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Kids Learn Banking Basics in School

Class programs run by banks in southeast Michigan aim to create finance savvy students who learn the 101 on checking, saving and more

Reading, writing, 'rithmetic and – route numbers? Kids today are becoming familiar with that nine-digit number on the bottom of checks, as well as all the other banking basics that lead them to become financially-savvy adults.

When it comes to saving money, kids of all ages in metro Detroit are getting the opportunity to learn the dos and don'ts through school-bank programs.

How the programs work

"What we teach the kids, they don't get out of textbooks," says Sandra Gilland, financial center manager of Fifth Third Bank in Dearborn.

From in-class presentations to in-school banking programs, banks are getting involved at school to help kids understand the value of money and why saving is important.

Fifth Third Bank offers in-class presentations where, according to Gilland, local bank managers or personal bankers volunteer to speak to students through the use of slides and examples.

One "for instance" they show the kids is the benefit of spending their lunch money wisely. For instance, instead of paying a $2 upcharge for a pizza lunch, they could get the regular lunch and invest that $2 in a savings account. Earning 8 percent compounded interest annually would result in nearly $65,000 in savings in 50 years.

"When you start to show them numbers and specifics, you start to get more of a reaction," Gilland says.

Putting lessons into action

Other banks are also helping kids learn smart money skills.

PNC Bank offers the School Bank Program, bringing a bank branch to the classroom. This at-school program allows kids to take on the role of bank teller, manager and other staff, giving them an understanding of what each person does at the bank.

The "bank tellers" collect funds from each student, which are then deposited into accounts created at PNC Bank.

"It is a youth savings account that the children would get as part of the program," says Bill Collon, the community development banking market manager.

Students are then able to track their savings as well as interest earned over time.

The programs use different techniques to assist kids in establishing money-saving habits from early on – essential, Gilland says, because banking is done at every stage in a person's life.

In addition, establishing the habit of regular savings is something that will carry on to adulthood, if taught from a young age.

Through the use of these programs and the help of parents and teachers, kids are learning an essential life skill not normally taught in the classroom.

"It's exciting," Gilland says, "and the kids like it!"

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