A bank organized under the State laws, or under Federal laws if in the District of Columbia, for the purpose of receiving deposits, the intent being that such deposits shall largely be the savings of the small earners, such as labourers, wage earners, and small salaried persons in general, who are not expected to be in a position to intelligently invest money for themselves, and whose savings are so small that no adequate form of investment can easily be found. The aggregate of these savings in any one bank is supposed to be invested by an intelligent board of men elected for that purpose, usually called the "Board of Investment" or " Finance Committee." The legal restrictions placed upon the investment of "savings bankn funds vary greatly in different States, some being very strict and conservative and properly safeguarding the interest of the depositors; others woefully lax and unsafe. At present the States with the best regulations, beginning with the most conservative, are New York, Massachusetts, Connecticut, and then perhaps Vermont, Maine, and New Hampshire.
In selecting a savings bank for the purpose of making a deposit, one of the essential things to consider is the class of securities in which the funds of the institution are invested. A list of a bank's investments may be generally obtained from the officials of the bank under consideration. Failing to obtain one there, application may be made to the Board of Savings Bank Commissioners at the State Capitol, for the last Annual State Savings Bank Report. It is customary, in most States, for these reports to list, separately, the security holdings of each institution.
One able financial writer makes a very good point that institutions of this kind do not conduct strictly a banking business; that is, they take deposits not for their own use, but for the safe-keeping and benefit of the depositors, making safety a consideration before profit.
Although there are thousands upon thousands depositing in the savings institutions of this country, yet there are countless others who ought either to place their funds therein or a greater proportion than they now do. Small as may seem the interest returned to the depositors by these institutions, yet it is a fact that they furnish by far the safest and, in the long run, the most profitable employment for the savings of a great majority of people of limited means. The larger bulk of the loss which the uninitiated incur by speculating in State and Wall Streets could be avoided if temptation could be resisted, and their earnings turned into the savings institutions rather than squandered upon the gambling wheel of speculation.
An idea of the growth of a savings bank account may be gathered from these figures: 25 cents saved weekly and compounded twice a year at 4% per annum will amount to $403 in twenty years; 50 cents will amount to $806; and $5.00 to $8,070.
Interest ranging from 3 to 5%, according to the bank, is paid on money deposited.
The laws of different States, or the regulations of different banks, vary more or less as to the amount which any one depositor may have standing to his credit on the books in any one bank. Unfortunately, this rule is easily avoided by a depositor making use of the name of his wife, mother, sister, etc., and opening up accounts under their names.
The deposits of all the savings banksą of this country are estimated at over $6,500,000,000, belonging to 11,427,000 persons and divided among 1,237 banks. In 1820 there were but ten banks, $1,138,576 deposits and 8,635 depositors.
It may interest some to know that we are indebted to Daniel Defoe of "Robinson Crusoe" fame, as the originator of the modern "savings bank" idea. One was founded in Hamburg in 1778 and at Berne in 1787, the idea having been suggested by Defoe in 1697. The Rev. H. Duncan, of Ruth-well, Dumfriesshire, is, however, known as the " father of savings banks," as he established one in 1810, which at the end of four years had accumulated $5,800. Acts to encourage " savings banks " were passed in 1817 in England. (See also " Mutual Savings Bank.")
1 In addition, on June 30, 1920, there were 508,000 depositors having $157,276,000, in the Postal Savings System.
Savings Bank Account, How to Open. See " How to Open a Savings Bank Account."