Teaching Teens To Be Financially Successful

It seems that money grabs the attention of mostly everyone, especially teenagers these days. High Schoolers  tend to appreciate money’s ability to keep them up to date with the latest trends. While it’s good for teens to be ambitious and have the desire to be financially successful, they need to learn about money management first. The old and often used saying, “money doesn’t grow on trees,” is a good lesson that everyone should learn.

As an effort to teach students the banking basics and how to properly manage money, Ohio Valley Bank created the BANKit! program. During my time as the Financial Literacy Leader at OVB, BANKit! has expanded to reach all Gallipolis City and Gallia County High Schools as well as two Mason County, WV schools. I can honestly say that working with teens through the BANKit! program has been a rewarding experience. I love that through BANKit! these students are learning something that I was essentially clueless about at their age.

The BANKit! program runs throughout the entire school year. Each month, I visit participating schools and we do a lesson on some type of financial subject, such as budgeting, credit scores, loans, identity theft, and knowing the difference between debit and credit.  Along with lessons, students are playing the BANKit! game, which works like this:

  1. At the beginning of the year students are presented with $100 in Buzz Bucks, the BANKit! currency.
  2. Their goal is to increase their $100 as much as possible by the end of the school year.
  3. Students must strategize how they would like to manage that money. They have the option of dividing it into many account types, including checking, savings, money market or certificate of deposit. They can also choose to keep some of their Buzz Backs in cash or take a risk and invest in BANKit’s fictional company, Pseudosoft.
  4. Each month students must draw a Real Life Card, where they are presented with unexpected cash or an unforeseen bill.

Not only are the students’ goals to make as much money as they can, but the individual with the highest ending balance is rewarded at the end of the year with a cash prize. In addition, the BANKit! game encourages student camaraderie as classes compete against each other for the best average class balance. Anytime you involve competition and money, it seems to catch the attention of teenagers! I get a kick out of seeing them get so competitive, and while entertaining, it’s even better because they are actually learning along the way!

As the year progresses, it’s very rewarding to witness a change first hand in the students’ approach to money.  I love seeing that “light bulb” switch on for them once they finally grasp a concept. I also really enjoy watching the wheels turn in their brain as they attempt to strategize new ways to win the BANKit! game.

At the end of the year my BANKit! students are still teenagers, who probably still want money for all the latest fads. However, they are more financially savvy teens who have hopefully learned a thing or two about what it takes to manage money.