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Banks giving kids lessons on saving money

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They may be small, but in America, they have deep pockets.

Children between the ages of 9 and 12 spend about $19.1 billion per year, according to a 2003 Harris Interactive poll. Teenagers spent an estimated $159 billion in 2004, Teen Research Unlimited reported.

But local bankers will converge on Utah's schools today to talk about the other part of the money equation. As part of Teach Children to Save Day, an annual event sponsored by the American Bankers Association, bankers will meet with kids in more than 300 classes and every grade, spreading the good word about money — from interest and credit to budgeting and record-keeping.

"Smart money managers are not born, they're made," Laura Fisher, director of the ABA Education Foundation, said in a statement. "The sooner children learn about saving, spending and budgeting, the sooner they can develop good financial habits."

U.S. Bank employees will be at Rose Park, Nibley Park and Lynn Elementary schools, for example, while Zions Bank will dispatch more than 185 of its employees around the state and in Idaho.

"Understanding financial matters is one of the most critical elements in a child's future success, and teaching them good principles early is critical to developing good habits toward that future success," said Howard Headlee, Utah Bankers Association president. "The way you manage your money can either provide you the greatest opportunities, or present the biggest hurdles."

Richard Beard, president and chief executive officer of Bank of American Fork, will meet with 60 second-graders today at Bank of American Fork's Riverton branch.

"In general, I think we don't do a good job of educating our kids" about sound money management, Beard said. "Our advertising tells them to be consumers but doesn't ever teach them about the financial side of it. What we hope to do is help kids understand some real basic money facts."

At Bank of American Fork, the Teach Children to Save event is part of a larger, three-week program designed to help kids learn about money basics. The first session introduces the fundamentals of saving and the impact of compounding interest, Beard said, while the second covers the double-edged sword that is credit. In the third session, Beard said the kids are presented with some real-world scenarios where they can put their newfound skills to work.

"It might sound corny, but we really do believe that banks are a part of the community, and the real foundation of any community is its kids," Beard said. "To us, this (program) is at the root of what bankers ought to be doing."

E-mail: jnii@desnews.com