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By Emily-Jane Hills Orford
November 1st. It was a tradition. Dad pulled out the envelope with my name on it and retrieved the papers from within. He handed me the scissors.
“Do you want to clip the coupons this year?” he asked.
“Only clip the coupon that reads November 1, 1966,” he instructed.
I studied the papers in front of me. There were nine. One for every year of my life. I found the coupon on the top paper quickly enough. It had a long string of coupons that hadn’t yet been clipped.
“Is this the one Gran bought for me last year for Christmas?” I asked.
This time Dad nodded. “That’s why there haven’t been any coupons clipped yet.”
“Oh!” I studied the paper more closely. “What is a bond, Dad? And why does it say $50 on the main part and each coupon only says $1.25? The amount of the coupons doesn’t add up to $50.” Always patient, Dad explained, “A bond is a way to save money. Every November Gran purchases a $50 bond for each of her grandchildren. It’s part of your Christmas gift. The $1.25 is your annual interest. You can take the coupon to the bank and cash it in, or put it in your savings account.”
“Gran says I should use the money to buy Christmas gifts for the family. That and the allowance I’ve been saving should give me,” I paused to try to do the math in my head. I wasn’t as good as Dad. Or Gran for that matter. But I knew I could do it. “About $15. Do you think that’s enough to buy everyone a Christmas gift?”
Dad smiled at me. “I think that’s more than enough,” he said in his usual encouraging voice. “Now how about clipping your coupons and then I’ll walk you over to the bank to cash them in?”
With great attention to detail, I slowly clipped off the coupon for November 1, 1966, from each of the nine bonds. “What happens when there’s no more coupons on the bond?” I asked.
“Then you take the bond to the bank and purchase a new one. The $50 is what is known as the principal amount. That’s your money, too.”
“What if I want to keep the $50.”
Dad chuckled softly. “There may come a time when you need that $50. Perhaps to help you buy your first car or some other big purchase. Which, hopefully, not for a long time.”
“Maybe I’ll use it to buy a horse.” I said under my breath. Everyone in the family knew I wanted my own horse. I would need a lot more $50 bonds than the stack I had in front of me. I finished clipping off the last coupon and handed the bonds back to Dad. He folded them carefully and tucked them away in the envelope before returning them to his safe drawer.
“All set?” he asked.
“How much do you have to cash in?”
“$11.25.” I glanced at my father. “That’s a lot, isn’t it?”
He smiled. “It sure is.”
“Why does Gran buy us bonds every year? Why not give us more toys instead?”
“Do you need more toys?”
I thought for a minute, then shook my head. “I guess not.”
“Besides,” he added, “isn’t this more fun? Learning how to save? Having some of your own money to spend?”
I smiled at Dad. “I guess so.”
For as long as I could remember, Gran purchased a $50 bond for each of us every Christmas. She claimed we didn’t need any more toys and our parents knew better what clothes we liked. I remember how upset Gran was when Canada Savings Bonds no longer offered the $50 bond. It was a little more than her budget would allow to purchase each of us a $100 bond. When the $50 bond was discontinued, she resorted to giving us the money and we used our own savings (or accumulated interest from previous bonds) to make the $100 bond purchase. What a great way to learn how to invest and save. I was disappointed when the coupons were discontinued. There was something special about those coupons: clipping them off the bond, taking them to the teller at the bank and cashing them in. It gave the meaning of investments something more tangible than what we have today.
Emily-Jane Hills Orford has published several books, creative nonfiction stories mostly about her family. Growing up in Toronto, then Hamilton and finally London, Emily-Jane has lots of family stories to warm the heart. In her most recent novels, “Mrs. Murray’s Ghost” and “Mrs. Murray’s Hidden Treasure”, the author returns to her roots and the fond memories and dreams, growing up in a haunted old Victorian mansion in London. For more information about the author, check out her webpage at: http://emilyjanebooks.ca