Scott G Winterton, Deseret News
SALT LAKE CITY — When it comes to soaking up new information, children can be the ultimate educational sponges. And what better place to find those thirsting for knowledge than in a grade school classroom?
Fourth-grade students at Guadalupe School in Salt Lake City’s Poplar Grove neighborhood Monday learned about the importance of financial responsibility on National Teach Children to Save Day.
Students engaged in hands-on activities about budgeting and understanding the difference between “needs” versus “wants” during a lively presentation from Harris Simmons, the Zions Bancorporation chairman, president and CEO.
Additionally, second- and third-grade students at Guadalupe School learned the basics of saving from other bank volunteers. The students' parents also received information about a new website — Financialize By 18. The website, www.zionsbank.com/financialize, shows parents how to turn everyday moments like grocery shopping into lessons for financial success, as well as offering worksheets, coloring pages and online games to teach kids lessons about money management.
“This is really important stuff especially given the fact that the future for all of our kids is going to be very challenging financially,” Simmons said. “There has never been a more important time to get parents talking to their kids about long-term savings goals.”
Using a couple of large potted plants as props, Simmons explained to the class that “money doesn’t grow on trees,” and also explained how saving even a small amount of money from an early age could result in major growth in interest in the long run.
His message, taken from famed scientist Albert Einstein who allegedly once said, “Compound interest is the eighth wonder of the world. He who understands it, earns it. He who doesn't, pays it.”
Whether the renowned genius actually uttered that statement is debatable, but the principle behind it is a little less controversial among those who espouse fiscal prudence.
“(This kind of education) has to largely take place at home,” Simmons said. “It’s something that parents can do.”
He mentioned that state legislators developed a new measure during this past legislative session that was signed into law by the governor last month.
SB43 established a task force that would recommend changes to the financial literacy course created for Utah high school students in 2008. The bill encourages tracking the financial literacy of students from kindergarten through 12th grade and directs a task force to examine community partnerships as a way to enhance teacher efforts.
Julie Felshaw, economics and financial education specialist with the Utah State Office of Education, said volunteer efforts from local bankers and tools for parents like the recently launched “Financialize By 18” YouTube series can make a difference in students’ financial success.
“Kids like to learn about money because they see the things their parents do with it,” said Felshaw. “They can be very impressionable and often pattern money habits from examples seen at home. Giving parents tools to teach their children the importance of setting financial goals and understanding willpower is essential.”
Those lessons seem to catch on quickly for students Fabian Santana, 9, Audrey Palestino, 10, and Analicia Trujillo, 10.
“You have to work hard to earn money.” Fabian said. “Saving is important to help you buy new shoes or food.”
“You can save when you‘re little and when you get bigger, you’ll have a lot of money so you can go to college,” Audrey said.
“You can (also) save money for special occasions or emergencies,” added Analicia. “You have to earn money and use it (wisely).”
Sage advice from some already money-savvy students.
Visit financeintheclassroom.org/ for more information on financial literacy resources and www.zionsbank.com/financialize for a video series on developing enhanced fiscal knoweldge for teens, children and parents.