Financial Education: Get ‘Em While They’re Young

By Emilee New, IDA Program Coordinator | December 20, 2011

Teaching financial literacy to teens helps them make real world financial decisions that align with their personal goals.

You hear it all the time, “I wish someone taught me financial education when I was in school. That sure would have saved me from learning the hard way!” It is a hot button topic right now, especially considering the current state of the economy. Can we prevent future generations from repeating our mistakes? The answer to that question is a resounding “YES!”

WESST’s Youth IDA Program is a wonderful way students can interactively learn the tenets of financial education while saving to invest in their future. IDA, by the way, stands for Individual Development Account. Students who qualify for our IDA program based on income eligibility have access to a custodial account making deposits up to a $600 goal. Once that goal has been met, their $600 is matched with $2400 totaling $3000 which is a 4 to 1 match on their investment.

The real beauty of the program is that it is targeted to at-risk high school students who are in danger of dropping out of school. The majority of participants in our program use their savings to continue their education into the post-secondary level. Yet we know that not everyone is cut out for more school. Those who aren’t are able to use their savings to start or expand a small business or for first-time home ownership. In many cases, the IDA student will be the first in their family to go to college, be an entrepreneur, or start on a path of home ownership. The program is directed at educating the participants as well as helping them reach and attain a savings goal in order to create an asset for the future.

While some initiatives start teaching financial education as early as elementary school, WESST believes high school teens have the most to gain from these types of programs. By the time many teens are in high school, they already have at least a part-time job but little experience handling money. When teens are not taught responsible money habits in the home the only other they place they can possibly learn is in the classroom.

Through WESST’s IDA Program, students are engaged in learning about financial institutions, credit card applications, monthly budgeting, understanding credit reports, buying a car, taxes and much more. WESST strives to make the topic of personal finance fun, interesting, engaging and above all relevant. These students want to learn and the IDA Program creates the perfect incentive (matching funds) to get them saving and growing their money.

About the Author

Emilee New, IDA Program Coordinator

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