"You're half way to college," State Treasurer Tim Berry said to fourth-graders at Van Buren Elementary recently. For five years he has visited schools to encourage students to begin saving now for their futures. "You need to be learning to save now so that you're financially ready when you need to be."
April is Financial Literacy for Youth month.
"No one talks about money enough. It is a different world now," Berry said, explaining that learning about money has normally been a family responsibility. But good spending habits are not always being taught at home. "Many husbands and wives don't talk about their money or financial planning to each other, so they don't teach their children about it."
Berry hopes his talk is the seed that younger students need to spark a discussion with their parents.
"Everything in life is a choice," Berry said about the responsibility of handling money properly. "You need to learn how to make good choices now."
Berry suggests that students consider four areas when handling their money: dedicated savings, spending money, donations to worthy causes and investing for the future. He tells students it's all right to spend money every once in a while because it will stop them from binge-spending.
"So many times we have the opportunity to spend our money," Berry said, asking the students how they spend their money. "But we also have many opportunities to save money as well."
National statistics show that spending among children and teens has roughly doubled every 10 years for the past three decades. This knowledge, and being a father of two young boys, prompted Berry to take steps to educate students on making smart financial decisions.
"Reaching all children, especially fourth-graders like you, with instruction on wise spending and saving habits gives them a chance to create healthy habits," Berry said. He uses the experience of teaching his sons, Colin and Ian, about money so students can identify with his examples of childhood spending and saving. "It's not how much money you have, it's what you do with what you got."
According to the American Council on Education, approximately 60 percent of students need to borrow money to pay for college and the average student accumulates more than $15,000 debt during his four-year college education. That is up from $8,200 just a decade ago.
Indiana's CollegeChoice 529 Investment Plan is designed to help meet the increasing cost of higher education by encouraging families to begin saving while the student is young. The plan allows Indiana residents to receive a reduced annual maintenance fee, pay no state authority fee, and pay no sales charges on accounts opened in the Age-Based investment option without the use of a financial advisor.
Treasurer Berry is Chair of the Indiana Education Savings Authority and Chair of the national College Savings Plan Network, which encourage families to plan now for their future education expenses. Information on Indiana's CollegeChoice 529 Investment Plan is available online at www.collegechoiceplan.com or by calling toll free at 1-866-400 PLAN.