No more checks and life's inevitable changes

Posted11/23/2019 6:00 AM

A surefire aspect of changing times is that they catch up with you. For instance, an odd thing happened at the grocery store recently. The person in front of me at the checkout wrote a check but it didn't go through; it was rejected. Turns out that rejection was because she had a new checking account not recognized by the store's computer system. So the woman gave up and used a credit card.

When I got to the cashier, I said: "I'm also writing a check; hope it goes through." The clerk said: "Oh, no problem. You write checks here all the time, you'll be in the system." And then she added: "Hardly anyone writes checks anymore."


Wow, I know lots of people use credit cards for everything -- groceries, paying bills, restaurants -- because they want travel miles or "cash back" rebates or other popular perks. But I didn't realize it's gotten to the point that writing a check makes you an outlier.

Later in the day, I stopped at the bank and discovered it had installed a new system for customer transactions requiring use of a debit card. The card, which looks like a credit card but isn't, contains all your bank account numbers, so paper deposit slips, etc., are no longer needed. Therefore, I got one linked to my checking account and I use it for grocery shopping and other purchases. So no more need to write paper checks at stores.

Was I the last one to know this is what a debit card does? Welcome to the 21st century, Susan! This took me aback because I'm pretty tech savvy, but I certainly missed this one! And it's a great convenience.

Years ago in the 1970s, when my dear Baheej and I first started traveling to Sweden, the Swedes had already converted to electronic payments for most everything and they were already debating the current hot topics of security, fraud and privacy. So here we are in the U.S., 50 years later, going through the same transition. Probably soon, no more paper checks at all! Better get ready.

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But this is really part of a larger topic -- the need to change with the times and, in this case, with changing technology. It's rather important to be aware and flexible.

In earlier columns I've discussed this issue in terms of technology for personal communication and keeping in touch, but it's really broader than that. It's the general necessity to adapt to change and accept it. This is especially important if you've lost someone close to you -- and need to cope with and manage grief, the ultimate challenge to adapt.

A related topic is the necessity to adapt to health and physical changes as one gets older. Not old, but older. The years add up.

Baheej and I used to go to Mayo Clinic for regular health care. The first time there, we made a point of meeting with my father's favorite cousin, who's husband had been a hematologist there his whole career. Mayo has a nice set of apartments and condos for retired spouses of Mayo doctors. She was herself already in her late 80s.

We met for dinner at her favorite restaurant, I hadn't seen her since I was quite young. Anyway, at dinner all she did was talk about health problems -- of her own, her neighbors, etc. I tried to change the topic knowing Baheej did not like dwelling on the topic of aches and pains. Dad's cousin just looked surprised and said: "But that's what we talk about here!"


In hindsight, as the years have moved along, I understand. When one starts having health problems, or friends do, it's impossible to avoid the topic. I used to wonder why people dwell on health and medical problems, but not anymore.

The point is that baby boomers have a lot to handle these days -- with the march of time many have lost their parents, spouses, friends. Many are dealing with health issues. The ability to adapt to change, both technological and personal, can be cultivated, can be learned. Look around for some good examples. It takes openness, flexibility and some self reflection and self awareness.

Long-term grief is a difficult road and we need all the tolerance and coping mechanisms we can muster. A big starting point is to be open to the new ways.

• Susan Anderson-Khleif of Sleepy Hollow has a doctorate in family sociology from Harvard, taught at Wellesley College and is a retired Motorola executive. Contact her at or see her blog See previous columns at

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