SAVING AT AN EARLY AGE

April 19, 2001 12:00 am
ON MONEY MANAGEMENT: Sandi Erskine, branch manager at La Grande US Bank, believes teaching children how to handle their money now will help them become better money managers in the future. (The Observer/ERIN WITTEN).
ON MONEY MANAGEMENT: Sandi Erskine, branch manager at La Grande US Bank, believes teaching children how to handle their money now will help them become better money managers in the future. (The Observer/ERIN WITTEN).

By Ray Linker

Observer Staff Writer

Banks like to have the high- and middle-income customers, but we want to grow our own, said Sandi Erskine, branch manager of US Bank in La Grande.

The result of teaching banking skills to youngsters, Erskine said, is that they become adults able to handle their own financial affairs responsibly.

For example, she said, high school and college students who become bank customers now will grow to adulthood and become valuable customers, with various accounts, including mortgage loans, car loans, savings and checking accounts.

Children need to start at an early age to learn the basics of savings and investing to help them prepare for their future, Erskine said. One place to start is with a checking account.

Last year, some high school students went into elementary schools to teach the younger students how to handle checking accounts.

The high-schoolers did a good job, too, Erskine said. We had some elementary students come in that knew better than some older kids how to handle their money. Its something they have to do for the rest of their lives.

Several activities have been planned for next week by US Bank to make children aware of how banks work and how they need to learn to deal with various accounts.

Tuesday is being called National Teach Children to Save Day, Erskine said. On that date, US Bank will have financial professionals who are available to discuss six easy ways to teach children the value of savings and investing. For details, anyone can call Dotti Loader, public affairs specialist, at 775-688-3563.

On Thursday, the 26th, well have our take-a-child-to-work day here at the La Grande branch, Erskine. We encourage our 18 employees to bring a child to work with them so the child can get an idea of what banking is all about.

The following day, April 27, will be set aside for a promotion for high school and college students to set up free checking accounts, and will include providing information on managing accounts, automatic teller cards and an option for signing up for a drawing.

Two students, Alan Beurig and Gwen Rogers, have already won two of those computers, Erskine said, as part of a customer appreciation day.

Erskine need look no further than her own family to realize the importance of teaching youngsters how to handle accounts. Her children are now 21, 19 and 16.

Teaching them how to handle their money worked for them, she said. Having a visual printout of their checking accounts help them figure out where they were spending money, or wasting it, and what they were purchasing. We would go shopping and they figured out they could get one piece of clothing or three, depending on the price. They had $50 to spend on back-to-school items and learned to make it go far. They, and other children, also learn a lot by just listening to parents when the parents are discussing their own finances.

Erskine said children need to be conscious of their own goals and learn how to manage a checking account. They should use the checking account when making any purchase so they can see where their money is going, she said.

She suggests one way to teach a child about money is by setting up a VISA Bucks card, which works like a phone card, for the child. When youve used up all your money in the account, the card stops working.

A parent sets up the card account, puts the child on an allowance, which goes into the bank to cover the card. You cant overdraw the account.

She gave her children an allowance, but they had to save part of it.

They could spend 25 percent immediately, were to allow 25 percent for gifts for other family members and friends and the rest was to be set aside for college, Erskine said.

She said she would like to see children taken shopping to find out what they can get for the money.

It gives them more of a sense of value, she said.

She pointed out that parents can now monitor their childrens accounts online.

TIPS ON HOW TO SAVE

The American Bankers Association has drafted a list of tips on what parents can do to help their children learn how to manage their money:

Give the child an allowance with the understanding that part of its goes into their own savings a first step toward budgeting.

To make their savings visible and real, have them build up savings in a piggy bank. Then help them open their own savings account, and have them make deposits each month.

Use their monthly statements to show them how their money is growing.

For every dollar children earn, encourage them to spend 25 percent on what they need now, put 25 percent away for a bigger-item purchase later and save or invest the rest.

Make savings and investing fun. One way is to give children play money they can invest in stocks they can track in local newspapers.

Show children how to save by example.

Other tips: www.aba.com (Click on Education Foundation)