Bank teaches elementary kids how to save money

For Zions Bank, elementary school is not too early to begin teaching children fiscal responsibility. In fact, it might be the perfect time.

Since its founding 150 years ago, Zions Bank has encouraged people young and old to sock away savings money. An 1893 bank ad declared that “minor children have the right to deposit money in their own name and payable only to their own order.”

This attitude continues into the 21st Century for Zions. This past Thursday, Boise branch manager Ken Spencer and corporate banking analyst Taylor Anderson were at Washington Elementary school to conduct a hands-on presentation on the importance of saving money to Ms. Jenna Smith’s fifth grade class.

During a time when the U.S. personal savings rate has plummeted from a peak of 33.8% to 4.6% in February (per the Federal Reserve), Zions Bank is trying to shape a more frugal attitude towards money for students in Utah, Wyoming, and Idaho. Fortunately, it seems like a lot of these students have learned previous lessons from parents.

“Kids are already so smart about finances,” Spencer said. “We do these presentations expecting to introduce kids to banking, and they’re asking us about 401k contributions and checking accounts.”

Washington Elementary 5th grade students participate in Zion's Bank's financial literacy presentation.
Washington Elementary fifth grade students participate in Zion’s Bank’s financial literacy presentation.

According to a University of Kansas study, “children are developmentally capable of saving by age five or six.” This is evident in the deep, philosophical discussions taking place over student desks in Ms. Smith’s classroom, spurred on by Anderson and Spencer’s prompts that force them to make difficult decisions between money and play. Would they, for example, rather earn $30 dog-sitting or spend the day with friends at a lake?

“I would just bring the dog with me to the lake house,” one student tells his peers.

As Spencer said, these are sharp kids.

Presenters not only offer hypothetical questions, but ask what things students might save money for and and what sunny and rainy day reasons might exist to preserve cash in a bank account. In order to reinforce this lesson on April 27’s National Teach Children to Save Money day, Zions Bank forks over $1.50 to each student in the form of a fresh dollar bill and a John F. Kennedy 50-cent coin at the end of the exercise.

“I’m going to save it,” one student said.

“We both have Greenlights,” her friend chimes in, referring to the parent-controlled app and debit account for young adults.

This initial deposit in their future also marks a symbolic nod to Zions’ 150-year anniversary after being founded in Salt Lake City in 1873. Times may have changed a great deal since then, but the need to build finances to ensure a positive future has not.

“Helping children develop healthy financial habits will empower them to become responsible adults,” Zions Bank Western Idaho region president Deneen May asserted in a press release.

Matt Denis

Matt Denis

Reporter Matt Denis is based in the Treasure Valley and has served as an educator and a journalist. Prior to national digital reporting and founding an arts and culture section in Eugene, Oregon, Matt worked as an English and history teacher in Detroit, San Diego, and Milwaukee, Wisconsin. You can send news tips to [email protected].

Get EdNews in your inbox

Weekly round up every Friday