I am 16 and still in HS and work 20+ hours a week. I live with my mother (my Dad left us when I was a kid and I don't see him anymore). My mother is an alcoholic and has trouble keeping a job. I don't want to give too many details here but in the past my mother took money from me. She always promised to return it to me but she never did. Not ever. I only go home these days to sleep, which is fine. I just want to stay in school and save my money so I can go to community college and become a nurse. My new job as a waitress pays ok but until now I was paid in cash and I worry about this. I want to open a checking account but I need my mother's signature and I fear she will take my money when she is broke again. Apart from becoming an emancipated minor is there anything I can do to stop my mother from taking my money? Would hiring a locker at a bank or something similar be a good option? Or is there something else? (I live in Utah).
I’m sorry to hear about your situation. There are a couple of issues at play.
Parents are responsible financially for their kids until they turn 18. They are required to provide food, shelter, and clothing for you, and if you cause damages to someone, they are required to pay it. There are two results of this that affect your situation.
First, it is not exactly illegal for your mother to take your money. Your mother has expenses related to caring for you. I’m not at all saying that it is right that she take your money, but I am saying that I don’t think you’ll be able to successfully charge her with a crime or sue her for this money.
Second, because parents are responsible for their children’s actions, minors are not allowed to enter into a contract without their parent’s involvement. This will make getting a bank account without your mother difficult.
Do you have another adult in your life that you trust? They may be able to help you get a bank account that your mother would not have access to.
There are two kinds of bank accounts that a minor can get: a joint account and a custodial account. Both involve an adult that you must be able to trust.
With a joint account, you and the other person have full access to the account and own all the money in it together. Either of you can put money in or take money out at any time. This would not be ideal with your mother, but if you have an adult in your life that you trust would not take your money, it could work. When you turn 18, the adult could remove themselves from the account, and the money is all yours. Or you could even ask the bank if they can set up the account to automatically remove the adult from the account on your 18th birthday.
A custodial account is a little different. With this type of account, the minor is the sole legal owner of the money in the account, not the adult (custodian). However, the minor does not have access to the funds by herself until she becomes an adult. The adult does have access to the money, but is only legally allowed to use it for the benefit of the child. When the minor becomes an adult, the account converts to a regular bank account, and the custodian drops off. If you don’t trust your mother, you would not want to get a custodial account with her as the custodian, because she could argue that she is taking money to pay for things for you. But if you have another trustworthy adult who is willing to help, this could work. But you won’t be able to get a checking account this way, and you would probably need the adult’s cooperation every time you want to take money out of the account.
It might be worth calling up local banks and credit unions, telling them your age, and asking them if they can set up an account for you without an adult. You may get lucky and find one that will. If not, and you can’t find a trustworthy adult who will help you, you may be forced to continue hiding your cash until you turn 18. Perhaps you should buy a safe.
The Balance: Bank Accounts for People Under 18
If you are 100% positive you want to use your money for schooling, it may be worth looking into the Utah Educational Savings Plan (my529) You will need an adult to set it up for you but it does not have to be your mother
"The account owner and beneficiary do not need to be related"
It looks like you could then contribute directly and possibly even arrange for it to be a payroll deduction so the money is paid directly to this account (or whatever proportion of your pay you want to go to it).
Contributions to your account can be made by anyone. No minimum contribution is required.
As explained in Ben Miller's great answer about accounts, this would be a custodial account so you would need to trust the adult who opens it for you. However reading the program description it looks like a UGMA account may help you From the Program Description
UGMA/UTMA Accounts. All UGMA/UTMA accounts are created under the Uniform Gift to Minors Act/Uniform Transfers to Minors Act to hold money or property that was gifted or transferred to a minor without a trust. Money in an UGMA/UTMA account is an irrevocable and permanent gift to the minor beneficiary. Money withdrawn from an UGMA/UTMA account can be used only by the beneficiary or used on the beneficiary’s behalf. The account owner and beneficiary of an UGMA/UTMA account are the same person. Because the account owner/beneficiary is a minor, an UGMA/UTMA account is managed by an account agent who must be at least 18 years old
IANAL I am not a lawyer or a financial expert so I don't know if this will be what you want, but it looks like an option to look into.
Ok. I have heard several options on here. From "Buy a safe" to "Buy Bitcoins." Some of these are viable options, but they all have down sides. Honestly, I don't see a 100 percent option here until you are 18.....but
Buying a safe wont work because Mom will either make you open it at some point or she will get drunk and break the thing and possible even get really frustrated trying. Please do not do this. It's dangerous and draws attention to you.
Cryptocurrencies can work (contrary to some ignorance I've heard on here), but I agree that this is also probably not a good idea. The signup process for all legal trades will require an ID and a minimum age of 18. There are ways around this but they are not above board. The asset is highly speculative at this point so using "bitcoin" as a permanent store of value may be dangerous. You could wake up and your 1000 dollars might be more like 300 or maybe 3000....you just dont know.
So where does that leave us?
YOU ARE GOING TO HAVE TO HIDE YOUR MONEY. This sucks, but it's the only way. Assuming you don't have 100 grand, we probably wont hide it in the walls. You will need it to be accessible, but also secure and hidden. If it must remain physical fiat currency (dollar dollar bills yaw) then I recommend a hollowed out book.
Find something your mom would never read. If she isn't very religious ....buy a bible. If shes not really into politics, buy you a thick copy of Atlas Shrugged. Either way cut out the center of the book allowing for a small area of storage (but would still allow you to read from the front or back) and then throw the book on the shelf with the others. She will walk right past it like a dope a thousand times and never think to open one of those books....thieves rarely do.
Another option is a GreenDot or temporary visa/mastercard. These can be purchased all over and do not require you to be 18 to use them. You can even set a PIN up that would require authentication before funds could be removed. You would still need to keep it on you at all times and secure the card, but it would be a single point of failure. It is much easier to hide. It is transferable when you do turn 18 and want to go to a bank. It's an option.
Either way good luck. I'm here if you wish to discuss it further. I've used GreenDot cards and a hollowed out book before. Both have served me well.
Edit: Lol I own a lot of books. So a book makes sense for me. Make sure whatever you choose, it doesn't stand out. I agree with many of the comments made.
If you want to save and don't mind taking a slight loss, money orders are worth a look. They behave just like a check, but anyone can buy them. You make them out to a particular recipient, and both recipient and payer must sign it. Banks accept them, and you can self-sign them to cash them out.
There's usually a limit of around $1000, and they cost around a buck. There's no limit on how many you can purchase. Amounts tend to be fixed - $20, $50, $100, etc. There may be a small fee when you cash them in.
If a signature is forged, there's at least a paper trail, unlike cash.
Downside: it's just a piece of paper. If it's lost or destroyed, it's gone, although you normally get a receipt that can be used to reclaim it in such cases.
They're available at most banks, places like Walmart, Post Office, lots of others. Also banks; you might go to a bank and ask for guidance, even though you can't open an account yet.
The fees won't amount to much if you buy fairly large denominations, and you won't make much of anything from interest over a couple of years, anyway. This is probably a decent alternative to trying to hide cash.
Again, it's worth your time to have a chat with a bank officer. Ask them if they offer "custodial accounts" that an unrelated adult can open on your behalf. These bear interest, and any amount deposited can only be withdrawn by you, the beneficiary. You would need a (responsible) adult to help you here, and some states may require they be related, but this varies a lot. It doesn't hurt to ask. The money is yours unequivocally, and you take complete ownership of it when you turn 18.
Not ideal, but perhaps you could purchase money orders at the Post Office (this costs only a dollar or so, but see this) and store them in a safety deposit box (some states allow minors to get these)?
Alternatively, and perhaps more realistically, have your money deposited to your bank account and then transfer it to a Venmo, PayPal, Google Wallet, or other online venue. As long as you're able to restrict access to those accounts it won't be possible for you parent to pull the money back.
Make sure you use good practices like Two-Factor Authentication to keep your accounts safe and consider dividing you money between a couple of services both as further protection from your parent as well as protection against one of the companies closing.
Buy a safe
It is a little bit of an investment but you can find them from for a low as 50 dollars. That way you can avoid all the legality of being a minor. It doesn't have to be as secure as you would for a burglar just enough to not make it worth it/discourage your mother to try to get into. Just don't write down the pin anywhere and if it has a key lock keep the key on you at all time including when you are sleeping.
Consider asking your employeer if they can defer payment of your salary to a later date.
You would need to check the legality of it considering your age and whatever local laws are in effect. Also obviously your employeer would have to agree to it. Also might need to stay at your current job until you turn 18. Also a way to keep track of and prove how much salary you are due.
Ben Miller answer mentions custodian accounts and that with them the adult does have access to the money (although only legally allowed to use it for the benefit of the child).
However, I would recommend checking with the local banks/credit unions, as they may have a product where the custodian itself doesn't have access to the money. Or where the only way to get access to the money is to completely cancel the account, which isn't completely safe but does represent a deterrent (somewhat similar to the mentioned of having to break a safe) and a documented one.
So, if your custodian canceled your account, that would:
a. Be quickly detected as your next payroll would bounce
b. Get documented that person X canceled account Y and received amount Z
c. Have to be done during Opening Hours (not at any time your mother "needs" the money)
In any case, do note that (per above) you are entitled to that money, so if your custodian somehow managed to take from your money, you could (in a couple of years) sue them for the missing money if they can't show how it was spent "for the benefit of the child".
Note that the custodian stealing the money is a potential risk you should ponder even if it is not your mother. Other answers mention enlisting the help of "an adult you trust", but that person might be tempted to "get some of your money", even if they are completely sincere with helping you now, they may face a harder time later. Of course their own ethics, the complexities of getting away with it, amount they could steal, general financial situation and other consequences would help them to overcome such temptation (for instance an attorney that abused that situation might end up barred from practising).
It is possible to create joint bank accounts where operations need to be approved by all the owners. I don't know if it would be possible to do the same for the custodian role of an account, but it's worth investigating as a way to minimize such risk (all of them would need to collude for your money to be stolen).
Basically, the question is how to cash a check if the USA if you are under 18. You said, "until now, I was paid in cash", so I assume that you are going to be getting checks now.
If you keep cash, I suggest that you hide it. You could peel back the carpet or something and put it under there in a couple of envelopes. Seal them and put your full name on them. You could also hide it inside something. Don't hide it in something valuable that could be stolen, and don't hide it in something that could be accidentally thrown away or given away. Also, put it in at least two different hiding places where the discovery of one won't lead to the other. If you want to bury it, you can put it in a small glass jar with a lid that seals. You can put some rice in there to absorb any humidity that will result from cool temperatures. The lid could rust through over time so use a plastic lid or put another sealed jar inside the first one. Then you could place it somewhat deep down like next to the foundation of the house in a place that won't get dug up for any utility work.
You could buy gold. $1400 worth is about the same size as a few quarters in your hand. Hard to destroy, easy to hide, and your mom may not know what to do with it if she came across it. Just make sure the coin store will buy it back from you without photo ID and you being over 18. The price goes up and down a bit, but by next year it'll typically be 2% higher than you bought it for. The dealer (at an honest shop) will often make about 5% if you buy and sell it back the same day, so you have to wait a few days for the prices to drop a little before you buy and then wait until there is a spike when you sell, then you can make up for that fee!
You don't have to have a bank account to cash a check. You can take the check to the bank that issued the check, or take it to a check cashing place like grocery store often has. They will very likely require photo ID (driver's license, state ID, or passport), and if you go to the bank that issued the check, they might even want you to put your thumb print on the check.
You'll likely need someone who is 18 or older to help you though. You can also "Sign the check over to someone you trust", which is described in the link at the end of my answer.
If you do open a checking account (with the help of someone other than your mother), be sure to opt out of the overdraft protection. You don't want a $20 overdraft fee because your mom somehow got your debit card or wrote a check on your account and took your account below $0. Let her deal with the bad check fee from the business directly. But I recommend that you open a savings account. That way you have to physically go to the bank and show ID to get any money out.
Here is some good information about cashing checks, although not the under 18 part of it. https://www.wikihow.com/Cash-a-Check
It might be different where you are, and may not be quite appropriate to your circumstances, but there are accounts that are pay-in-only until a term has expired. These are always savings accounts, whether a savings bond (or a pension)!
If you had something like this then you can pay all your money into it, knowing it was safe from your mother. However, it also means it'd be safe from you for your general spending, but maybe that's a good thing as you will want to save for later someday, might as well start now!
Some other savings accounts are fixed term, typically 3 or 5 years, cashing in is not allowed (or requires some hoops to jump through) in order to obtain a better savings rate.
Invest in shares. I think you can easily find a broker or listed company in USA which will be able to act on your behalf for sale or purchase. I am not sure about the laws but I think they will still need your consent for sale or purchase of any share which will be entitled to your name. That way it will be safe money with 50 / 50 chances of ROI as well.
Whenever you need any fund then you can easily sale out them on market with in few days.
You can easily stash 70 - 80 % of your income in it.
Ask a friends parents if they can take care of the money. Of course, be careful with whom you select but I guess most adults would be helpful in this situation. Maybe you could buy a box with a simple lock and leave at some friend's parent's house (with their permission of course). If you want to be extra careful, split it among several friends' parents. In case one of them commits fraud, you won't lose all your savings.
It might be a good idea to ask one adult if he/she could join you when you ask your "target" for this service. That way, if there is an issue when the money should be returned, you could go to the first adult and ask for support in arguing with the adult you deposed the money with.
(You could of course change "friend's parents" to a relative, neighbour or even the principal at your school or something like that.)
You might ask your bank if you can rent a safe deposit box - without them telling your mother. And if it can be done in a way so nobody else has access (in case she finds out).
PS. There's a comment claiming this doesn't work. There's no actual justification for that comment. And there is nothing wrong with the advice "ask your bank". The bank will say "yes" or "no". Asking costs nothing.
PS. A 16 year old in the USA can enter contracts, and these contracts are valid and enforceable - except that the 16 year old or their legal guardian can void the contract until shortly after the 18th birthday. So in practice it may be hard to convince someone to sell the young person a car or to let them open a bank account, because of the risk of damage in case the contract be voided. But entering into a contract is perfectly legal. In case of renting a safe deposit box, the only risk for the bank is that the contract is voided which is not more than the usual risk that the customer cancels their contract.
You may be interested in buying bitcoin. It allows you to maintain complete ownership over your money without use of a trusted third party. Localbitcoins.com will allow you to trade cash for bitcoin at age 16.
You would need to research how to conduct a transaction safely, and only trade with people that have earned a good reputation, but if you can establish a way to do this safely, it is your best option. Once you have bitcoin, you may easily trade any amount of it for "stablecoins" which are guaranteed to maintain their value against the dollar, if you are uncomfortable with bitcoin's volatility.
To go down this road, I'd recommend cross posting a similar question in the bitcoin stackexchange as they will have information to help you do this in the cheapest, safest way possible.