Saving money for kids made easy (NOT) by banks
Last week, I closed a no-maintenance-fee account because I was charged a hefty you-haven’t-deposited-any-money-lately fee a/k/a dormant account fee. I offered to make a deposit in exchange for a fee waiver; no way was the response. I closed the account. Reading the business section a few days later, I learned that this bank finally reported higher earnings primarily due to…increases in fee income.
Okay, I had opened the account (a minor savings account) for my oldest child but because I ending up doing little other business with this particular bank and am a busy mom (like all are), I rarely had the chance to stop by and add to his account though I really, really planned to. On my 2007 to-do’s list were 1) open an account for little brother, 2) add regularly to both accounts and 3) teach them both about banking. The lesson, this year, was for me.
My experience brought back memories, though not necessarily good ones. When I was a financial analyst for a regional bank in the 80s, branch managers were penalized for waiving fees even if the customer was an otherwise profitable one. The fees for commercial accounts, in particular, involved convoluted calculations that always generated charges no matter the enormity of the deposit size or rarity of transactions. A rigged game, it was and still is.
Two can play at the bank-fees game, though, especially if there is a willing financial institution that is not so stuck on fleecing its customers. My personal accounts are going to be landing where I have my business account: the neighborhood savings & loan.
The kind folks at the S&L have allowed me to open a checking account for my business that is, fee-wise, a personal account. As long as I keep a reasonable balance ($600, which earns interest) and my transactions aren’t excessive (and they haven’t been in 10 years), there are no fees for transactions, maintenance, or anything else. As a bonus, each office is staffed adequately so that I don’t have to wait in a slow-moving line while teller A goes to lunch just as the workload rises while teller B tries to settle down yet-another-unhappy patron.
The S&L crisis of the 80s may scare some away but, interestingly, a check of safety using Bankrate.com’s Safe and Sound ranking system rates my savings & loan as a “1” (superior, its best rating) while the bank with the dormant fee charges ranks as a “3” (performing).
Bank charges are as nearly assured as death and taxes but I am still working diligently to avoid them. Meanwhile, my kids' savings in ETFs with an online broker continue to grow.