SETTING up home is never easy, but it certainly helps if you have savings behind you.

Joan Harker has been saving with Darlington Building Society for more than 60 years and has nothing but praise for the way she and her husband have been supported in making the most of their money.

Joan left school in 1960, at the age of 16, and started work at a solicitor’s office in Darlington town centre, earning £2 5s 4d in her first wage packet. She gave her mother £1 for board and lodgings, and used the 5s 4d for bus fare to and from Middleton St George. That left her with £1 to buy everything else a young teenager needed, and to try and save something as well.

Joan asked one of the solicitors whether she should open a bank account or a building society account, and he replied: “Always a building society. A bank can crash, but a building society very rarely does.”

This convinced Joan, who immediately ran across the Horsemarket to lodge her £1 with Darlington Building Society, which was in Northgate at that time.

Even today, she remembers the excitement of holding her first passbook in her hands, knowing that the money in it was all hers!

“When I got that passbook, I thought it was marvelous,” she beams. “I felt like I was grown-up, and that there was security in having my money in the building society. And it was in my name!”

Joan, now 77, and her husband, Kenneth, tried to put a little money away every week. It took them two years to save £200 for a deposit on their house, which cost them the princely sum of £2,000 in 1965.

“Sometimes it was hard going, but we’ve always tried to save a little here and a little there, over the years,” says Joan, “and we’ve always stuck with Darlington Building Society.”

When they were working, both their wages were put into the Society, and now their pensions go in there – into their ‘bread and butter accounts’, as Joan calls them.

Tubwell Row is their local branch, although Joan hasn’t been in for 18 months, because of Covid, and because Kenneth has been ill. However, the Society’s staff are keeping an eye on the couple’s money, to make sure they are getting the best from their savings.

“When I was last in the Society, the young man on the counter said that he would get someone to ring me to check if there were any better products for us,” explains Joan. “Someone did ring me up, and we talked it through, but there was nothing better we could be doing.”

The staff in Tubwell Row have also set Joan’s mind at rest about what happens to the savings in their separate accounts, if one of them should die.

“I was worried that Kenneth wouldn’t be able to get my money, if he needed it, as the passbook was in my name, but the assistant assured me that they would follow the terms of our wills. We’ve both left everything to the other, so that means we would both have access to all the accounts.

“Darlington Building Society has never let us down,” says Joan. “I haven’t got a bad word to say about them.”