Credit union works to teach children the value of saving

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The Post-Star (Glens Falls, New York)
By: Blake Jones
March 1, 2012

Credit union works to teach children the value of saving

Big Cross Street Elementary students filed into the school library Wednesday morning to make their weekly savings deposits with Hudson River Community Credit Union.

One by one, they tossed plastic pouches containing $1 bills and coins at Hudson River staff and then hurried to a table filled with toys and trinkets.

The students may have spent more time picking prizes than checking their account balances -- some of the younger "bankers" blanked when asked how much they had deposited moments earlier -- but that doesn't mean the savings lesson was lost on them.

Second-grader Gregory Breault added another $1.90 this week to his $100-plus balance.

And fourth-grader Gavin Loabe's account has topped $200, thanks in large part to a Christmas check he decided to save instead of spend.

"It's giving them a sense of savings so they can learn the value of money," Crystal Holcomb, Hudson River's financial services manager, said of the in-school savings program. "They don't let their parents forget when it's savings day."

Holcomb, whose daughter attends Big Cross, and Hudson River's Business Development Manager Erika Williams make weekly visits to collect and record deposits.

Each student receives his or her own credit union savings account, where money is deposited and earns interest.

On Wednesday, the process took about 10 minutes.

The HRCCU School Banking Program started in the fall, after a similar effort through another financial institution ended at Big Cross. The credit union has since branched out to Abraham Wing and hopes to add more local schools to grow participation.

Altogether, 51 Big Cross and three Abraham Wing students have saved $3,600, exceeding Hudson River's expectations.

Williams said credit union staff counsel and educate customers at the branches every day on their finances, and for children and adults alike, there's nothing like practical application to drive home the value of savings.

"It gets them more involved," Williams said of the in-school deposits. "They watch the account grow and see the interest. It's anexcellent learning tool for them."

Principal Debbie Hill agreed. She said the program introduces valuable financial literacy concepts and teaches math skills.

"I think it's wonderful, and it teaches about the importance of saving," Hill said. "You have to start them at a young age."

The PTA has even gotten involved by selecting a banker of the week to receive $5 toward his or her next deposit.

Student deposits generally range from $1 to $5 each week, though there were some larger amounts Wednesday, including an initial $35 deposit for a new participant. But for this young audience, even a penny will do.

"No amount is too small," Williams said. "Whatever keeps them involved, as long as they are saving and enjoy bringing in money each week."

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