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Teaching Keiki to $ave for the Future

By Office of Communication Services    Published on 05/04/2010 More stories >>

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Preliminary Kids’ $avings Project evaluation data suggest that children are becoming more conscious about the value of money.

Students from 28 public elementary schools are learning that there’s more to money than just spending it. Thanks to an innovative project developed and coordinated by Family and Consumer Sciences Assistant Professor Michael Cheang, hundreds of keiki collectively saved almost $145,000 in a single year and are now building their financial futures.

Dr. Cheang launched the Kids’ $avings Project in 2008 after learning that personal savings in the U.S. had gone into a negative in 2005 for the first time since the 1930s. “As a country, we are spending more than we earn,” he said. “We are declaring bankruptcy more than ever before, and many baby boomers are not financially prepared for retirement even though they’ve worked for so many years.”

In an effort to change this troubling fiscal trend, Cheang was able to find partners from the Hawai‘i Community Foundation, Bernice and Conrad von Hamm Fund, and Group 70 Foundation, who provided seed money for children to open savings accounts and funds for data collection. Financial institutions such as the UH Federal Credit Union and Hawai‘i USA FCU on O‘ahu, Hawai‘i First FCU in Kamuela and Hawai‘i Community FCU in Kona send staffers to participating schools once or twice a month to collect money deposits from students. “Credit also goes to the principals who shared the vision, saw the potential and were willing to partner with me on this project,” said Cheang, a 2002 winner of the UH Manoa Chancellor’s Citation for Meritorious Teaching Award.

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Michael Cheang holds a sample of the piggy bank given to each child who participates.

At last count, some students had already saved more than $1,000 apiece, while the average saving per child in the project is about $90. Said one excited young saver at Kuhio Elementary School, “I can recycle and get money. I help my grandma do chores and I get some money. I saved more than $100 in three months!” Preliminary evaluation data suggest that the amount saved is not the only significant impact that have been realized. Other, perhaps, more important impacts have also been documented—children are becoming more conscious about the value of money, are more thoughtful about spending, and are more purposeful in their savings behaviors. On the other hand, parents are learning from their kids’savings experiences, and are becoming more cautious about their money management, and are themselves beginning to save when before they never did.

Cheang said the project has a long-range research timeline, with a myriad of tangents to study. “Savings is a complex behavior with psychological, cultural, institutional, and systems variables which affect how people save,” he said. “Future plans are to include middle and high schools, and eventually workplaces like state and city and county offices.” For more on the Kids’ $avings Project, please contact Michael Cheang at cheang@hawaii.edu, or to donate to the project, visit this Web link: http://www.uhfoundation.org/KidsSavingsProject