. I had to save mine and wait until my parents would take me in to the credit union.
That is how the bank benefited from the program. They got parents in the door when they brought their kids in to redeem their Monty Moose dollars. After waiting in line, when it was my turn they would take me to a file cabinet and the whole bottom drawer was filled with all sorts of little toys and you could choose whatever you wanted, provided you had saved enough Monty Moose dollars. If this program didn’t exist I don’t know if or when I would have been exposed to saving money and I sincerely doubt I would have been as excited about it as I was in elementary school.
In retrospect, knowing what I know about banks now, I expected there were a ton of fees related to that program. I was able to find their website and the program still exists! The best part is they have no minimum balance, no minimum transaction amounts and I couldn’t find any fees related to the account either. The only stipulation is that you have to be 12 years old or younger. They issue children passbooks to keep track of their savings and even pay dividends, although it is only 0.1%.
Looking back on it my parents were the biggest influence on me becoming a saver. They almost always gave me money to deposit for Monty Moose when I asked for it. If they hadn’t supported the program I can’t say for sure what would have happened, but there is a chance I may not have become a saver.
They also supported me in other ways much later in life. My parents always told me they would pay half for my first car up to a certain dollar amount. I saved most of the money I received from various small business ideas, birthdays and Christmas and when I finally had gotten my license I had saved up for my half of my first car!
Now, after reflection, I can say with a high degree of certainty that the Monty Moose dollars program at my local credit union was the first step that led me to become a saver. Were there other events? Sure, but this was the first.
Do you wish there was a program like this when you were a kid? If you have kids, have you looked for a similar program to get your children excited to save money?