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You Can Bank On It

February 19, 2014

Following up on last’s week’s blog about scrutinizing your finances, I received a little more proof that if you aren’t looking out for your money, no one else is.

registerRecently I opened a new checking account. Sitting at a fancy desk in an enormous modern bank on Broadway, I asked the banker, a woman in her thirties, tips for balancing my current account. “I usually balance it every month, but lately it’s been off. What do you suggest I do to reconcile it?”

She looked at me strangely.  “What do you mean reconcile?”

Now it was I with the strange look. “You know, balance it against my check register so it matches the ending balance on the statement.”

“You do what?”

I understand the reason for not balancing your checkbook. It can be time consuming, you’re afraid of the reality of the balance, or maybe you didn’t do well in grade school math, but this “banker” had absolutely no clue what I was talking about. Her advice? “Just look at the balance on your phone and go by that amount.” Is it me or is this cause for alarm?

piggy bankAfter opening my first checking account in college, the banker advised me to balance my account every month. “Banks make mistakes,” he said. “Don’t trust them.” And while I’ve been heeding his warning ever since, I may be one of the few.

This morning I went into a different branch to deposit a check that had been endorsed over to me. It’s been years since I deposited an endorsed check so I Googled how to do it. My colleague then signed the back of the check and wrote, “Pay to the Order of Felice Cohen.” Wanting to confirm before I approached the ATM, I double-checked with a banker.

“You can’t endorse checks to other people,” said the banker, a woman in her 20s, with eyebrows entirely made of pencil.

“Really?” I said. “Checks can’t be endorsed over anymore?”

“Of course not,” she said. “Then anyone could sign someone’s name. No, the person has to deposit the check, then write another check to you.”

I stood there, slightly dazed. “Wait a minute,” I thought to myself, “this can’t be right.” I found a bank manager who assured me I could deposit the check as I’d prepared. I left feeling slightly better, but still not confident the advice I’m getting from bankers is advice that should be counted on.


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  1. Sandra permalink

    I balance my checkbook every pay period. 🙂

  2. That’s scary, isn’t it? I don’t balance my checkbook per se but I track the activity like a hawk. I look at my account everyday online. I follow a monthly budget so know exactly what I have and don’t have to spend. But with regards to the basics of banking, I’m glad I worked in a financial institution in the 1980s (yes – it was yawns ago!) and learned proper processes. That information has helped me throughout the rest of my life – particularly regarding RRSPs (Canada’s 401K like program). I would be lost without that prior knowledge.

  3. I balance mine every month. And also look at it thru out the month. How else would you see if someone stole your idenity or numbers like all the people who shopped at Target got taken this past year. There are people I know who are still dealing with that mess! I cant say that I come out to the penny anymore, but do try and stay within a very reasonable amount with the bank. Yes banks can make mistakes, and the lady gnere got very angry with me once because I discovered they under paid a doctor once from what the check was written. I know it was only a dime, but if one of their employees took one dime from every account, well. It would soon add up.

  4. permalink

    Scary! Hope they were two isolated incidences, but does give one cause for concern. Sounds like the bank put all their money in designing a fancy bank and not their employees. I balance my check-book as I write each check and look on line weekly to see if checks are cashed. Some vendors hold on to checks for weeks and others cash them immediately. Mom

  5. Mary permalink

    Scary..not surprised at the bankers. Wonder what the training is.

    Sent from my iPhone

  6. Auntie M. permalink

    Can’t say I balance it to the penny, but balancing a checkbook was something I learned in the 6th grade. Not sure what life skills are being taught now. Sad how many incompetent & unaware people are out there. Exactly what this administration is working at!

    Love you, miss you, keep on balancing!

  7. I’m old school as well, and though I don’t balance it to the penny, my budget is tight enough that if I didn’t check my checkbook against the online bank account records at least every week I’d be in trouble. My checkbook is where I record all my debit card transactions, otherwise I’d have no idea where I was.

    But remember, Felice, no one teaches the basics of all this math to anyone else any more. It’s all pre-college algebra from grade 5 on, and the college grads in business spend time in marketing and fancy management strategies, not the nitty gritty.

    The banks take us for all they can get away with—my (unbanked) daughter has to pay 7$ to cash a check I send her now, even if she goes to the bank it was written on, because she doesn’t have an account. She rarely has enough money to keep an account. Tried twice and kept going under minimum balances. Doesn’t bother now. What a world!

  8. Jamie Barr permalink

    Hi Felice! I am embarrassed to tell you my approach to balancing a checkbook. Ivy is forever making fun of me for this. If things do not balance, I actually write in my checkbook, “they say my balance is”. I put all my faith in the bank. Crazy, yes! Lazy. definitely! Now the Felice blog world knows what an idiot I am!!!

  9. My mom has always told me to balance my account, and I never do. I noticed for on thing they don’t really do checkbook registers anymore for you, at least I haven’t eve been given one since I itched banks again a few years ago. This encourages me to keep up with it though. And I can’t believe about the endorsing checks person…although I recently tried to close an IRA my mother had opened for me, and was told the wrong thing about three times about who could close it. Banks just aren’t that great anymore.

  10. Albert permalink

    When I want to know what’s going on. I bank on you

  11. Kalliopi permalink

    Felice- How things have changed. I too would balance my check book to make sure I agree with the bank. Computers make mistakes!! I hope you are well!

  12. I probably sound like a cranky old lady, but don’t get me started on what the latest generation has NOT been taught!

    Love ya!

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