I remember carrying a pocketbook with my mom's "old" checks and pretending to write checks when my mom made purchases. I must have been 7 or 8 at the time. I still remember how frustrated I used to get when I couldn't balance "my" checkbook to the penny. To this day, I actually think these small acts of imaginative play helped me to understand checks and balances and to appreciate how savings work.
Even before I knew what a savings account was, my parents taught me the importance of spending wisely, to give at church and how to earn money.
My husband and I have been tracking our son's savings, from things he's sold to monetary gifts, in an Excel spreadsheet, and we have been depositing his money into our savings account. He is 4-and-a-half, and when he turns 5, we will open a children's saving account in his name at our credit union and transfer his money so he can see how his money works for him.
Depositing money into a savings account is the first step toward personal finance empowerment. A simple tip for younger children is obvious—put your cash in the bank and it'll grow. Older children need to learn another valuable lesson—a bank's job is to make money from you. It's important for kids to learn early which bank accounts will allow their money to work for them.
Have your children check out TD Bank WOW!Zone. It is an interactive website created to provide a fun place where children and teens can gain a better understanding of the value and worth of money. Parents can share the learning experience with their children by reading the stories and playing the games.
Not every account suits everyone though, so be sure to understand this before picking one. Choose wisely depending on when your children need their money—regular savings require a minimum amount of money to be deposited each month.
How heavy is that piggy bank? If you feel the money is too accessible—or may get lost—then it may be time to open a savings account for your child. Most banks and/or credit unions recommend opening children's saving accounts when a child is 5. Reasons to consider opening a children's savings account:
• It is a great way to teach little ones to save. Parents can take a portion of their allowance and show them how to deposit it in a savings account. Parents need to explain why we save and why we may not have enough money to buy something now. This hard money lesson will help children learn to save until they have enough money to buy what they desire or, even more importantly, to save their money in case it is needed later.
• It also teaches children about interest and how their money can earn more money. Compound interest is one of the greatest lessons in savings and they will take those basics with them as they make bigger decisions to invest for retirement in the stock market.
• It is tax-free savings. Children do pay tax, but most don't use up to their allowance, so their savings interest is tax-free. Interest starts accruing on deposit the next business day.
Where should you open a children's savings account?
Many banks offer low-cost or free savings accounts for children that allow parents to guide them through the basics of smart money management. These accounts typically require a parent to open the account in the child's name and allow the adult to show the child or teen how saving works. It is the child's money but many savings accounts allow a parent to stay in control of the cash until the child turns 18.
An unsolicited poll on local moms' group Facbeook page asked the question: Does anyone know of a bank that offers children's savings accounts without having to keep a minimum daily balance? Favorable responses included BB&T, Capital One 360, Stellar One, Union First Market Bank, Wells Fargo and many credit unions (examples: Navy Federal Credit Union and Virginia Credit Union).
• BB&T Young Savers account is for clients under the age of 18. No minimum balance requirements, no minimum deposit, and interest compounded daily.
• Capital One 360 Kids Savings Account offers no fees, no minimums and earns interest. Teaches kids to be good savers with kid-friendly 0.75% variable Annual Percentage Yield (effective 11/1/2013), their own sign-in info and a bunch of hands-on savings tools.
• Stellar One Minor Savings. Must be under 18 years of age to open with $5 minimum and six transactions per one month cycle permitted; $1 for each transaction thereafter. No minimum balance, no monthly service charge and interest paid on all balances (compounded and paid monthly). Free online banking and ATM card available.
• Union First Market Bank Statement Savings account for minors. It can be opened with $50. The $1.50 maintenance fee is waived for account holders under the age of 18.
• Wells Fargo Way2Save Savings account requires a $25 minimum opening deposit and has no monthly service fees for account holders under 18 (19 in Alabama). There are several options to set up savings accounts for kids: Joint ownership option gives children the ability to use the savings account while parents monitor account activity; Minor by option gives children access to their funds at age 18; and Child (sole) option grants children sole access to make deposits and withdrawals, as well as the option to have an ATM card.
• Navy Federal Credit Union Basic Savings account is just $5 to open and has competitive rates with no monthly service charge. Those under 18 must apply at a branch or call 24/7 at 1-888-842-6328
• Virginia Credit Union Custodial Accounts for Minors offers a convenient way to save for the benefit of a minor child while limiting the child's access to the account. Account can be opened with any amount and dividends are reported in the minor's name.
It is important to note that as an emerging generation of savers get more tech-savvy, online-only banks, also known as direct banks, will become more prevalent as teens will look to these banks because all they think they need is a place to grow their money.
Open a savings account today and give your child personal finance empowerment. If your child can add, he can save.
Nikki Ducas is a Fredericksburg mom to a nearly 5 -year-old and 17-month-old. She is always thinking about economics and uses her time with her boys as teachable moments.