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Wednesday, April 29, 2015

Secrets of a Wannabe Banker

Before me stood a treasure chest full of gold coins! I did a quick scan for pirates and then reached out in awe to touch it.

(That got your attention, I bet.) Actually, it was not a treasure chest but a plastic box, and it was full of coins. Not gold ones, but a mix of pennies, nickels, dimes and quarters. It was my job to count it and bring it to the bank—if I could lift it.

Each Wednesday morning I help with a banking program at my daughter’s elementary school. The program helps kids to learn the value of saving, and their investments accrue interest. Not bad when you’re still in your single-digit years.

It’s cute to see the kids each week, bringing whatever they’ve saved since last time. No matter how little they bring in, I congratulate them for saving. It does take discipline not to spend, after all. One third grader deposited twenty-two cents today. (She told me that she didn’t want to deposit all her coins. Maybe she was saving a nickel or two for a rectangle of Bazooka bubble gum after school.) Some students bring in piles of pennies (gulp). Others bring in paper money--much easier for me to count, obviously, but it’s not about what’s easiest for me. It’s about the kids’ learning to save for the future. Regardless of the amount of the deposit, I say, “Good job” for their efforts to save. And then I ask them for a loan. I really do. Of course, I tell them I’m just kidding. Or am I?

Today was the first day someone brought in an actual box full of coins. They were in paper rolls, which saved me some time counting. This box alone had nearly forty dollars in coins in it. Others brought coins too, so when it was all said and done, I lugged $46.33 in coins to the bank. As I walked to the bank, I held the bag of coins like a newborn baby, the weight centered near my waist. My back has enough trouble without my swinging a heavy bag of metal from one hand. I wondered how much the coins weighed—fifteen pounds, I thought, give or take. I based this on my experience carrying my own babies around for many years. I was so curious about the weight, but not quite curious enough to walk back home with this load of metal, weigh it on our scale, then walk to the bank. I have my limits.
I love the irony of money and its weight. Coins aren’t worth as much as dollar bills, but weigh more. It’s counterintuitive. I wonder how many $100 bills you would need to equal the weight of $1 in pennies. A lot!

It’s pretty cool to be part of this program. I’m a volunteer (the school needed someone and softie that I am, I agreed to do it since no one else spoke up). Sometimes I feel very official, turning the dollar bills so they all face the same direction, like the tellers at the bank do. I feel like I have some responsibility in bringing people’s savings to the bank. These kids and their parents trust me. I’m trustworthy, yes, but I’m still honored that I have their trust. Of course, I don’t want my image to be tooooo official and button-down. Wacky Wednesdays coincide with Banking Wednesdays and I think the kids (and I) get some fun from my recent surprises (Banking with Flo from Progressive, and Banking with the Jolly Green Giant). Gotta keep it fun. Gotta keep ‘em entertained…

Banking itself has not beckoned me as a potential career. Creativity endeavors grab me. I’m not sure whether banks like bankers to get too creative with their numbers. Can you imagine the havoc someone could wreak by getting imaginative with decimal points?! So I’ll keep this banking position of mine purely voluntary at this point. I get a kick out of talking with the kids each week. And I’m glad to help. But let me put this out to the universe: after today’s experience, if we could keep the coin rolls to a minimum for a few weeks, this tired wannabe banker would appreciate it…

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