My daughter who moved to the Midwest earlier this year is moving into a new apartment and was asked to provide a check. She’d only written a few and had to ask ‘how do I write a check again?’ While I was not surprised it was eye opening when one considers how differently millennials handle their financial affairs compared to prior generations.
Mom and Dad wrote checks. Their Moms and Dads wrote checks. My wife and I have been writing checks for many years ourselves. In fact I recall the first checking account I ever opened back when I had one of my first jobs as a teenager. I somehow thought it was cool and grown-up to have a checking account.
As I went through university back in the late 1970’s I also noticed how some of my friends handled their checking accounts in their own check ledger that was attached to the checks, by rounding to the higher amount so that there’d always be a few extra dollars. My guess is that these friends did not end up becoming accountants.
In today’s era of online banking and recording, actually physically writing a check is a rare thing indeed. Most bills can be paid online and there’s not all that much need to even print out a physical check from your bank’s online payment system or one from a company like Quicken. Millennials if not using the online bill paying option from their bank, have been using services such as Paypal.com as well as Venmo.com (to pay friends directly online). Having to physically write a check seems archaic and well, a hassle.
Here’s the thing, writing a check IS a hassle and the old way of doing things. All the paper, all the reconciliations and checkbook balancing, holding on to cancelled checks. Ugh. At times the writing of a check allowed for playing the float time before the would-be check recipient actually received the check and deposited it. It could take three or more days for that to happen and you have use of the cash until it’s processed. And then there was that great excuse when you owed money – “Hey the check is in the mail”.
Banks used to offer ‘Free Checking’ as a value-offer since they actually charged money to have a checking account where you keep your money in their bank and draw on it when necessary. And if you ran out of checks you had to order new ones – and pay for them. It seems almost unbelievable to write that.
Greatest Generation folks (what’s left of them), Baby Boomers, and even Gen Xers, all were raised on the old fashioned checking account so it will be around for awhile longer but as far as I am concerned the sooner we exist in a ‘check-free’ world the better.
Can you imagine a life without ever writing a check?