Plan hopes to teach financial literacy

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Peiru Lu, reporter

Have you thought about how to pay for your college education, how to make a down payment on a house or a car? Do you want to live a reasonable life and not struggle financially? Do you want enough money to retire later on in life? The earlier you start preparing, the better.

To help students on the path to savings, McKinley High School is taking part in Earn and Learn Savings Plan, a financial program first created by Dr. Michael Cheang of the UH School of Family and Consumer Science. He did research on financial literacy. Financial literacy means the ability to understand about savings and money.

“National studies on financial literacy over the past 20 years show yet again that the high school graduates are ill informed about and are lacking serious skills in personal finance,” he said.

“Young people who do not take advantage of the time that they have to save earlier on in life are missing a very important opportunity to put in place a plan for their future.”

Another important reason to start saving early is the benefit of compound interest. When you start saving early, your savings will grow over time. If you are 15 years old and save $20 every month, at four percent interest, by the age of 65, you will have more than $38,000. To help students become more financially responsible, Cheang started to educate the youth about financial security and money saving. He first started this savings plan with the pupils in Kamuela Elementary School, and the results came out good, so he decided to do it in high schools.

Ron Okamura, MHS Principal, said the goal is to help students become “more financially responsible and to save money to participate in school activities.”

All MHS students are welcome to open accounts with $25. The accounts are with Hawaii School Federal Credit Union, and interest rates of about 4% – the same as other banks. HSFCU will be on campus every first Wednesday to collect deposits for the Earn & Learn Savings Program in Student Activities during lunchtime. So far at MHS, 57 students have signed up for the saving plan this year, but only two of them came to make a deposit. Since September 2008, 1,100 elementary school students have saved close to $100,000 while the high school students have saved less than $10,000.

Cheang said, “Somehow, the high school students seem less interested to save their money… not knowing how important this is for their future, and how much it can make a significant difference in their future.”