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Financial literacy educators teach thousands of Mississippi children how to save money

Planting the seed

Maybe we should make money more of a laughing matter. At least that’s the thought which came to mind as dozens of small hands reached out to honk Fredericka the Clown’s nose. A honk of the nose is the fun reward for asking smart questions and posing even smarter answers during “Teach Children to Save” month sponsored by the American Bankers Association.

Fredericka (that’s me) and her “Money is Funny” lesson plan is just one of the many tools teachers and bankers use to get across the most fundamental aspects of saving to elementary-aged students. Youngsters learn a penny saved today along with a nickel saved tomorrow means more money in your hand at the end of the week! Introduce the basic idea of putting that money in a bank account, earning interest and whammm! You’ve planted the very important concepts of saving and using money wisely into some young fertile minds.

Spring planting is a metaphor Hinds County Superintendent, Dr. Stephen Handley eagerly embraces.

“When you teach the importance of saving at this age, it literally is ingrained in a child’s mind,” said Handley. “Simple concepts reinforced in the classroom and then again at home gives the idea a chance to germinate, bloom and multiply. Then we have knowledge!”

Handley notes teachers spend part of every morning reviewing denominations of money as part of the daily math curriculum, but hearing information from professionals tends to resonate more with the children. Teachers like Stephanie Catchings agree.

“The activities are a really good way to give children a hands-on, visual and kinesthetic way to grasp some complex ideas in a more basic method.” Catchings adds, “It’s something different from what we do every day.”

This year, the American Bankers Association issued the Million Child Challenge to banks across the nation. That goal appears well within reach. For example, BancorpSouth executives taught well over 2,000 students in Central Mississippi and an estimated 5,000 statewide over a three-week period. Other banks met similar milestones.

There is an intended ripple effect beyond the classroom. Kids go home, and they teach up!

Pretty soon the idea of making money matters fun can be infectious. Families can actually make a game out of finding ways to save money together! The discussion around the dinner table also helps to get across an important underlying message in this economy. Main street banks are not Wall Street banks. Your friendly neighborhood bank is still the safest place in America to put your savings!

For tips, lesson plans and activities for your classroom or dinner table, ask for a copy of “Money $mart Kids” or “Getting a $mart Start with Money” at your local bank. Here in Hinds County, you can check out a copy from Operation Shoestring’s Resource Center for Parents or the Hinds County Human Resource Agency.

Just like physical fitness, financial fitness starts with the first step. The more you work out the stronger you get! A few pointers for families include:

• Early intervention/education is key — early economic education makes for smarter consumers and more financially fit and responsible individuals.

• Teach children to invest in themselves – imbue in them a work ethic. If they want a new video game (or some other purchase), let them find a way to earn the money, then agree to meet them part of the way to make that goal attainable.

• Have open family discussions about your budget and income or life changes — children need to know setbacks are part of life. By embracing those changes (instead of viewing them with embarrassment), families can get through hard times and learn sacrifice isn’t always a bad thing.

For more information go to National Jumpstart Coalition www.msjumpstart.org or the ABA Education Foundation at www.aba.com

Evelyn Edwards is community reinvestment vice president for BancorpSouth. She is a financial literacy educator and serves on the Board of the Mississippi Council for Economic Education.

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