What Matters Most – Teaching Children to Save

In this episode, we talk about teaching children to save with Tara Baldwin and Ryan Dotson, Relationship Advisors at First United offices in Morgantown, West Virginia. Tara and Ryan spearheaded a virtual outreach effort using remote teaching tools: videos and printable items, to help teachers and parents with financial education tools during the pandemic.

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Announcer: Welcome to the “What Matters Most” podcast, presented by First United Bank & Trust. That’s my bank. Visit us today at mybank.com.

Eric: Hello, and welcome to “What Matters Most,” the podcast all about finances, communities, savings, and security for you, your family, and your business. This podcast is brought to you by the helpful folks at my bank, First United Bank & Trust. I’m your host, Eric Nutter, and in today’s episode, “What Matters Most,” is teaching children to save. And for this helpful discussion, I am thankful to be joined today, remotely, by Tara Baldwin and Ryan Dodson, relationship advisors at First United Bank & Trust in Morgantown.

Hey, guys, how’s it going?

Ryan: Doing very well, thank you. How are you?

Tara: Yeah. Yeah, I’m doing great. Thanks for having me.

Eric: Yeah. Yeah, I’m excited to have you both on here. So, our topic today is teaching children to save, and the ABA, the American Banker Association foundation, has this program that they’ve fostered for quite a few years. It’s a free national program, sponsored by the ABA, that organizes bank volunteers, throughout the year and throughout the country, to help young people develop savings habits early in life. Now, topics include anything from decision-making, to banking careers, to interest and how interest works, money recognition, and savings, and it varies in grades from kindergarten through eighth grade.

And the reason we wanted to talk with you two about it is because you both started an effort, locally in Morgantown, to kind of take that to the next step. Especially now, in this uncertain time with the pandemic, you all jumped on this. So, tell me a little bit about what you did to kind of further that ‘teaching children to save’ concept.

Tara: Yeah, absolutely. So, this year was a little different, just with everything that’s currently going on. So, we had to kind of adapt these lessons and learning material to a virtual format. Normally, we would be able to be in the classroom and actually with children. So, this year, Ryan and I coordinated things a little differently. We each pre-recorded some lessons and put those out with some material on our My Bank website, so students and parents, anyone that really would like to access that content, has the ability to access it and learn in different aspects. And in this way, maybe we can reach more students besides just a couple classrooms that we were able to actually be in in the past years.

Eric: Right. Yeah, and that… So, for reference, that web address is mybank.com/kids-classes, but there’s a dash between it, so it’s kids-classes, and it takes you to that page. And it’s pretty cool you guys have up together these videos. There’s three different classes that can be taken. You’ve got K through two, you’ve got the third through fifth grade, and then sixth through eighth. So, Ryan, you did a class for third through fifth grade. Tell me a little bit about what they do in that class.

Ryan: Yeah. I actually really enjoyed doing that video. So, for the grade levels from third through fifth, we set it up to where kids get to participate as secret agents, and they follow me through a read-along story that kind of talks about two students that are going through a movie and some decisions that they have the opportunity to make as far as being able to make smart money spending decisions and being careful with some of their personal information. And so, this lesson gives those kids an opportunity to see what kind of information is out there that they need to be more careful about sharing with public, and also giving them some strong foundations on how to go about spending their money and where to put it so that they are able to save it for their futures.

Eric: Yeah, that’s really cool. And it’s about a 15-minute video, and then you’ve even included some documents with it as well, like a badge and some printable stuff that they can download and print at home, right?

Ryan: Yeah. We wanted to give the kids something physical to be able to do. So, I know some of the teachers I spoke to in our local area really enjoy doing like arts and crafts with their kids, so they’ve got some print-offs or some little badges, and they can actually do the arts and crafts, make those badges into real ones, and then use those as they read through the story, you know, kind of imply that secret agent skill set.

Eric: So, and Tara, you’ve got a couple of classes on here for a couple of different grade ranges. Do you want to talk about those?

Tara: Yeah, absolutely. So, for the first one I did was K through two. It’s called “Living Green, Saving Green,” and for that lesson, really, it discussed some everyday choices that the students can make, just in their everyday lives, that can help them learn how to start saving money, and actually helping the environment as well. With that lesson, we also included some interactive paperwork and attachment that they can print off and follow along in the lesson.

And then, the other one I worked on was grade six through eight, and it’s a little bit more complex, but it definitely gives a nice base ground for… They learn about some interest, compound interest, simple interest, and making some choices along the way that comes along with all those decisions as you’re getting older.

Eric: That’s cool. That’s cool. And so, in terms of just the experience of putting those together, I know you both have really shown a passion for this. Tell me a little bit about why this topic interested you. Ryan, do you want to start?

Ryan: Yeah, I’d love to start first. So, as far as my personal background, I come from a pretty adverse upbringing. I didn’t really have any mentors or family members that were financially educated. So, I grew up without having those experiences or having anybody guide me, and I made a lot of mistakes along the way. And so, when this opportunity presented itself to me, to do that for kids in my community, I had to jump on it.

Eric: That’s cool. That’s cool. Tara, how about you?

Tara: So, I’m definitely passionate about the “Teaching Children to Save” program because I actually remember participating in the program myself as a young child.

Eric: Oh, yeah?

Tara: So, in third grade, I was super shy, which is surprising, right, but my parents signed me up for, it was called a “Bank at School” program that like my hometown bank was presenting through the ABA in the “Teaching Children to Save” month. And I remember being absolutely like terrified to participate. I didn’t want to go to school. I didn’t want to have to talk to a stranger, like let alone stand there while they counted the few dollars that I had brought to deposit. But after a couple visits, like I was hooked. It was definitely just this simple program that paved the way for me to learn more ways about saving money and like how to budget, and it prepared me for the future, all in all.

Eric: Yeah.

Tara: So, like once I got this opportunity, it just kind of fell into my lap, and I was like, “Oh, my gosh, I kind of came full circle. Here I am, you know, being able to volunteer in the program that kind of directed me on the path that I’m on.”

Eric: Right. So, Ryan, you were really key in kind of making sure that this was available to our market areas. What are some thoughts you have on what this means to the community?

Ryan: Well, you know, when this project first popped in our lap, we were provided with some material from the ABA program, and I think they did a really good job at communicating with educators in their fields to establish a curriculum guideline so that the lessons that we’re providing for financial literacy can also tie into the education system and we can bring some of our educating partners into the fields in different banking areas. I would like to take that method that they used and replicate it with some of our local, you know, teachers or educators, so that way, we could start designing our own lessons that are specific to the area or the regions that we’re in and handle some issues that we have here in our local communities.

Eric: That’s really cool. So, you’re thinking this could expand even further then.

Ryan: Correct, because when you think about it on a geographic or economic level, like West Virginia’s never really been known for being like the richest state or anything like that, and I think a lot of that starts with some of our social habits. And so, if we start with these kids and getting it into the education system, as well as getting parents on board with this stuff, I think we can change that dynamic and really start to make some bigger changes on like an economic level in our state.

Eric: That’s really cool. Excellent. Well, and the other thing that I really like about what you’ve put together is that it works, obviously, for classrooms and for the, you know, the children and the teachers to kind of work together on that. But beyond that, even just at home, the students at home, the parents could have their kids, you know, use that information right from a computer at home, and watch, and kind of take part in the classes. So, it can really help people, no matter where you are, really.

Ryan: Yeah, and I mean, that’s the way we want this thing designed. We want parents to be able to go in independently of what the kids are learning in the classrooms or through their teachers and, you know, educate themselves on how to teach their kids the skill sets that they may or may not have. And they can expand upon their knowledge base as well, and we wanted to make that a simple process, for them to get access to that information.

Obviously, in addition to the ABA lessons that we provided, we’ve also been doing other things in addition to that in our bank as well, like “Bonsai.” We’ve got some other teaching things that go way beyond the kindergarten through eighth-grade period. Like if you’re looking to get into school, trying to establish credit, or, you know, buying a home, we’ve got things for all those different ranges.

Eric: Yeah, and to kind of tag onto that, I know that, throughout the years, we’ve also offered a variety of different programs, scholarship programs as well, so things like the “Teach Children to Save” program, of course, but then the “Get Smart About Credit,” the “Lights, Camera, Save” program, “Safe Banking for Seniors” programs. So, there’s a lot of different options that we’ve put out there that help people not only learn, but also have the opportunity for a scholarship as well.

Tara: Yeah, I think that’s really great, and kind of to… I mean, I think, maybe to add to that, what Ryan was saying and you were saying as well, and sometimes a lot of the parents don’t know these things and they need to be educated as well, or even just a refresher, and a lot of stuff on mybank.com/education has… There’s so many useful tools, not just for young adults, children, or anything. I mean, people our aged, middle-aged, anybody like that can benefit from all of those resources that are available there.

Eric: Yup. Excellent, excellent. Well, thank you both for your time today. Ryan, Tara, I want to sincerely thank you for joining me and providing this insight, and also just thank you for putting these programs together and recording these great videos for students, and parents, and teachers alike. If anyone has any questions or wants to learn more, what’s the best way they can reach out for the support that they need?

Ryan: Yeah, I think I’ll take this one. Right now, we’ve got our lessons available at the kids-classes URL that you provided earlier, but in addition to that, we’re working with our marketing department at First United Bank & Trust. So, if you reach out to us on Facebook or our Twitter page, you can ask specific questions about some of the material. We’d really like to get some feedback from people that are looking at it as to other content that they’d like to see or things that we can do to improve it or make it better for them to learn. So, we’d really like to take this a step further and really start creating more content for people to use.

Eric: Excellent. All right. Yeah, well, and I’m sure that, as people have questions or thoughts, that we’ll hear from them, and I can’t wait to see what else you all are able to put together and share with the community.

Ryan: Yeah. Thanks for having us on. It was a real pleasure being able to talk to you about this. I hope people will get some really good information from our lessons.

Eric: Excellent. Yeah, it was my pleasure.

Tara: Yeah. Thanks, Eric, it’s been great.

Eric: Excellent, excellent. All right, well, that brings us to the end of our show. You can always find more episodes by visiting mybank.com/podcast, or find us on your favorite podcast app. You can also always leave feedback, ask questions, or request a topic for us to discuss by sending an email to podcast@mybank.com. We thank you for listening. We’ll be back next week with more helpful content, but until then, we wish you the best in focusing on what matters most to you.

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Eric: Member FDIC, equal housing lender. This recording is for informational purposes only. Any references in this recording to any person, organization, product, or service does not constitute or imply the endorsement, recommendation, or affiliation with First United Bank & Trust. First United is not responsible for your use of the information mentioned within this podcast. Please consult legal or tax professionals for counsel as needed.