Teaching children money management vital to their future

Published 12:16 am Sunday, October 26, 2008

NATCHEZ — Just as it is important to teach child to tie their own shoes or spell their name, it is equally as important to instill in them a financial knowledge, experts say.

Early exposure to money management is key in setting up a stable financial future. According to Sharon Huff, marketing director for Concordia Bank and Trust, it is never too early to start teaching children about financial responsibility.

“Teaching children at preschool or early elementary ages to save a percentage of their allowances is very important,” Huff said. “You can make the point that the savings will help them to buy the bicycle, iPod or game they want in the future.”

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Huff said once a child has saved enough for the item they want to purchase, parents should explain how saving is important for adults too.

“At that point, parents have the opportunity to explain to the child how mom and dad were able to provide a down payment for their home or vehicle,” she said.

Agnes Holloway, vice president of marketing at United Mississippi Bank in Natchez agreed that laying the ground work early is important. She also stressed that setting limits is a small thing parents can do to teach their children about responsible spending.

“I could go into the school and talk to them until I’m blue in the face and not get anywhere if they have no limitations and feel like they have nothing to worry about,” Holloway said. “It always goes back to what they are learning from their parents.”

Holloway also said that children must understand that parents mean business when setting spending limits.

“It is vitally important for parents to stand behind limits,” Holloway said. “Tough love. Not to say there aren’t times when you have to bail them out, but they don’t need to begin relying on parents to bail them out.”

Holloway said UMB does sponsor educational material that can be sent to schools for teachers to use in lesson planning. The bank has also, in the past, taught classes in the schools to educate children about money management.

Concordia Bank actively educates children in the community about the importance of savings through their Bank at School program, Huff said.

The program is for sixth-grade students and is offered to all schools in the Miss-Lou.

“It is designed to help young people build financial skills neccesary to thrive in the increasingly complex economy,” Huff said.

The lesson plans are set up for two lessons a month and once a month a representative from the bank visits the school for bank day.

“Several students participate as tellers and students are allowed to deposit to their accounts at this time,” Huff said. “The emphasis is on regular savings and not big balances.”

Holloway said that teaching children the basics of banking is important but it is even more important to teach them to control their spending.

“You get that checkbook but you’ve got to balance it too,” she said. “We’ve had people who thought just because they had a check they had money.”

Kelvin Luster, assistant branch manager at Britton & Koontz bank in Natchez said that parents have a prime opportunity to begin teaching children about banking when the parents come into the bank.

“Coming to the bank is an experience,” Luster said. “Parents need to take advantage of that experience by bringing their children in with them.”

For Luster, his first experiences with money came when his parent gave him a piggy bank in which to save his money. He said piggy banks are one way parents can introduce the idea of banking and money management to children, even at a young age.

“When you give a child a piggy bank you have the chance to explain to them that when they put their money in there it is safe,” Luster said. “(It is safe) the same way it is safe when the parents put their money in the bank.”

In the same manner, Huff said it is necessary for parents to share their financial obligations with their children.

“Parents should make children aware of their basic financial obligations without too many details,” Huff said. “This awareness will help children understand the value of their needs and accept their limitations.”

Failing to teach children financial responsibility can have negative effects later in life.

Huff said that without proper knowledge young adults may have a tendency to spend out of control.

“If we neglect teaching financial awareness to children, many young adults may overspend and face an early debt crisis,” Huff said. “Hopefully, the more awareness parents and bankers provide for children, the stronger their goals and values will be as young adults.”

Luster said that young adults may be short sighted and not understand the ramifications of being financially irresponsible.

“You have to pay your bills on time and make sure you balance your accounts,” Luster said. “Credit is a big deal and lots of young people are having difficulty getting into houses or getting loans for cars because their credit is bad.”