Jewish World Review August 13, 2004 / 26 Menachem-Av, 5764

Lori Borgman

Lori Borgman
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Consumer Reports

Youth cancel out (checkbook) balancing act | I was having lunch with a friend when she told me that she is going to insist her college-age son begin balancing his checkbook. I laughed so hard I knocked over my drink, fell into my salad and inhaled a crouton.

Wanting a young person to balance a checkbook today is like Miss America wanting world peace — nice thought, but not likely to happen.

You might as well dash to the nearest pool and tell every teenage girl in the water to put on a swimming cap. Fat chance.

Kids today don't balance checkbooks. Two out of three can't even tell you what a checkbook is.

I asked a young lady hanging in our refrigerator if she knew what a checkbook was and she answered, "Animal, vegetable or mineral?"

"Paper," I said. "A little pad of paper with narrow lines where you add and subtract numbers."

"I don't do paper," the girl answered, flashing a debit card.

Why would kids do paper? Today's youth cut their teeth on plastic, learned to type on plastic and now bank with plastic. Plastic debit cards, plastic credit cards and invisible Pay Pal. The closest they get to real paper is buying books online at

Our son has not opened a bank statement in three years. I know, because he routinely piles them on my microwave oven. Once every six months I transfer the pile to his bedroom. The mountain of unopened bank statements, unopened bills and credit-card offers on his desk has grown so high it may soon need flashing lights to warn approaching aircraft.

Once a week I venture in his room to dump his trash can, thinking some of the paper that has gone into the room will surely come out of the room. The only thing his trash ever contains is one Q-tip. It's a token Q-tip, his way of making me feel needed.

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Kids do everything online. They bank online, pay their bills online, and move money from one account to another online.

I blame the banks. Their first mistake was when they stopped returning cancelled checks. My husband, a man who lives for a paper trail, was depressed for a year.

"Don't worry," I said. "You've still got your old tax returns, credit card statements, utility bills and Sunday circulars."

"What about records, what about documentation, what about proof of purchase?" he muttered. Cancelled checks are a bean counter's security blanket. It was hard on him for awhile, then like everyone else, he discovered cancelled checks were completely dispensable.

This was a bad move on the banks' part, it's never good to let a customer know they can live without your product.

The second mistake the banks made was discontinuing the incentives. When I was a kid, everybody's mother had at least two plastic rain bonnets in her purse courtesy of the local bank. Yes, you could trust a bank not only to take care of your cancelled checks and your savings account, but your mother's perm.

Many bank promotions offered small kitchen appliances. I knew a woman who set up housekeeping by opening three checking accounts, two savings accounts and a certificate of deposit. It's been ages since a bank gave away a toaster.

Guess what came in the mail today? A bank promotion offering a Smoothie Maker in exchange for opening a checking account. The smoothie in the picture is a vile green, the same color as Shrek.

Hmmmm. I wonder what age group the bank is targeting? I'll put it on the pile.

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JWR contributor Lori Borgman is the author of , most recently, "Pass the Faith, Please" (Click HERE to purchase. Sales help fund JWR.) and I Was a Better Mother Before I Had Kids To comment, please click here. To visit her website click here.


© 2004, Lori Borgman