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The Piggy Bank Program: Preparing the Next Generation for Financial Stability
by Audrey Hanes, photography submitted by First Community Bank

Already supportive of many of Jonesboro’s nonprofit organizations and charitable events, First Community Bank employees began looking for ways to deeply impact the future of the community for many years to come. Last year, with the introduction of the Piggy Bank Program, the bank hopes to do just that by going into area schools and teaching youth how to start saving now for financial stability later in life.

Three years ago, Gabe Roberts, an AVP loan officer who has been with First Community Bank for two years and in banking for seven years, had a conversation with his father, a school principal in Jonesboro, about how kids today need to be better equipped with financial knowledge once they enter the real world.

“We thought that a partnership with a bank in town and a school would serve as a great foundation and starting point for kids in our area,” said Roberts. “… After the conversation with my dad, I began to research what other programs are done in our country to satisfy this need for our youth. Later that week, I ran across a school district in Las Vegas, Nevada. This school district has partnered with a credit union, United Way and Andson Financial Literacy for over seven years, and the children have saved over $327,000. After seeing the success of this program at a very comparable school district to those in Jonesboro and watching a video of the kids interacting with their teachers, fellow students and Piggy Bank volunteers, I instantly knew our bank found the perfect project to help our youth in Jonesboro.”

He approached First Community Bank’s Vice President of Retail Banking, Brian Emison, who quickly jumped on board after hearing Roberts’ idea.

“Gabe knew that we had been in search of a program to expand on the ‘Teach a Child to Save Week’ into more of a year-round project, because savings isn’t just something that is done for a week in the real world; it is done year-round, and we want to prepare our next generation for financial stability when they graduate from school,” said Emison. “When Gabe showed me the Andson Math program, I immediately knew we had found our program. Essentially, we wanted to do something that would create an everlasting impact on a child’s life instead of a sponsorship where you write a check and just move along to the next request.”

Roberts says the aim of the Piggy Bank Program is to enable children to have the independence to make financial choices and guide them in ways to manage their money effectively. The lessons center around content like differentiating needs and wants, setting attainable long and short-term goals and how to make a functional budget. First Community Bank is the first bank in the U.S. to sponsor the Piggy Bank Program and is committed to improving the financial literacy of the children within the Jonesboro area. The curriculum they are implementing is based on common core standards in English, language arts, math and social studies/economics. The curriculum also includes interactive lessons and in-class discussions to keep the subject fresh and engaging to students.

Each week, Roberts, Emison and Southwest Drive Banking Center receptionist Leisa Hartl go to the schools, open the Piggy Bank and introduce students to the banking experience. They accept the students’ deposits, teach them how to fill out their deposit slips and help them keep track of how much money they are saving. There is even an app so the kids can log in online with their parents to monitor their savings goals, both short-term and long-term.

“The Andson math curriculum begins by teaching children the importance of saving at an early age, along with explaining the difference between needs and wants, establishing goals for reasons to save and developing a hypothetical budget based on what the child wants to be whenever they grow-up,” said Emison. “The curriculum also teaches students how to correctly fill out checks, along with keeping up with their account balance by using a checkbook register. … The Piggy Bank is a scaled model bank that is open once a week where the students bring the money they have saved and a real life teller takes their money and gives them a receipt. While the students’ money is being counted, the bank staff talks with the students about how good of a job they are doing in saving, discussing what they are saving their money for and helping the students fill out their deposit slips. Whenever the student goes to their computer lab for the day or returns home, with the help of a parent, the student can log in to their very own internet banking to see their account balance. At the end of the year, the student has the option to take their savings and purchase what they had been saving up their money all year for or to graduate from the Piggy Bank to the vault where the student and their parents can open a youth savings account to continue saving. As a reward, the bank matches up to $10 of the student’s first deposit.”

Emison says it’s important to support children who are participating in their school’s Piggy Bank program by having them do chores, rewarding them for an excellent report card or matching their savings once they reach their goal so they can learn the importance of saving. By involving families with what the students are learning as part of the program, the bank hopes that the results will be far-reaching.

“According to census information, of the 18,652 children in our education system in Craighead County, 65.8 percent of those students qualified for free or reduced lunches,” said Roberts. “Hopefully, the effects of the Piggy Bank will be long-reaching, and ultimately the Jonesboro community will have a lively and thriving economic environment due to the groundwork laid by the bankers and teachers who devoted their time and energy to the project and its successful implementation. Statistics show that having a college savings account containing even a single dollar will increase the likelihood of a child attending college from 45 percent to 71 percent. It isn’t about the amount of money the children can put back, but setting fundamental values for our children to make wise decisions with the funds at their disposal. I believe the combination of the weekly visits to the Piggy Bank and the course curriculum will not only instill financial knowledge for the students, but this program will also have an impact on parents.

“… The Piggy Bank Program has massive potential for growth by branching out to other school districts and grades,” said Roberts. He encouraged any school district interested in implementing a Piggy Bank Program, to reach out to the bank.

For more information about First Community Bank’s Piggy Bank Program, call (870) 932-5600.