Cashing in on financial awareness
Money Smart Week focuses on importance of saving

By Kirsten Klahn - Special to The Freeman

April 10, 2014

WAUKESHA - A penny saved is a penny earned. And it’s never too early to start teaching children that message.

In the spirit of this week’s Money Smart Week, financial awareness events are planned around Waukesha County.

One is “Optimizing Social Security Benefits and Retirement,” which will be held from 9:30 to 10:30 a.m. and 6 to 7  p.m. today, as well as from 10 to 11 a.m. Saturday at the Aegis Wealth Advisors conference room, 1208 State Highway 83, Hartland.

A seminar that discusses estate planning, Plan for the Future, will take place from 10:30 a.m. to noon Saturday at the Alice Baker Memorial Public Library, 820 East Main St., Waukesha.

Several Waukesha County libraries are also hosting various finance-themed events this week. New Berlin Public Library is hosting “Intelligent Investing: What You Think You Know Might Hurt You” from noon to 1:15 p.m today.

BMO Harris Bank has released a study about parents opening savings accounts for their children. According to the study, Wisconsin parents are ahead of the curve when it comes to teaching sound financial practices.

The study, which polled parents with children under 10 and Americans planning to have their first child in the next five years, found that 80 percent of Wisconsin parents have opened or plan to open a bank account for their children, compared to the national average of 74 percent. Additionally, 65 percent of Wisconsin parents have opened or will open the account before their child turns 5, compared to 44 percent nationally.

An additional 11 percent of parents have opened or will open an account before their child turns 9. Those numbers mean that kids throughout the state are on their way toward healthy saving habits, said Emilio Cooper, BMO Harris Bank’s head of retail in central Wisconsin.

“Teaching your children the value of a dollar is an important lesson. The earlier we can educate them about the benefits of saving, the better. Opening up a bank account is a great way to do this. All the more impactful if you can involve them in the process, and take them into the bank with you to set it up,” Cooper said.

It’s never too early to begin laying a foundation for healthy saving habits, Cooper said. For parents hoping to teach their children the value of a dollar, BMO has some tips.

As soon as kids accumulate even a small amount of money, parents should open a savings account for them and discuss interest, according to BMO. Focus on a specific goal, such as buying a video game or a bike, which can make it easier for kids to set aside the money, Cooper said.

Suggesting kids save at least part of the money they receive for birthdays, holidays or jobs can teach them about saving for something they want. It’s also a great idea to teach kids about giving back with donations, according to BMO.

“The saying often goes that kids can be impressionable. Why not teach them about finances, an exercise that will pay dividends into their future?” Cooper said.