“Do you want to join an Asu?”
This is one of the questions I was asked when I started living and working in the Turks and Caicos Islands some years ago.
“Asu? What’s that? That’s the first time I am hearing that term”. Well I was taken aside from the group I was standing with while Rosabelle, a teacher, explained to me what an asu was. The look of consternation on my face changed when I realised just what she was saying.
“You mean pardner!”, I exclaimed, “I know what that is”. And with that, came a flood of memories from my childhood.
You see, back in the Caribbean most people are used to this system of banking that affords them the opportunity to save and make quite expensive purchases, pay school and university fees, start up a business, or even to afford airfare to travel abroad.
Even school children had their own version and used the money to save and pay for school trips, to process photographs (I don’t think there were digital cameras back then), to buy themselves Christmas presents or birthday presents like watches or small items of jewellery for family members.
So what’s a partner or asu? I’ll explain but can I just say that like everything else, it comes with it’s disadvantages that I will explain later.
My mother participated in ‘partners’ when I was growing up. I think the word is short for the word partnership. And what they did was really a partnership. So here is how it would work: A group of friends or work colleagues or neighbours or family members (or a combination of all of those) would come together and decide to put together a set amount of money each week or month (depending on the means of the people involved). One person would be responsible for collecting the money from everyone and this person is called the banker. For each week (or month) that the money is collected, one person will be paid. The process continues until each person has been paid.
There are several variations in different islands. For example, in some, the banker is paid a small amount by each person when they get paid. In some, one person is allowed to pay in more than one ‘hand’ at a time which means they also get paid more than once.
As I said earlier, the process is not without its risks. I have heard some truly devastating stories of people (sometimes the banker) going missing before everyone is paid! Can you imagine if you were the last person to be paid and then the banker goes missing? What heartache, one can only imagine. So you must go in knowing the risks involved, and giving your word to the banker and to the others too, that you will do your best to be faithful to your commitment.
The advantages of this system of banking means that you can plan ahead and inform the banker when you need your ‘draw’ (withdrawal). If for example, you need to purchase a large piece of furniture for Christmas, you can join an asu and inform the banker of the exact date that you need to go into the store. If all goes well, you should have the item in your home without paying a penny in interest.
So did I join in with Rosabelle and some other teachers to form an asu? yes I did. And my ‘draw’ (withdrawal) was the exact amount I needed to buy my car! I thought she did a good job of securing the money she collected from everyone, and was always pleasant and approachable to deal with.
All in all, I think it is an excellent idea to save up in this way. It has been a trend in my family and all of us only have good things to say about joining a partnership. Read about ways I used to make and save money as a chid.
Read more about partners on Debt Camel.
What do you think? Have you heard of this before? Would you participate in such a system? Share your thoughts in the comment box below.
This is just one way to save up money.
Here is a book I found on Amazon which is a collection of whimsical short stories involving Jamaican families and money.
This post was proofread by Grammarly