Heidi in action | photo courtesy of Altana

Life Skills for Kids: Bringing Personal Finance to the Classroom

April 11, 2022

by Kelly McCandless

Four hundred dollars may not seem like a life-changing amount of money to some, but it certainly can be. According to the Board of Governors for the Federal Reserve System, 12% of American adults would lose the ability to pay their regular bills if they incurred an unexpected expense of just $400 or more. Considering a $400 expense can pop up pretty quickly these days, the statistic is alarming. 

Financial literacy is not required teaching at any grade level in many areas, meaning many kids become adults without ever learning basic skills like how to balance your checking account and how to save for emergencies. In fact, 38% of adults have less than $1,000 saved for emergencies. Things like saving for retirement, planning to save for extras like vacations or holidays, and setting money aside to donate or support others in need are often not even on adults’ radar. 

Those statistics spurred Altana Federal Credit Union to act. Credit Unions across the country designate April as Youth Month each year, shifting focus to teaching kids healthy financial habits throughout the month. Altana took this idea and created a program available year ‘round to serve kids throughout the region. 

According to Heidi Davey, Business Development Manager for Altana, and the primary Financial Literacy instructor for the organization, Youth Month spurred Altana to build a presence in the classroom. “I get the opportunity to teach lessons on financial literacy to all ages, from K to gray,” explains Davey. “I have a wide variety of lessons that I adapt to the age of the students. Whether I’m sitting crisscross applesauce sharing a story about spending, saving, and sharing money with kindergartners, walking through budget development with those considering retirement, or reviewing FAFSA forms with college students, I’m there to help create healthy financial habits.” 

Finances continue to be a taboo topic, a norm that Davey is working to change. “These classroom lessons are meant to help start conversations at home. Various industry research studies show us that 2 of 3 families lack any type of emergency savings, 78% of adults live paycheck to paycheck and 3 in 5 adults do not maintain a monthly budget. Changing staggering stats like these starts with education and starts with our youth.”  

Like many Credit Unions, Altana heightens the discussion with kids during April. “Pre-COVID, I spoke with thousands of kids every April. This year, we’re thrilled to be back in the classroom and heading toward talking with 1,000 students this month,” she notes. Additionally, each branch offers special opportunities for opening new accounts, for making deposits, and more. But, the education is not limited to April. 

“Altana is always looking for ways to give back to the community, and when our ability to give back aligns with financial literacy, it’s a quick “Yes!” for us,” Davey says. Throughout the year she’s not only in classrooms throughout Billings K-12 schools, but also teaching at the colleges, in Red Lodge, Laurel, Columbus, and more. She creates custom lessons, works with the teacher to ensure it fits with the students, and delivers memorable and impactful modules. 

How can schools and teachers bring Altana into their classroom? It’s easy – and it’s at no cost to the school or teacher! Simply email Heidi Davey. You can also learn more by clicking here. And, take a peek at what Altana is doing throughout the community by following them on Facebook and Instagram. You might find some great ideas and resources to bring the financial literacy discussion alive for your own family! 

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