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Teaching Checking Account Basics to Youngsters

When to start and what your child needs to know

The sooner children are taught the ins and outs of managing money, the more likely they are to use these financial skills throughout the course of their lifetime, and ultimately, have a savvy hand in saving. By teaching them at a young age about checking accounts, your kids are gaining knowledge on how to develop smart spending habits and good credit in the future.

“It's actually easy to teach kids about money,” says Jayne A. Pearl, author of Kids and Money: Giving Them the Savvy to Succeed Financially.

“Turn your day-to-day activities into learning experiences,” she suggests. For example, if you’re headed to the bank, take your kids along for the trip. You can easily teach them the basics of using the ATM machine, explaining how your checking account offers easy access to your money, making it easy to take out or put money in, while also making sure your money is safe and secure.

As your child gets older, keep getting creative with ways to teach them spending and saving money concepts. At some point, they might start receiving an allowance, which is a great time to help set them up with their own savings account.

“As soon as your child is receiving an allowance, he'll need a place to put his money," says Pearl. Make sure that the account you open for your child doesn’t have any fees or minimum balance requirements. Nowadays, many banks offer children's accounts that accommodate for this. Once you do that, encourage your child to make deposits on a weekly or monthly basis, and make sure to explain interest.

As your child grows, with a little encouragement and motivation from you, they will also grow their savings account.

“They get used to saving money,” says Pierre Habis, a retail branch banking executive at Union Bank. “The next milestone is having access to a checking account. It's about setting habits, and then continuing to grow.”

Heading into their teen years would be a great time to allow them to have their own checking account.

“Checking accounts help teens monitor and record their money and spending,” says Tanya Breeling, a vice president at Young Americans Center for Financial Education in Denver. “It's one form of a spending plan because you have to track your money to the penny. It's a safe environment with someone teaching.”

Usually, the parent is the co-owner with full access to the account, similar to a joint account. That way, you’re in control while still being able to teach your kids the basics with their own money.

“Training should come from the parent and the child,” says Breeling. "The bank provides the materials, and parents reinforce them at home."

When it comes to debit cards, make sure your child knows how easy it is to deplete their checking account with a few swipes. When they do start using their debit card, quiz your teen on why it was used, where it was used, how much was spent and make sure they fully understand where the money is coming from. It’s important they understand the card is connected to the checking account, and is used the same way physical cash can be used.

“You can wean them into that product (debit cards),” says Breeling.

In addition, many banks offer online education tools to help teens learn more about checking accounts — for example, Facebook’s My Money app, which allows the account holder to track their finances via Facebook. It also helps when the parent keeps a close watch on the account, monitoring the child’s weekly or monthly activity. Typically, the parent will have access to their children's accounts, such as their transaction history.

"You do want to give kids a little leeway," says Breeling. “In the teen years, you need to be more of a mentor than a parent. Give them room to fail.”

By starting young, and continuing the savings through checking account stages in their teen years, your child is likely to gain the necessary financial skills needed for their life. If you’re interested in setting up your child with a checking account, contact us or stop by today.


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