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Building Financial Responsibility in Youth Through Savings, Checking Accounts

Virginia Chesley learned a difficult lesson about the financial wherewithal of her children in 1990 when the newly divorced mother of three suddenly became ill with an appendicitis that required emergency surgery and an extended hospital stay.

Though all of her banking accounts were fully operational, none of her children were aware of how to manage the household budget, bills, and accounts.

“My oldest at the time was 17, but even he wasn’t clear on how I moved the household monies from one account to another to pay bills,” Chesley told The Informer.

So with medical concerns over her blood pressure and the grogginess of surgery lingering, she said she was forced to give the trio an impromptu finance lesson from her hospital bed.

“I taught each of them how to write a check, which credit union accepted our mortgage payments, where the grocery store coupons were stashed, and how to balance the checkbook,” she said.

Chesley said that though much of the instruction she provided her kids in 1990 seems obsolete now because technology doesn’t require check or money order payments, few youth today have been taught how to manage their household’s affairs.

“It’s a social responsibility that we have to teach young people, like reading and not talking to strangers because mismanaging money endangers their futures.  Even old-school financial planning we used down South, like ‘socking away’ cash money inside the house in cases of emergency has to become a part of every Black child’s personal plan.”

Most banking institutions offer both savings and checking accounts for young people between the ages of 8 and 18 that encourage savings and an early positive credit history.  And while many require the accounts include a parent as co-signers, the accounts tend to work in much the same way as regular accounts.

Some institutions, like Wells Fargo offer Visa debit cards with a daily limit for purchases and withdrawals set by the parent.  It is important to research the regulations of each bank to ensure certain benefits like no minimum balances, no monthly fees, and no overdraft fees, are included.

Devon Steeple, 16, opened an account at TD Bank in January 2017, in preparation for a study abroad program with his church and told the Informer it was an eye-opening experience juggling his access to money with the many things he thought he wanted.

“When your parents are constantly buying what you want, you never think about how much things cost or how purchasing one thing means you don’t have money to purchase others.  Once I had to do it for myself, I realized there were a lot of things I didn’t really need,” Steeple said laughing. “Suddenly, a lot of things were not worth the expense.”

Steeple was helped tremendously by a daily routine with his dad after dinner of checking his account online against the receipts he had from purchases.

“After a year of having the account, I have fewer receipts – some days, I have none at all.  It’s like why spend money for milk at the store, when I can drink milk before I leave home and keep my money in my account. Those small $2 and $3 purchases add up and can mean more than $100 at the end of the month.”

Steeple seems to have learned the lesson the account was meant to provide, his father, Benjamin said.  To show support for his son’s spending thrift, the elder Steeple occasionally transfers money into his son’s account.

“My dad was so proud when I started hitting my savings and spending targets. It’s like me being an sprinter and crossing the finish line ahead of everyone else.  I’m sure that in the next few years I’ll be able to start investing money and making my savings work as a nest for my future.”

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