WGN-TV Show Notes

One way to help the government save money on Social Security is to get seniors to have their checks direct deposited into their checking or savings account. The savings could add up to millions of dollars.

If seniors in Chicago had their social security checks electronically deposited into their account, it would save the government nearly $2 million a year in postage and printing expenses. And when you’re looking at borrowing $2 trillion to privatize Social Security, every million dollars helps. But in the Hispanic community, local bankers have to solve other challenges first.

“That’s our biggest challenge, getting the trust. Once it’s there, they become very loyal customers,” says Juan Guerrero, Banco Popular.

“A lot of it has to do with illegal people being in the country, which drives the fear. In Mexico, the banks are not as friendly, and there isn’t a lot of use of checking or ATM like there is here. It’s a different system,” says Ramon Cepeda, LaSalle Bank.

One-third of Chicagoans don’t have bank accounts but the number of Hispanics and other minorities who are unbanked is even higher. In Hispanic neighborhoods, local bankers are working hard to help educate residents about the benefits of working within the federal financial system.

“They’re going to start saving. They’re going to have access to a bank that can help them get a mortgage, so if they want to purchase a home, they can do that,” says Judy Rice, City of Chicago treasurer.

The biggest problem with getting people to sign up for direct deposit of their paychecks appears to be getting them to sign up for a bank account in the first place. For some reason, people in this community, and many others, are still married to currency exchanges, even though it might cost them a percentage of their check to get it cashed.

But slowly, the bankers are making inroads.

“Right before I turned 65, I went and applied for direct deposit. So my check goes straight to the bank because I never like to carry money with me. Nowadays it’s very dangerous. So I know the deposit is safe, is fast and I have peace of mind. I know my money is there,” says Eva Dombek.

“It’s our job as bankers to make sure that service and trust is established with our individuals and commercial clients as well,” says Claudia Hinojosa, Archer Bank.

After she was robbed outside her front door, Eva entered the electronic age. Today, all she carries with her are three essential items.

“My telephone, my debit card, and my driver’s license. It’s all I carry with me,” Eva says. What many consumers don’t understand is that they’ll get access to their cash faster if it’s directly deposited into their account than if they get the check in hand and have to go cash it. Your cash will be available in your account when the bank opens on payday — and you won’t have to pay a currency exchange 15 percent for the privilege of accessing your money.

If you want to sign up for direct deposit of your Social Security, SSI or VA check, call toll-free:
English: 800-333-1795.
Spanish-language: 800-333-1792

Dec. 9, 2004.

Copyright © 2004, WGN-TV