On July 14th we took a group of 12 rising 5th-6th grade students to 5th 3rd Bank downtown for a tour and a financial literacy class. These “Presidents of PTM” (as they named themselves) have had great opportunities for leadership development this summer (a field trip to Thistle Farms, problem solving classes everyday, public speaking, small business and marketing activities). They have acted responsibly and maintained a high level of interest. They were excited about being in a downtown bank in a nice conference room. Following a special pizza and soda lunch provided by 5th 3rd, Tracee Carpenter, the Community Relations Director, led a budgeting and checkbook balancing activity. She and Buffy Bundshuh, Manager of the Downtown Banking Center, did an excellent job presenting financial concepts in language that our students could understand.
Tracee had every student begin with a $65,000 salary (about 4 times the average yearly income of most students’ parents). Then she began whittling that amount down with each expenditure (taxes, rent, food, cars, insurance, etc.) emphasizing the importance of tracking expenses so as as to maintain a positive balance. Students were engaged and really enjoying this activity. However, in their responses I realized even more deeply how far they have to go in gaining financial literacy and what an uphill climb it will be to reshape their financial and civic outlook.
When Tracee indicated that we need to budget for groceries one of the students exclaimed, “we don’t need any money for food, we can just use food stamps”. When money from the $65,000 salary was beginning to run out, a girl reminded everyone, “well we can still get child support if we are girls”. It’s sad that child support and foodstamps are so prevalent and common that our students just assume these sources will be available for them throughout their lives. It’s our goal at PTM to expand the thinking of our students to see the hope of a life of being able to give, contribute, and lead.