Money Smarts



Photograph: ©ryasick/istock.com

The First Bank of Greenwich has been encouraging some young customers to invest in the idea that a little savings can pay big dividends.

Its innovative Start 2 Save program, which launched during the last school year with a successful Cos Cob School pilot program, has a new generation of savers doing something their parents may find downright nostalgic: Stashing some of their hard-earned piggy bank assets into an old-fashioned passbook savings account.

“Somehow that notion of a penny saved is a penny earned skipped a generation. And I wanted to get kids in the habit and discipline of saving,” explains Frank Gaudio, the bank’s senior vice president. So he created Start 2 Save after investigating successful banking programs for the younger set at financial institutions across the country. Although the program really won’t impact the bank’s bottom line, Gaudio says getting kids banking just makes, well, cents: “Hopefully, they’re learning more about math and the satisfaction of saving, which for some people in my generation became a lost art.”

Each time a child visits the bank to make a deposit they get a chance to spin a prize wheel for goodies such as pizza slices, ice cream and toys donated by local businesses. A colorful set of steps has been positioned at the lobby’s kids’ teller window to enable diminutive depositors to meet their bankers face-to-face. They also receive small banks made of recycled paper for stashing their accumulating cash and coins between visits.

Meanwhile, the program is adding to participating schools’ assets: The bank matches the savers’ deposits with a percentage-based contribution to their schools’ parent-teacher organizations. At press time plans were underway to bring Start 2 Save to other interested schools with Parkway the next to begin.

No surprise, many of 120 Cos Cob School kids already enrolled have become completely invested. Kortney Knudsen, the ten-year-old daughter of former Cos Cob PTA co-president Joan Knudsen has saved more than $1,200. Most of her money came from gifts and money-smart chores such as redeeming bottles and cans. “It made her very conscientious about wanting to hang onto her money,” says her mother.

Gaudio’s been especially impressed that his youngest depositors have embraced Start 2 Save’s recommendation of dividing their assets into equal thirds for spending, charity and savings. “These are good habits that if they last a lifetime will serve them well.”

Next on the bank’s community-minded agenda is another frugally fit project: A financial education program for teens. “They need to learn things like credit card smarts before they go off to college,” says Gaudio. Yet another idea that’s right on the money.

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