Thursday, August 14, 2008

A Summary of "Financial Literacy: A Plan for All Ages" - By John E. McWeeney, Jr.

(Condensed from New Jersey Banker, Summer 2008)

As our nation and our economy struggle through the fallout from the subprime mortgage crisis, it's apparent that the need for widespread financial education has never been greater. How many foreclosures might have been averted if homeowners had been better educated on mortgage products?

The same holds true for teaching young children to save, training young adults on budgeting and the proper handling of their deposit accounts, credit cards, and protecting senior citizens from financial predators. The American Bankers Association says that at present, as many as 86% of students in the U.S. have never taken a course in personal financial education. The need is magnified by the exploding population of new immigrants who don't speak English and who have not entered our banking system .

The challenge is great and developing a solution will require a collaborative effort on the part of both the public and private sectors. The good news is that the banking industry is putting forth positive and lasting efforts to promote financial literacy.

An example of a local New Jersey Bank who has found success with their teaching program is illustrated below:

First Hope Bank

Introduced in 2004, the bank has worked in conjunction with Great Meadows School Librarian Helene Palestri and her Young Savers Program, made up of first - through fifth- graders, who make deposits weekly into First Hope KIDS (Kids Investing Dollars Sensibly) acounts by visiting the school library, which is transformed into a bank, where fifth grade "tellers" collect, tally and credit the money. There's even a "branch manager" to welcome young bankers and direct them to an available teller.

Palestri says, that "the fifth grade teller jobs are very much coveted." The children must complete an application before being offered the position and that each teller has a name plate and a "work basket" containing a calcualtor, and stamp date and deposit slips. The Manager, Dawn Barbera, of First Hope's Great Meadows Office says the children "get a kick out of watching their money grow through interest." The program is a huge hit with parents and children alike.

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