Banking Lessons I Wish I Learned Earlier

Everyone’s financial journey looks different, but everyone should have the same access to a bank or credit union that best fits their banking needs - even, and especially, when they don’t know quite what those needs are yet. From opening your first bank account to setting your future kids on a successful path, the financial institution you choose can make all the difference.

I wish that while growing up

I had been given all the guidance necessary to venture into the world of adult responsibilities. But that wasn’t the case, and I just did what everybody else was doing, going the easy way.

I was 17-years-old when I got my first job, and like any other teen working for the first time, that first paycheck was very exciting to receive. However, when my first payday hit, my employer made it so complicated, requiring that I set up “direct deposit” just to get paid. Willing to do anything to receive my check, I told them I would open a bank account right away.

Searching online returned an endless amount of options

all for very popular banks, or what were considered best banks at the time (no credit unions even came up), so I decided to go to the very first one I saw. When I arrived, the first thing they told me was that I would need a $300 dollar deposit in order to open an account with them. Desperate about the whole situation, I asked my dad if he could help me take care of it, assuring him I would pay him back. After that lengthy process, everything seemed to go smoothly…at least until my first bank statement showed up. In reviewing it, I noticed they were charging me fees for having a low balance in my account and ATM usage! It had all become a total headache, and I felt like I didn’t build a relationship with these people that were taking care of my money. I decided to close my account and look somewhere else.

I walked into the second financial institution with the little bit of banking experience I had gained from the previous one.  I thought I would feel knowledgeable and confident about opening an account this time. Unfortunately, like the first one, this bank also failed to make any real connection. I felt that just because I was a teen I wasn’t being taken seriously. Another unexpected disappointment from them was that in order for me to avoid being charged a monthly fee for the account, I would have to maintain a certain deposit amount. I was so frustrated by how overwhelming the task of finding a bank had become that it didn’t even seem worth it to try going anywhere else. I decided to give up the search and stuck with that same bank for many years. Every month I would see different charges like maintenance fees, ATM fees, low balances fees; I started to think that this was all normal because the last bank was the same way.

Years passed

I got married. Our family grew. All I thought about was the need to start saving money for my children’s education and future. We came up with a strategy for them to have a savings account with my current bank where we could start planning for college. After two months of their savings being opened, we noticed that every month the bank was withdrawing a $5.00 service fee. They weren’t going to have much money saved up with all these fees constantly dragging down their account balances. But again, we decided to stick with it because I thought it was normal.

When my son was in third grade

his teacher taught their class a lesson about banking with coins, and ways to save money. My son got so hyped up by it that his teacher gave me a tip to look into SunWest Credit Union to check out their kids bank account program because she was sure he would really like it. I went with my son to open his account, and I was prepared with a high deposit amount this time, as well as to go over any fees that would be deducted. They asked me for a minimal account deposit of just $5.00 to get started and went over everything. Nowhere in the conversation did I even hear the word fee, so I asked the representative how much they would be.

He smiled and said, “That’s one of the differences between big banks and credit unions; we don’t charge those maintenance fees. Plus, for every few deposits of $5 or above, your son gets to pick a toy from our toy chest.” I immediately saw my son’s jaw drop when the representative said toy. I watched him assist my 8-year-old son and take a genuine interest, asking questions about his account, his ATM card, what he was planning to do with his savings, and talking about the swag bag that he got just for opening an account. Not only did I feel a connection with this place, but I felt safe because I saw my son’s interaction and excitement which didn’t happen with his previous account or even mine. For them to take the time and care to make a kid feel assured, I knew I felt comfortable here. Almost two years with the account, and we haven’t had any of the unexpected disappointments of the past.

If I could travel in time

and guide myself through the process of starting an account and learning about banking, I would not let myself settle with the easy way out or blindly follow whatever everyone else is doing. There’s never a dumb question so always ask, and never just settle for what you find easy.

Yes, there are places that care about your finances, your family, and your future. It doesn’t matter your age; everybody is welcome. I always encourage my family and friends to start saving up for their kids’ futures and to always look into credit unions to get things started.

Share the banking knowledge you wish you had known when you were younger, and you’ll set your family up to be confident and successful adults. It all starts with the right banking tools that work with you to learn and grow throughout life!

July 20, 2021

Published by SunWest Credit Union

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