Empowering Kids to Learn About Money

It’s never too early to teach kids about saving money. PNC’s School Bank Program offers on-site learning to enhance elementary and middle school classroom curriculum.
Feb 12, 2018 3:00 PM ET

With pen and paper in hand, 10-year-old Brycen Carter eagerly awaits customers to approach him during lunch hour. Perched atop a stage in his school cafeteria, Carter sits behind a table draped with a PNC- branded tablecloth alongside two fellow fifth graders from Eastside Elementary in Anderson, Ind.

Every month, a handful of students like him are trained to volunteer as tellers for the PNC School Bank Program.

“When I get a new customer, the most important thing I have to say is, ‘Welcome to Eastside Student Bank, how can I assist you?’” says Carter. “Then I tell them about the program, and if they’re interested in opening an account, I hand them the paperwork, tell them to take it home so they can fill it out with their parents and remind them to bring it back.”

Within minutes, Carter and his peers roll up their sleeves to welcome a customer intent on depositing 23 cents into her savings account.

Campus Experience
PNC launched the School Bank Program in 2008 to encourage elementary and high school students to build strong foundations in money management.  

The initiative is a partnership between PNC Bank and local schools that allows students to open free minor savings accounts, with parental permission, for as little as five dollars. During “school bank” days, students are allowed to make deposits up to $20 in cash or check. When they want to access their money, they visit a PNC branch with their guardian to withdraw it.

“This hands-on experience provides a creative way to enhance financial education while at school,” said Dr. Val Scott, Eastside Elementary School principal. “For many, this is the first time they are introduced to basic concepts in money management or the importance of savings and interest-bearing accounts.”

For families at this elementary school in central Ind., the experience provides free, supplemental learning through on-site educational workshops and real-life scenarios in the banking system.

“Many schools do not offer courses on personal finance and credit, so this is a way for us to take ownership of teaching kids the importance of saving and the difference between financial wants versus needs. They can begin to understand how to manage their money and learn to save for the future,” said Chris Spolyar, PNC branch manager in Anderson.

School bank days allow students to learn other social and life skills like interacting with people in a mock professional setting and greeting customers. 

Student Tellers Build Confidence
The chatter in the lunch room roars on, but Carter is focused as he glides around the makeshift bank teller table like a pro, counting coins and labeling deposit slips. In between his transactions, he scurries around to hand out informational materials to interested peers.  

The experience serves as a real-time career workshop for students who operate the makeshift school bank, filling out deposit slips, accepting small cash amounts and checks, balancing the ledger and answering questions about accounts and transactions. It also builds leadership skills. 

On the east coast in North Carolina, another group of fifth graders at Northeast Elementary School in Kinston inspire peers to learn about the benefits of saving. Arriving bright and early to operate their PNC school branch at 7:30 a.m., the students encourage peers to open their first-ever savings accounts – 30 accounts were opened within two months.

“It’s important to introduce kids to the concept of financial responsibility and what it’s like to be accountable for other people’s money,” said Spolyar. “They also get to see the process of opening a bank account, which hopefully introduces them to smart saving habits and how spending behaviors can positively affect outcomes.”

Financial Maturity Can Start Early
For many students, real-life money management such as balancing a checkbook or paying bills are experiences they likely won’t face until early adulthood.

"Exposing children to lessons in financial literacy early on will help them better understand the basics of budgeting and making informed financial decisions, building good credit and avoiding debt as adults," said Pat Gamble-Moore, PNC community development banking market manager for Ind.

The PNC School Bank program has developed classroom materials on subjects such as interest and credit that can be used by teachers and sent home with students.  

“We work a lot in distressed communities and see the impact of poor money management and the high costs some of our customers have to pay because they’re not using traditional banking systems,” said Gamble-Moore. "Our program seeks to teach young learners practical applications in managing money with the hope that it can help shape long-lasting success for them and their families.”

Our program seeks to teach young learners practical applications in managing money with the hope that it can help shape long-lasting success for them and their families.

For the past decade, the PNC School Bank Program has helped serve schools with low-to-moderate income families.

“More than 70 percent of our students receive free or reduced lunch,” adds Scott.  “Supplementing our curriculum with financial education helps empower our students early on to embrace positive financial habits.”   

Mentoring for Lasting Success
Integrating educators and PNC bankers to implement the program at schools also serves to provide new mentoring opportunities.

In Casselberry, Fla., law studies teacher Lancelot Ault took it a step further by incorporating banking into his eighth grade curriculum and even held interviews for three key positions to run their PNC School Bank at South Seminole Middle School. During the interview process, excited 13-year-olds waited in the school hallway to be interviewed, which created a hands-on opportunity to learn about career development and professional presentation skills.

Ault says he is hopeful his students will find the initiative an “innovative way to learn about saving money and understand how financial responsibility works in the world, while also inspiring them to begin thinking about career paths.”  

More importantly, Ault is eager to be part of their journey as their teacher and hopefully, long-lasting mentor.

As the bell rings to signal an end to the lunch period back at Eastside Elementary, Carter rallies his peers to begin closing down the teller table. The team gathers at a back table, giddy as they tally up the transactions, stuff and seal their customer deposit envelopes into a night depository pouch and protectively hand over the special pouch to their PNC mentor.

“When you get to the branch today, please deposit a total of $23.45. This will make for some good interest for my Eastside customers,” grins Carter.

Learn more about PNC’s work in Community Development Banking