By Phil Yacuboski
“Financial literacy is so important to our young people,” said Matthew Prosseda, chief executive officer and president of First Keystone Community Bank, Stroudsburg. “It doesn’t seem like they are getting this kind of education in the normal course of schooling. It doesn’t seem like anyone is doing this type of coursework when it comes to educating them about their finances.”
Prosseda said oftentimes students have little information when it comes to opening a bank account, using a credit card, applying for a mortgage or even investing their money.
“We think it’s important to get this out there,” he said.
Prosseda has created a program that will be presented to Pocono Mountain East and West High Schools as well as to the YMCA in Mountainhome. Seniors will get the program in the high school setting and it will be presented to children at the YMCA.
“It’s completely customizable for each setting,” said Elaine Woodland, executive vice president and chief operating officer, First Keystone Community Bank. “We make sure it passes their curriculum and then add to it if necessary. Sometimes, they want to know how to access a credit report and we can add some more information to fit their needs.”
Woodland said the program teaches kids what a bank does, the differences between a checking and savings account and the differences between a debit and credit card. The program also covers how to be protected from online fraud scams.
“It’s really the realm of banking basics,” which includes how to balance your checkbook.
She said they took some advice on putting the program together from the FDIC and some in-house training manuals.
Woodland said while the program is geared for young people, they’ve had interest from senior centers and other adult groups looking for financial literacy information.
“We’re targeting the information to anyone will listen,” she said. “Everyone can benefit.”
Prosseda said the program helps with financial literacy but also with respecting money.
“Not having this knowledge or these skills can lead to real problems over extensions (of credit) and overdrafts,” he said. “Without this knowledge, people can make some pretty big mistakes which can hurt them both immediately and in the future — especially when it comes to getting credit in the future.”
Prosseda said the biggest financial mistake some young people make is that they spend money equal to their income. The program warns them about the dangers of living beyond their means.
“One of the best things to learn is budgeting,” he said. “It doesn’t matter if you make $10,000 per year or $100,000 per year, if you spend 101 percent of your income, you’re going to be financially unhappy.”
As for saving, the power of compound interest puts allowance, gift money or earnings for after-school jobs to work for kids when they’re still young. “Savings is something they have a hard time understanding,” Prosseda said. The program teaches how money can grow over the years.
Both Prosseda and Woodland said credit cards can get people into a lot trouble. Young people learn about the dangers of borrowing too much and the interest they have to pay once they charge something to their credit card.
“It’s so easy to get caught up in the credit card trap,” Woodland said. “Some people don’t really understand how much further in debt they are getting and also how they can completely trash their credit scores by overspending on credit cards.”
The program is free and is offered by bank employees who see it as providing a community service.
“The focus is on the schools and groups within the community,” Prosseda said. “But longer term, I would like to see a whole program for first time homebuyers on how to apply and qualify for a mortgage. And in addition to that, I think there’s a great need for people who want to start a small business.”
For more information, contact First Keystone Community Bank at 570-752-3671