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Financial Literacy Education Starts Early

Washington, D.C. (April 7, 2004) - It is easy to forget that not everyone uses a bank. There are 26 million "unbanked" people in the United States — people with no checking accounts, savings accounts, or credit cards. Many of these people have had no education about the importance of establishing and building credit with a mainstream depository institution to reach their financial goals, such as buying a home or car.

"We can never start too early in giving our youth the skills and confidence they need to succeed," said Camden R. Fine, president and CEO of Independent Community Bankers of America. "High school seniors who participated in the recent JumpStart survey on financial literacy answered less than 53 percent of the questions correctly. Providing them with the most basic financial information can dramatically improve their lives as they prepare to enter the real world."

As Community Banking Month is celebrated nationwide, community banks across the country are doing their part by establishing financial literacy programs for schools in their area. For example, Blue Ridge Bank & Trust in Kansas City, Mo., has run its "My First Million Program" for the last 10 years. The program teaches the history of money, the role of banks, and the importance of saving over three weekly lessons. Students are encouraged to set goals for something they'd like to save for, and the bank contributes $5 to each student's opening balance if he or she starts an account.

First Bank of Sterling, Kan., has answered the need for financial literacy by instituting a Financial Fitness Fair in conjunction with a local high school. On April 22, "National Teach Children to Save Day," First Bank is hosting booths created by the high school's economics class in their lobby. Employees of First Bank will also be reading to grade schools in the community, and distributing piggy banks and coin savers.

"We encourage schools to call their local community bank and ask someone to come talk to their students," Fine added. "In this age where credit card offers arrive in the mail for 16 year olds, the sooner we start teaching the importance of banking and credit, the better the future will be for our children, our society, and our economy as a whole."

For more resources on Financial Literacy, visit these sites:

Jump$tart Coalition for Personal Financial Literacy - http://www.jumpstart.org

Operation HOPE - http://www.operationhope.org

FDIC Money Smart - http://www.fdic.gov/consumers/consumer/moneysmart

Financial Literacy and Education Commission - http://www.ustreas.gov/offices/domestic-finance/financial-institution/fin-education/commission

Federal Reserve Board Chairman Alan Greenspan's speech on Financial Education - http://www.federalreserve.gov/boarddocs/speeches/2003/20030926/default.htm