Chicago kids get smart about money

May 30, 2011 (CHICAGO)

Over eight weeks, third graders at Ward Elementary School are learning about finances through Money Savvy Kids, a program in 150 Chicago Public Schools.

Financial literacy expert Susan Beacham created the Money Savvy Kids curriculum. She says the lesson isn't so much about numbers but about how consumers can make healthy choices with money.

"It's essential because it teaches a child how to self regulate," said Beacham. "It is so simple to teach a child a basic live skill of delayed gratification and at the same time teach them math and social studies."

Beacham used to teach adults financial literacy but found some were getting the information too late after a financial crisis. She says the class gives the students a financial foundation on which they have time to build.

"These third graders will be ready in the event of a recession or a depression. They will be ready because they will have learned at a young age that they need to think about their future," said Beacham.

The students are getting ready for the real world.

"Smart spending is comparing prices like which one's lower and which one's bigger, so you should buy the lower price so you can save more money," said Mei Ying, third grader, Ward Elementary.

"I'm going to try and invest or save until I need something very important," said Jeremiah Taylor, third grader, Ward Elementary.

"For example, toys. When I get older I'm not going to need them, so instead of toys I could spent it on college," said Eduardo Palomo, third grader, Ward Elementary.

The Federal Reserve Bank of Chicago advocates for financial literacy as a benefit for all Americans, especially in these post-recessionary times.

"People being responsible with money, making good decisions is going to have a positive impact on the economy," said Alejo Torres, Federal Reserve Bank of Chicago.

Back in class, the students completing the course get their very own Money Savvy piggy bank. The four-chambered bank will help the kids remember options with their money: to save, spend, donate or invest. And there's evidence the lessons are making their way home.

"When we go to grocery store she says, 'this thing is on sale,'" said Xue Huang, parent.

Eduardo Palomo asked his mom about her spending on things that may not be necessary. He shared her response with ABC7.

"She'll try to not buy so many clothes and shoes because she has a lot of clothes," said Eduardo.

The Federal Reserve also sees the value of teaching kids to impact the household. And Susan Beacham is seeing long term impact. Some of the students she taught 11 years ago are in college, saving what they can and not getting trapped in credit card debt.

For more information about the Money Savvy Pig and other solutions for kids who want to get smart about money, Money Savvy Generation's website,

For advice about all topics kids and money, go to Susan Beacham's blog:

Federal Reserve Bank of Chicago:

Federal Reserve System:

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