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Struggling for economic prosperity is difficult for everyone. It's especially hard for young people who've never learned how to plan to achieve financial security.

What we need today, confirmed by poor financial literacy test scores from across the country, is leadership to help raise the awareness of financial issues for young people.

America's credit unions are shining the spotlight on how young people earn, spend, save, and manage their own money and how America's credit unions help them do so wisely during National Credit Union Youth Week, April 20-26. The celebration takes place during the Jump$tart Coalition's Financial Literacy for Youth Month.

The staff and members of credit unions are ideally positioned to respond because of their belief in the power of education — put to practical use — to improve the lives of their neighbors and their communities.

As a parent, there are several things you can do right now to help your kids get on the right financial path. Here are some tips from the Credit Union National Association:

Younger than age 5

  • Use coin savers to help children learn how to identify coins and count money.
  • Introduce the concept of money by giving children small change to spend occasionally when you go to the store. Limit options to save time and reduce conflict.

Ages 5 to 10

  • Give a weekly allowance to offer hands-on money management experience. Because children know they'll regularly get a set amount of money, this makes it easier to learn how to save.
  • Let children save for, and buy, something they really want. Rewards reinforce young children's savings habits, so tie saving to spending.
  • Use three containers labeled "Spend," "Save," and "Share." Suggest that children contribute a portion of their allowance and cash gifts to each to teach how to spend wisely, save regularly, and give to others.
  • When the "save" container builds up, take children to the credit union to open a savings account.
  • Provide children with opportunities to earn extra money by doing jobs not included in their regular responsibilities.

Ages 11 to 14

  • Include children on shopping trips to teach them what things cost and smart shopping techniques. Let them help compare product qualities, prices, return policies, and warranties.
  • Encourage odd jobs: babysitting, yard work, or pet care.
  • Encourage children to use their own money to buy beyond-the-basics clothing and accessories.

Ages 15 to 18 and older

  • Discuss saving plans for long-term goals, such as education and cars.
  • Consider giving teens a seasonal clothing allowance beyond their regular allowance. After setting guidelines and limits, let them make their own choices.
  • Consider helping financially responsible teens open a share draft/checking account.
  • Consider encouraging financially responsible older teens to use a debit card with their share draft/checking accounts.

Copyright 2008 – Credit Union National Association, Inc.