Start ’Em When They’re Young

> Posted by Sonja E. Kelly
I remember my first bank account. I stood up on a stool and dumped out my piggy bank’s worth of change at the teller window to be counted. It was an account that came with photos of a clown on the ledger and a sucker each time I made a deposit. Now it’s 20 years later, and while I have changed I still haven’t moved my original funds. They’ve been transferred to a national bank through a series of mergers, and I have connected a checking account and credit cards to it, but I like to think those pennies and quarters are still being put to use in my bank.
I don’t think I am alone in being grateful for entering the formal financial system at a young age. It’s important to start smart financial habits with youth. Consider the following figures about Americans (originally compiled in the Financial Services Roundtable “Fast Facts”):

  • 41 percent of U.S. adults grade their knowledge of personal finance as a C, D, or F.
  • Many young adults don’t feel that they are adequately prepared to make good financial choices when it comes to using debt wisely (28 percent), saving for the future (40 percent), or investing their money (43 percent).
  • 44 percent of parents report that they need more guidance in order to teach their children the necessary skills to become financially responsible and successful adults.
  • The majority (52 percent) of young adults between the ages of 23 and 28 name the most important issue in the lives of individual Americans to be “making better choices about managing money.”
  • Nearly half of teens do not know how to effectively use a credit card, but 24 percent of them think they should have a credit card either in high school or before.
  • In 2011, the percentage of teens who used a savings account, checking account, debit card, or credit card amounted to 73 percent, compared to 66 percent only two years earlier.

Everyone knows that children pick up on things faster than adults. But, beyond the initial skills that we teach, targeting financial education to youth can have an effect on a lifetime of financial habits. In my view, equipping children and teens with the tools they need to succeed with financial services is essential to financial inclusion. Not only is it easier to learn something when you are young, but financial inclusion for youth has the potential to increase consumer protection and financial capability in the long run.
For more information, sign up for updates from the Financial Inclusion 2020 campaign.
Image credit: Johanna Hardell
Have You Read?
Youth and Financial Inclusion: A Head Start to Financial Citizenship
Youth and Financial Inclusion: How Can We Give Them a Head Start?
Bhagwan Chowdhry Explains Financial Access at Birth (FAB) on Fox News

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