New text books, school supplies, teachers, classrooms the academic year is underway for most of Alexandrias under-18 set. Besides the start of a new academic year, fall is also a time when many families implement new strategies, rules and routines for children.
Some families elect to use the start of the new school year as a time to introduce the concept of an allowance and/or a savings account as part of their general plan for the fall. Teaching children about money and savings by setting up a bank account with them is always a winning strategy.
Putting money aside — saving — is not a practice that Americans readily embrace, and yet saving is an essential tool in managing life. Only a small percentage of Americans actually have more than one months earnings in savings. Parents should be concerned because nearly all financial literacy specialists agree that children are likely to imitate their parents money habits. Therefore, establishing a consistent savings program is a good life lesson for children to learn even if their parents are not habitual savers.
Creating a regular savings program for children is easy. One way is to simply open a savings account with your child at a local bank or credit union and have the child deposit money in it once a month, every month. The amount is not as important as the regular savings pattern — going to the bank or credit union with you every month to put money in his or her own account. Saving money becomes a habit, but how to ensure the child will be a successful saver?
Susan Beacham, a former banker and founder of Money Savvy Generation, a financial literacy program geared to children, advocates that children:
- Put the money in a bank account or a piggy bank (or jars or envelopes) every month
- Visit the bank with your child to make the savings account deposit at the same time each month
- Consider offering to match the annual interest earned if your child saves consistently
- Set a goal for the savings account.
Initially, Beacham gave a couple of seminars on money at her daughters school. Working with the children inspired her to create a four-chambered piggy bank to teach children to have goals for their money and set aside money for saving (long-term), spending (short term wants), donating and investing. The concept of the piggy bank is that children save the money at home and decide what they are saving for, and then once a month they put their long-term savings in the bank. She also designed Cache Cash, a simple program and planner book for teenagers. With four zippered pockets, the planner includes a fun, upbeat primer on money geared specifically to teens.
Many of Alexandrias local banks have special programs for childrens saving accounts and explain step-by-step how the account is opened and how kids can deposit or withdraw money. If the bank is not too crowded, some bankers will even sometimes offer to show your child around the bank.
A number of banks and credit unions have games on their Web sites or offer coloring books or incentives for opening a childrens account.
Commerce Bank gives $10 to children who open accounts at their bank and read at least 10 books over the Summer. Children also enjoy putting their coins in the free coin-counting machine at Commerce.
Burke and Herbert holds a quarterly drawing for a Wii for children. Each time a child deposits $25, a raffle-type chance goes in the hopper for the Wii drawing. Additionally, if a child opens the account with $100, Burke and Herbert deposits $10 in the childs account.
Most banks and credit unions offer young savers plans and promotions that are subject to changes and enhancements, so once you have selected a bank or credit union for your child, verify how they handle childrens savings accounts and what gifts or incentives they have for new savers.