What Working at a Bank Taught Me About Money
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I spent 15 of my working years working at a bank on some level. I started out as a teller, then moved up to teller supervisor, then over to personal banker. Then I began work as a personal loan officer, and spent my last five years in banking as a sales assistant to a mortgage branch manager. You would think that with all of that financial training I would’ve learned earlier to stay out of debt, but denial can be a comfy place to live. 😉
Today I’m using the wisdom I gleaned from my years in banking, and looking back, I see three crucial lessons I learned from working at a bank. It was only after I’d started educating myself through the world of personal finance blogs that I truly learned about money. But that wasn’t because working at a bank wasn’t offering me education, it was because I was, at that time, largely unteachable, even with my observant nature. Here are three things that, looking back, I can see that working at a bank taught me about money and money management.
#1 – Appearances mean nothing
Because I worked in a variety of positions at the bank, I got to serve every type of customer, from the seriously impoverished and uneducated, to the uber-wealthy. Serving such a wide variety of customers in different aspects, and being by nature an observant person, I always watched and listened to what people said, wondering what drove their different financial mindsets and behaviors. For many years, I assumed that wealth accumulation was simply luck of the draw. After all, that’s what I’d been taught growing up. Either you were “lucky” to have wealth, or you were “unlucky” to not have wealth.
When we lived in our house in the fancy suburb, Rick would often wonder as we went on our long walks through the neighborhood what these people must be earning if they could afford a big house and every other toy known to mankind. The boats, ATVs, sportscars and Mercedes, and other high-end items left him assuming that high-income earners simply had to live in those homes. However, working at a bank taught me differently.
I saw many families with long asset sheets, filled with luxuries and toys of every kind, who had a liabilities sheet that was even longer. These families didn’t always have an exorbitant amount of income. In fact, many times, they made less than $100,000 a year. However, their appearance said otherwise, and no one knew what was behind the curtain of their financial lives.
On the other hand, I saw many families with moderate income amounts and little to no toys. They lived in modest houses and drove older cars, but their balance sheets looked like something out of a Forbes Most Wealthy Americans list. They were the quintessential Millionaire Next Door. They were rich, but no one knew it. Lesson learned? When it comes to money and stuff, appearances mean nothing.
#2 – Income Doesn’t Equal Wealth
It doesn’t really matter what you make; it matters what you keep. Nowhere did I learn this fact more than in personal banking. We had the old lady who lived through the Depression with her milkman husband who’d socked away hundreds of thousands of dollars, and we had the $200,000 and more income earner with absolutely nothing to show for it. It’s all about value-based spending, my friends, and not wasting your money on things that hold no real value for you.
#3 – Money is Just Money
At the end of the day, money is just money. Although a good balance sheet can bring peace and some level of happiness, all of the money in the world won’t bring true meaning to your life. True meaning and happiness in life can never be found in the accumulation of money or of the things it buys. It can only be found by discovering who you are and what you want out of life.
Even if you’ll never have a job working at a bank, by being observant, there are money lessons to be learned all around you. Increase your money knowledge by observing those you know in real life, or by following the large list of awesome personal financial bloggers learning their own way through the ins and outs of money management.
Who in your life has taught you the most important thing you know about money? What job have you held that’s been the most valuable to you, and why? When have you experienced looks being deceiving when it comes to money?
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