The Bank and Trust of Us

About forty years ago, when I opened my first savings account, I remember the interest rate of return was 3% to 5%. So, for every dollar you put in and kept in, you’d get three to five cents back every month or so. But, if you maintained a balance over a certain amount, you got even more back. I forget what those numbers were, but let’s just guess it was around a grand. Therefore, there was not only incentive in saving in the first place but, the more you put in the more you got back.

But, you wouldn’t see that return unless your savings sat there for a bit. It had to be there for 30 to 60 days. It took a little time, no matter how much you put in, before you’d begin to see a payoff. After all, the bank is paying you a portion of the profit they were making from the money you put in. They need to make a profit before they can pay you a return. Plus, they need to trust you’re not just going to come in and make some quick money and leave, that you want to be a long time customer.

Relationships work much the same way. The more time and energy we put into them, the better the return on the investment. Like with a bank of old, invest a little bit and you’ll get something back. Invest even more, and you’ll see a little bit more back. But, you won’t see it right away. That return will not begin to pay off until you’ve let your time and energy sit for a while. Others need time to see the value of your effort. They need time to trust that you are not just doing it to get something out of them. That you are in it for the long term.

These days, the rate of return at banks is far lower. These days, a basic savings account provides almost zero incentive to keep your money there. If you’re looking to make money at a decent rate of return, to invest, it makes more sense to put your money elsewhere. The truth is that banks no longer see a basic savings account as an indication that someone wants to do long term business. Now, they also need you to have a credit card, a mortgage, and a couple of CDs. Then they might, might, give you a better deal. Sad, but true.

These days, the rate of return in interpersonal relationships is far lower too. Just a phone call or a letter is not enough. Now, we must follow on Twitter and Facebook, subscribe to the newsletter, read the blog, and exchange a few emails before many see us as serious and trust we don’t just want something from them and forget them as soon as we do. And, frankly, the time and attention we do put in these days is competing for notice among so many other things; the “timeline”, the “stream”, braking news, endless war, security theatre, and politics of the absurd.

So, the upshot of all of this is that we should not be surprised if we feel like we are having to put so much more energy into our relationships these days or that it is taking longer before we begin to see anything equally meaningful in return. It’s a sign of the times we live in.

But, just like our savings, it can still be worth it if we choose wisely, invest strategically, and go in with our expectations set accordingly.