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In the years that I have worked in banking, not much has changed statistically when it comes to financial literacy. Even with the vast access to information via the internet and the ever-changing variety of online tools, financial literacy is still something many Americans are struggling with. The source of their struggle has many possible roots: generational attitudes regarding talking about money, little to no curriculum in schools, unhealthy financial habits being passed down from parent to child, to name a few. I love to talk about financial literacy because those conversations, awareness, and even just a little financial know-how being imparted on youth has been proven to have a positive impact on an individual’s financial future.
This message is not just for kids, parents, or grandparents. The basics apply to anyone who could use a straightforward approach to personal finance.
Deciding what to do with money before putting it all in one cash pot allows kids (and adults alike), to link that money to a particular goal or objective. It begins with a conversation: What is something that you feel good about giving to or for? What is something big for which you’d like to save? Are there things you want to have money on hand to buy in the short term? Once these are identified, put them on a list and determine what portion, each time money is received, should go to each category.
For example, your child receives $10.00 each week for allowance. If your child wants to put some money towards summer camp as a Save item, money toward outings with friends as a Spend item and wants to raise money for a children’s cancer charity, determine the amounts for each so it becomes a habit and is not a decision every time. Of the $10, the allocation might look something like this: $5 to Save, $3 to Spend, and $2 to the Share portion of their budget.
You can start this tangibly using three jars to store the money. Of course, I recommend a bank account for the savings portion to introduce the idea of interest and to prevent overspending when the cash is too easily accessible. You’d be surprised at the level of pride that is involved when a child steps into a bank to deposit into their very own bank account.
Looking for a ready-made solution? Moonjars – a bank broken into those three categories. The Moonjars site (moonjar.com) has fantastic resources and insight so it’s worth checking out. Feeling creative? Pinterest has all kinds of ideas for making your own.
Adults can do the same with saving and checking accounts! When I was expecting my firstborn, I automatically transferred $20 a week into a “baby” account I had set up for things my infant might need. I’ve done something similar for vacations, a longer-term goal. In my household, we even have one for taxes and emergencies. Even church offerings are set up to go out automatically. Most of my plan is predetermined and automatic which drives habit creation.
This outline is basic but I believe everyone needs to start somewhere. Even having a conversation with a young person to share some wisdom could be beneficial. Kids who dream of being rich need not be a star athlete or award-winning actor, they just need the right mindset and ability to plan. It’s not always what you have, but what you do with it that matters most.
Amy Persyn is the Director of Marketing at First State Bank.