When Merchants and Farmers Branch President Andy Hughes and Branch Manager Kiane Hunt asked children at the Oktibbeha County Boys and Girls Club if any of them thought banks were scary places to visit, both received surprising answers.
Hughes said some children are intimidated by the size and unfamiliarity of banks, but the children’s primary concern was a criminal element. Some were worried about robbers, and others were worried about identity theft and other forms of bank fraud, especially fraud committed by a bank’s own employees.
“I think a lot of the children had concerns just because of what we hear in society today — people stealing, people forging checks,” Hughes said. “I believe after we talked this morning, they understood banks are secure, they can trust banks and they should have — as most of them do have — a savings account.”
Hughes and Hunt addressed Boys and Girls Club students yesterday as part of Money Smart, a class spread over eight Thursdays to teach children financial literacy and responsibility.
Jacquie Myers, unit director of the Oktibbeha Boys and Girls Club, said Money Smart fits together with an existing club program called Money Matters. Myers said such programs are important because they ground children in financial reality before they take charge of their own finances.
“Kids, especially at this age, don’t understand or have a hard time understanding the value of the dollar because they were never taught,” Myers said. “By the time they get to college, most kids are broke because they don’t understand how to manage their money.”
Hunt said Money Smart will help the children build habits now instead of waiting until they are older. Future lessons will discuss such matters as handling checkbooks, writing checks and the importance of balancing, budgeting and investing, she said.
Most of Thursday’s lesson, however, consisted of Hunt and Hughes helping children define fundamental bank-related concepts, such as fees, tellers, ATMs, loans, checking accounts and credit.
“Overall, a lot of them knew most of the answers we discussed already,” Hunt said. “I was very surprised and impressed they knew those things.”
For instance, Hunt asked club members why they thought it was important to be smart with money. Aaron Logan, whose mother works at Renasant Bank, responded.
“You’ve got to get what you need before you can get what you want,” Logan said.
Some terms were new to the children; when Hunt asked them about CDs, many thought she was talking about compact discs. When she told them the name was short for “Certificate of Deposit,” some asked why there wasn’t an “O” in the acronym for “of” to distinguish one acronym from another. Once again, Logan helped his fellow students.
“It’s just like the United States of America,” Logan said. “(With) U.S.A., they don’t have an ‘O’ in it.”
Other key topics included savings accounts and preventing identity theft. Some of the children said they kept their savings under a mattress or in another location at home instead of at a bank. Hughes then said bank savings accounts have the advantage of growing through interest accumulation, and he assured them they could trust bank personnel. Hunt said there are also consequences for bank personnel who violate trust.
“If a banker tries to steal your money, the banker will be fired,” Hunt said, “and he’ll probably go to jail.”
Hughes said banks help families, individuals and businesses save money and make money. He said Merchants and Farmers in particular contributes to the Boys and Girls Club throughout the year.
“Money is a tool,” Hughes said. “Just like we go to Walmart for shoes, you go to the bank for your money.”