Thursday, August 19, 2010

Bank vs Man

Okay guys.  Here's the deal.  I'm going to give you all a brief lesson on keeping a checkbook.  If you've already mastered it  - GREAT!  If you don't want to hear the brutal truth - then don't read this post.

Having been either employed by, or working directly with banks for the last 33 years, and having grown up with a mother that was a banker - I feel as though I'm an expert on the subject matter so I'm going to give y'all a lesson.  It's quite simple and it's limited to transactional type accounts (those on which you can transact purchases, etc - does not apply to CD's and deposit accounts from which you cannot withdraw):

  1. The BANK (or credit union, or whatever) is NOT the record keeper of your money.  YOU ARE.
  2. The bank (or credit union - you get the jist)  does NOT know what YOUR balance is. - They know what THEIR balance on your account is. 
  3. They have NO CLUE what transactions may be out there in the cloud and yet to clear THEIR record of your account.
Let's put it together this way:

The bank shows you have $100 in your account.
But you wrote a check yesterday for $50 that has not yet cleared your account.

The bank has NO CLUE that you wrote that check - NONE - so if you call and ask for your balance (which is by far the WORST and most illogical way EVER to check your balance on a transactional account) - they will tell you the balance is $100.

So you go ahead and spend $95 at the shoe store on some kick-ass Nikes you fell in love with.  You use your debit card and the $95 is taken from your account that night.

That SAME night, that check for $50 comes through - guess what?  YOU ARE OVERDRAWN.  Why?  Because you did NOT have $100 in YOUR account  - you only had $50 in YOUR account - remember - you wrote the check for $50.  So yes, now you are overdrawn. 

The ONLY way to keep track of this shit is in a register - or on a piece of paper - or I do mine on software.  It's a very simple process:

Write down the starting balance in YOUR account
Subtract the amount of each and every withdrawal, debit purchase and check you write
The difference is the BALANCE IN YOUR ACCOUNT

90% of the time - the BALANCE IN YOUR ACCOUNT will NOT equal the BANK'S balance of your account - because they don't know what the fuck you're spending and where and when and they have no clue what hasn't cleared yet - they only know what their records show.

And every month - the nice bank will send you a statement - RECONCILE it - I'll give you a lesson on that in a separate post.  Many banks even offer FREE online access - which allows you to go online for FREE and look at your transactional history so you can make certain that YOU have logged everything in YOUR register correctly.  Sometimes I forget to write shit down - so this online service is a Godsend for me. 

Last month, the prodigal son overdrew his account.  And he came to me and asked me where the money went.  I have no clue son - let's look at your register.  He didn't have one.  Well did he have his online password?  Nope.  Well, I can't tell you where the money went if you have no record of what you spent and you cannot access the bank's record of it.  So then, he tried to get clever with me, "Well, I had a lot of money - and I'm not accusing the bank of stealing it, but I'm just sayin' it's gone and I don't understand why." 

A few days later, his monthly statement arrived in the mail.  I found it a few hours later - torn into a million pieces in the trash can.  Something tells me the answer to the mysterious money disappearance was revealed in that statement.  It was spent at Sonic.  McDonalds.  The Kwiki Mart. 

But please - for the love of God, little baby Jesus and everything Holy people - quit calling the BANK and asking THEM how much money YOU have. 

And this is NOT directed at a particular person to whom this recently happened - it's really not - your experience was just a reminder to me as to how many people end up spending thousands of dollars a year on overdraft charges and ruining their credit because they are under the impression the bank keeps track of YOUR money.  They keep track of THEIR money.  Not yours.  Step up and take responsibility for YOUR money.  You'll be happy you did.

And I hope to hell my husband reads this because he also is not familiar with a checkbook register and checks his balance with the bank daily.  It's exhausting. 

We keep separate accounts.

UPDATE:  Seriously?  For 33 years I've worked in or with banking?  I started working when I was 11.  My parents were a pain in the ass like that.  Sad part:  I honestly thought long and hard about that number before I typed it.  Clearly - you do NOT need to be a mathematician to be a banker - see prior posts about my math skills.  That's why they all have 10 keys on their desks.  And likely it also explains why they don't know how much fucking money you have in the bank - they can't add or subtract.  Listen to me people - I've been around them for EVER.


  1. Preach it Sista!!!! I can not fathom having a checking account and not keeping a register on it!! And yet, not one of my three kids do, or even half the adults I work with???? Are you all fucking nuts??? It's simple math...even I can do it!!! But I still have to tell my kids crying about bank charges that NOT keeping a checkbook register is a very costly thing. Guess I should be glad somebody is helping the banks make some money...cause outside of a few via sure as shit ain't me!! ;)
    Gezzzz we buy em books and we buy em books and all they do is eat the pages!!!

  2. I know sister - I know. I am the ONLY person in this house that keeps a register AND reconciles my account religiously. Banks/CU's make mistakes. I also call when I don't recognize a withdrawal that was made. They will happily answer your questions and your mind can be put at ease.

    The husband is the WORST - has NEVER kept a register. He's not even ON my account and I'm not on his. He has POD rights on mine - he's a shitty financier. He and I both recognize that and live within that constraint. He's STILL a bank caller/balance checker. Wears me OUT.