Kentucky: Kentucky Teens Taught to Handle Money Wisely

portraits

Mallory Moore, Justin Bilyeu and Karen Delaney

Today's high school students are not only a few short years away from college, but also from the onset of credit card solicitations that await them on college campuses. If educated about money management at a young age, these students may be able to make better informed financial decisions as adults. That's the intent of a program called Money Management for Savvy Students in Louisville, Ky.

The impetus for the financial literacy program stemmed from the awareness on the part of local bankers that basic money management education is an area of need in public education—particularly at young ages, before bad habits develop. The actual effort took off in 1997 when local banks partnered with the Jefferson County School System and Junior Achievement to teach essential money skills to high school students. Topics include budgeting, savings, credit (how it works, how to obtain it, good and bad credit, credit cards) and checking accounts.

Here's how the program works. Participation in the program is entirely voluntary. In the fall and spring, Jefferson County teachers are made aware of the availability of the one-hour classes. A volunteer banker coordinates requests from teachers and divides the requests among participating banks. The banks recruit enough employee volunteers to teach multiple classes. Jefferson County Public Schools publish the workbooks at no cost, and bank volunteers teach the classes.

The target audience is primarily juniors and seniors, although other high school classes sometimes participate. Todd Driskell, a teacher at Louisville Male High School, gives new meaning to the term "financial health" by incorporating financial education into his health class curriculum. Justin Bilyeu, 15, Karen Delaney, 15, and Mallory Moore, 15, recently completed the Money Management for Savvy Students class and are each taking away valuable lessons.

Justin is making plans to spend next summer on a mission with his church. He knows it will be expensive, but says he intends to earn money from odd jobs and to save money throughout the year to help defray the costs.

"We learned how to manage our money so when we become adults, we know how to manage and budget, instead of living from paycheck to paycheck," he said.

In addition to what he learned, he said he would also benefit from information on how to shop for a bank that best fits a customer's needs.

Karen and Mallory babysit to earn money. Mallory said her parents have instilled in her the importance of saving, and she maintains her own savings account at a local bank. She sees the benefits of thinking long-term. "I think learning about financial literacy is important because at my age, we are interested in (buying) cars," she said.

Karen said the class was valuable, especially the check-writing section. She no longer fears the embarrassment of being out in public and not knowing how to write a check. Saving money for a car is also a high priority for her.

Looking back, these students sang the praises of this financial literacy program and intend to put their knowledge to use. Karen admits that it was the banker's use of candy and other giveaways as incentives that helped the students pay attention to his lesson—making it a sweet deal all around.

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