The Young and the (Financially) Reckless: Marketers Cultivate Today's Youth Because They Represent Tomorrow's Customers. Unfortunately, Many Children Are Clueless about Basic Money Issues Such as Budgeting and Managing Debt. (Fundamentals)

Article excerpt

As they turn their attention increasingly to their financial institution's next-generation customers, marketers are faced with some unpleasant truths:

* The average grade among 12th graders on a recent test on personal-finance basics was 52 percent, a failing grade, according to a recent JumpStart Coalition survey.

* More than 60 percent of high school students receive no formal financial education.

* The average credit-card debt of teen-agers rose a staggering 300 percent from 1990 to 2000.

These statistics suggest that, in order to become responsible consumers of financial services, young people need to learn more about money, budgeting, debt management, basic banking, and the wise use of credit cards--in other words, elementary personal-finance skills. Federal Reserve Board Chairman Alan Greenspan recently reported to Congress that, "Improving basic financial education at the elementary and secondary school level is essential to providing a foundation for financial literacy that can help prevent younger people from making poor financial decisions that can take years to overcome."

"Consumers need our help more than ever before. Financial matters are significantly more complex than they were just a decade ago," says Lynda L. Glass, senior vice president of retail banking at Adams County National Bank, Gettysburg, Pa. She is also chairman of the ABA Education Foundation.

For bankers who are interested in creating a financial literacy program for their community, here are seven suggested steps.

Decide your goals. Upgrade marketing of bank products and services? Enhance your bank's image? Enhance your CRA compliance? As banks begin to offer more investment products, they are finding that one way to market them is to educate targeted customer segments about their value and proper utilization. Many banks undertake an educational program to get their name in front of a community and to show that they are "good neighbors." While Providing education will not change your CRA rating, it is possible to use consumer-education programs to enhance your CRA efforts.

Determine how much money, time and staff you are willing to devote.

Depending on your goals, the program may be centered in one department or it may be a bankwide effort. The bank can save money by sponsoring a developed program that is a set length of time (Examples: Junior Achievement has 13-week programs for $500 and up. The ABA Education Foundation has a five-lesson program called "In Charge," that costs $55 for ABA members.)

Talk to people in the community to find out what they need from a consumer education program. Depending on whom you are trying to reach, you may want to talk with school administrators, community group and nonprofit leaders.

Begin to build. This step does not mean that your bank has to develop all the materials you will use or design a completely original program. Consider your goals, budget and how much time the bank is willing to put into this program. Some larger banks choose to design their own original educational program. Other banks prefer to donate materials or staff to ongoing educational efforts. While this choice also can provide good publicity and bring in new bank customers, it takes less staff and is usually much less expensive. Partnering with outside organizations is a win-win situation because it helps raise visibility of all participants. When looking for a partner, identify other businesses interested in the youth market. Don't forget to approach your kids' schools!

Market the program. Let the community, specifically the group you've targeted, know that your bank is offering this program. Tell these people how they can take advantage of it. If, for example, you are offering presentations to schools, send letters to school principals or to teachers of the subject area your program will cover.

Monitor progress. …