As a young teenager, on Saturday nights I would babysit kids in my neighborhood. I won’t say what year it was, but the #1 song on the Billboard charts was “Stayin’ Alive” by the Bee Gees. (I still get up and dance every time I hear it. And I know you do too!) And the #1 movie - I’ll give you a hint - one of the main character’s nicknames is the same as my favorite Chicago Cub’s last name.
75 cents per hour was the going rate. On grid-lined paper I would chart my earnings, hour by hour. (Don’t worry… I was still keeping an eye on the kids.) As each hour passed, I’d add to the bar representing my pay. After the kids were asleep, I’d watch Love Boat followed by Fantasy Island. (The plane! The plane!) I’d call my friends (on a rotary phone) who were also babysitting and we’d gossip.
Many of them would take their hard-earned babysitting money and buy records, jewelry and clothes. (For some of my younger readers, a record is an analog sound storage medium used for music reproduction.) Not me…I was a banker’s daughter and my earnings went straight into my savings account. My dad, Dante Greco, started the Bank of Highwood in 1962. He always preached that we should pay ourselves first and save.
I have fond memories of my visits to the bank. With my passbook in one hand and dollar bills in the other, I would wait in the teller line (no cutting in front just because I had connections) and hand over the cash and my treasured savings passbook. I can still hear the clickety clack of the machine printing my deposit in the book. It was always exciting to earn interest (banks paid 5% interest in those days!) and watch the balance go up line by line.
Another reason I loved the bank was that I could visit my dad in his office. He had a bowl of candy for customers, and I considered myself a good one. I knew everyone - the local business owners who needed loans, the workers who would cash their paychecks, the tellers and bank staff. It really was a “community” bank. I miss those days…I can still smell the coffee and donuts on Fridays and Saturdays.
When I turned 16, I was so excited that I could graduate from babysitting and get a “real” job. My parents said they would match the money I saved. Even then I was competitive, so I found three jobs. I worked at a country club, a pizzeria, and a frozen yogurt store. My parents were shocked, but a deal was a deal. I earned over $1,000 that summer, and they matched every dollar.
I was so fortunate. My parents were very supportive. One evening as my dad came into the yogurt store to take me home, he actually swept the floor so I could leave sooner. My mom always waited for me to come home from the pizza parlor and together we would eat my “free” pizza.
One day, my dad suggested I buy Bank of Highwood stock with my savings. I was too young to counter with “Dad, stock tips rarely pay off, I would be better off in a broadly diversified global stock portfolio”, so I purchased 10 shares. The stock never paid a dividend, but in 1994 we sold the bank and those shares became very valuable. The proceeds helped me with the down payment on my home.
My first “money” lesson was the power of saving and compounding returns over time. But maybe it was even more than that. It also was the pride of a job, or two or three, well done.
Your Turn - What Are Your Early Memories of Money?
So now is the time to put away your cell phone and gather your journal. Find a quiet place and take a moment to think about your early memories of money.
Be honest with yourself. I have clients whose earliest memories of money are not positive, and we discuss how decisions they make today have been impacted by challenging times years ago. I have heard many stories of clients that grew up during the Great Depression, with their relationship to money forged during a time of scarcity. Today we have young people whose first memories of money were during the “Great Recession” of 2008 - 2009.
It’s a stimulating question, right? If you can’t come up with a memory right away, keep thinking. Once you have jotted something down, take a look and see if there are any parallels to how you spend both your time and money today.
By the way, for those of you wondering… the #1 movie was “Grease”. Who can forget Rizzo, the leader of the Pink Ladies?