Lessons beyond a piggy bank
Educating children about financial responsibility

By Katherine Michalets - Freeman Staff

July 31, 2015

WAUKESHA — With so many options for kids to spend their money nowadays, Waukesha State Bank and other organizations have created programs to help children learn about the benefits of saving.

“In this day and age it is really easy for people to develop spending habits instead of saving habits,” said Stephanie Ohlfs, marketing director for Waukesha State Bank.

Children are able to participate in the Friendly’s Club which offers rewards for depositing money. The program also illustrates how saving money can be rewarding by allowing children to redeem earned tokens for prizes.

Michael Sheppard, managing director of The Principal Financial Group, said he is passionate about financial literacy in general. Having grown up in a family where there was lots of love and care, but a lack of financial planning for the unexpected, Sheppard said he wanted to educate others.

Sheppard also works with Junior Achievement of Wisconsin, which works to give young people the knowledge and skills they need to control their economic success, plan for their future and make smart academic and economic choices.

By educating children, especially through simulated scenarios, Sheppard said the lessons become more engrained. Some of the lessons that are discussed include how to create a budget and to understand where all of the money the child’s parents makes goes. They’ll even be taught about taxes, Sheppard said.

Junior Achievement leaders want the participants to learn how to create a balanced budget and recognize that they need to save money for the unexpected, while investing in the future.

“They will learn how to ultimately live within their means,” Sheppard said.

The participants often start Junior Achievement with misconceptions about finances. “That the money they make is only for fun things and that it’s easy to manage your finances and that it’s just easy to make decisions,” he said.

Sheppard said parents can play a role in their children’s financial literacy.

“The first is to have an open discussion of finances. You can pick which portion that is — sometimes the first discussion is about charity and how you give back,” he said. The discussion should also include the topic of proactive saving.

Teachable moments can happen at grocery stores, Sheppard said, encouraging parents to work with their children to compare prices for different brands.

Another place for a financial discussion is while filling up at the gas station and how driving more costs more in fuel. If a family attends a baseball game, the parent could say the reason they were able to go was they started budgeting for it the month before. It’s also important to share mistakes, Sheppard said, and offer explanations why it didn’t work instead of telling a child to simply not do something.