TO THE POINT
“Lessons in Thrift”
In the early 1930′s, when I was in grade school at P.S. 41 in New York City, a weekly ritual took place in our classes. Each week students had the opportunity to participate in a savings plan sponsored by a local savings bank. Our nickels and dimes were collected (there were not many quarters in those days) and placed in individual banks which were then forwarded to the bank and credited to our account. In retrospect, I am quite sure, given the smallness of the accounts, that this was not a moneymaker for the bank. Rather, it was part of the educational process regarding the importance of thrift. Banks in that era regarded the promotion of thrift as an important part of their mission and what better place to instill this philosophy than young children.
Still later, in the late 1930′s when I was making more money carrying a paper route in Columbia, South Carolina and working at an Army P.X. at Fort Jackson, I was introduced to another form of thrift. In those days, the post office sold Postal Savings Bonds and promoted the idea of a “bond a week” program. Dutifully, I bought a small bond, usually two to five dollars each week. Because cashing in the bonds was not as handy as writing a check, my account grew steadily.
However, when I joined the Army Air Corps in June of 1941, I cashed in all my bonds except one for one dollar. I still have that bond despite the fact that the post office used to write me regularly to cash it in so they could get it off their books. I kept it as a reminder of the necessity for systematic savings no matter how tough the times were. Postal Savings Bonds gave way to War Bonds which could be purchased by payroll deduction plans, and now we have Treasury Bonds – all good lessons in thrift, if done systematically.
Still later, I entered the life insurance business in 1956 and was introduced to a new concept of systematic savings. I was raised in the business on the three-way security concept that money put into life insurance would benefit a person if they lived, died or quit. The objective was not so much to make a person rich, but rather to avoid poverty. The hard times of the Great Depression were still vivid in my memory, and this form of systematic savings held great appeal to me and I bought into the idea wholeheartedly.