At last count in the U.S., fewer than 20 states had any type of financial literacy or personal finance education requirement in their school curriculum. Yet, we all know how important money management is to everyday life. We are not born with an innate ability to balance a checkbook, make (or adhere to) a budget or make intelligent choices when it comes to spending and saving. These are learned behaviors.
Since they are not taught in school, the onus is on parents and guardians. Think about the options:
Osmosis: I see my mom just insert a card or use her smart phone and everything we want is ours. NO.
Friends: We shudder to even think about this one. NO.
Financial Institutions: In fact many banks and credit unions have youth programs set up specifically for this purpose. YES!
If parents are not sure of their own ability to pass this knowledge on (only about 44% are confident they can), finding a financial institution that can help is invaluable.
In fact there is one bank, 3-Star Young Americans Bank, Denver, CO, where they “develop financial literacy of young people through real-life experiences” and have a belief that “kids should grow up knowing how to earn, make, and manage their money wisely”. Young Americans Bank reaches more than 67,000 youth a year (up to age 21) with a hands-on approach, making them financially self-sufficient ...and having fun in the process.
Young Americans Bank, chartered in 1987, understood even then, that a large percent of the population, regardless of age, income and education, lacked the basic financial knowledge needed to teach their own children. Twelve years later, the American Banker’s Association took up the cause as well. On April 12th, it will celebrate its 20th annual Teach Children to Save Day.
While this is just one day a year, banks are encouraged to participate all year by volunteering and giving presentations in their local schools. In addition to teaching children to save, the program highlights topics such as compound interest and decision making.
Congress jumped on the bandwagon in 2004 designating April as National Financial Literacy Month. Also known as Financial Capability Month, the idea is to raise awareness of the consequences that can arise without a proper understanding of banking concepts. Clearly, that was too late to prevent the housing meltdown, but at least it was a step in the right direction.
Preventing another meltdown is precisely why we say “Financial Literacy is Everyone’s Business”. Research suggests that children can begin learning basic savings and spending concepts as early as age 3. The earlier you start teaching these concepts, the better. Bauer created a web page with five simple ways to help you get started: bauerfinancial.com/teach. You’ll also find links to several other helpful websites.
Some of the banks that do a particularly good job of teaching personal financial literacy are classified as Minority Depository Institutions (MDIs) by the FDIC. The banks listed on page 7 and on this week’s supplement all have that designation because they are either at least 51% owned by a minority group or they serve a community that is predominantly minority. Some of the MDIs listed, like 5-Star Quantum National Bank, Suwanee, GA and 4-Star Rio Bank, McAllen, TX, have joined the ABAs Teach Children to Save Day effort, others do it their own way.
For example, 2-Star OneUnited Bank, Boston, MA, the largest Black owned bank in the nation, has its own Financial Education Center as well as a Financial Literacy Blog. With a reach that extends West to Los Angeles and South to Miami, OneUnited Bank is committed to increasing financial literacy every day in all of its communities through different workshops and events.
Likewise, 3½-Star Lone Star National Bank, Pharr, TX, a designated Hispanic MDI just north of the Mexico border, has an educational coloring and activity book featuring Cowboy Cash for children. This bank also educates more than 25,000 adults across Southern Texas each year.
We applaud each of these MDIs as well as every other bank and credit union that takes the effort to go the extra mile. We will have a brighter tomorrow if we all pitch in today.