March 1, 1999
Wellington Elementary has teamed with Washington Mutual to offer School Savings, an innovative program that teaches children about saving and the importance of financial planning.
Students have the opportunity to open their own free savings accounts at school with a begining deposit of as little as twenty-five cents. On weekly "Bank Days," students can make additional deposits to their accounts and see their savings grow. PTA volunteers and a representative from Washington Mutual serve as bank tellers, accepting deposits and issuing receipts. Students use the receipts to record their deposits in their own account registers.
The deposits are tracked through a computer software program developed and supplied by Washington Mutual. Students are mailed quarterly statements and offered periodic incentives for regular deposits (a minimum of ten cents per deposit). There are no service fees for School Savings accounts, which earn a competitive interest rate and are FDIC insured.
Money can be withdrawn at any Washington Mutual bank, but in order for the account to remain open, a minimum balance of twenty-five cents is required. When the balance in a School Savings account reaches $100, students may convert the account to a higher-yield time deposit.
According to Lisa Phillips, Wellington parent and PTA member, Bank Days at the school are every Friday from 8:40-9:10 a.m., before the start of classes. "Our first day was February 12," says Phillips, "and we had about a dozen kids open accounts. I think it was a low turnout because it was the last day before winter break with a lot of people going out of town."
Phillips feels that the program will catch on soon when follow-up marketing ideas are put into action. She says, "The kids who came were excited and eager to enter their deposits into their new account books. I'm sure that through their positive word-of-mouth comments, other kids will soon become interested."
The School Savings program was first introduced by Washington Mutual in 1923, and now it is active in 265 schools with more than 39,000 participants. The benefits that occur for those involved in the program are numerous. Children are given a chance to set a long-term goal and save for it. Many children have reported using their savings to buy bicycles and others have applied their funds to a college education.
"It's a great learning tool and gives them real life experience with money," comments Phillips. "Children learn to be responsible for their own savings and gain understanding about the importance of financial planning. They get into a habit of saving and keeping track of their money."
Phillips' first-grade daughter Alexa is participating in the program and is saving half of her allowance each week. According to Phillips, Alexa is finding the experience fun and considers herself very grown-up.
"She now understands what the word "deposit" means," says Phillips, "and she can look at her savings book and see where her money is. It gives her a sense of pride."