Credit union in the Mission caters to kids

June 30, 2010 7:28:22 PM PDT
Teaching children how to save money is one of life's most valuable lessons. There is a credit union in San Francisco's Mission District that introduces kids to the world of finance with bank tellers who are age 17 or younger.

The clients are ages 5 through 10. The bank teller is 16. It is a real credit union called Mission SF that uses a PLAY program, short for Prize-Linked Accounts for Youth.

Alenah Brunswick recently deposited $5 into her play account. She has set a goal for herself and must deposit money for six consecutive months.

"These are things they want. So, there's a built in incentive for them to meet that savings goal, make the deposits along the way," Margaret Libby says.

Every time they make a deposit, they get a raffle ticket. The prize is a laptop. All of this happens while earning a three percent interest rate on their money, more than most conventional banks offer today.

Mission SF is located in San Francisco's Mission District.

The Mission's play program uses the same model developed by Harvard University. It's called the Doorways to Dream Fund and teaches low-income families how to save money. The concept of using kids is unique to San Francisco.

By targeting young people, Mission San Francisco hopes these kids will encourage their parents to open their own account and stop using check cashing places and pay day lenders. One of the teenagers in the program dresses up like the interest fairy to motivate kids. The little ones listen and are more receptive to their peers.

"When young people hear messages about those financial concepts from their peers, it's wildly different than an adult saying you should save your money. You shouldn't spend it on this or that, or should think twice before spending it on this, that or the other. It sticks. It sticks," Libby says.

9-year-old Sofia Escobar described a savings account to ABC7 saying, "You put a lot of money in one month and at the end of like six months you have a lot of money."

Customer Alehna talked to ABC7 about loans.

"A loan is a person who is in debt and you loan them money, like you give it to them and then they pay you back," she said.

Alehna's mother says her daughter now has good financial habits.

"She's excited to be able to say, 'I'm putting away.' And, she has a small savings at home too," she said.

A University of Illinois study suggests that when a family saves and has assets, the children tend to have a higher academic achievement.

The program also gives them ideas on how to generate money by having a garage sale, setting up a lemonade stand, being rewarded for good grades and recycling.

"If I clean up the house I get money," said.

The tellers encourage the smaller kids called "the big dreamers," to save while they themselves go through financial training. They are called the "money makers."

Jessi Aldana is one of those trained members.

"I love this. I love doing this and I got interested because it shows me more leadership after awhile. It shows me more responsibilities than with other jobs, other certain jobs," he said.

Mission SF Credit Union is having another financial education seminar for children ages five through 10 years old. The seminar will be held on Saturday, July 10. Participants need to RSVP by July 7.


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