The Wisconsin Bankers Association offers for your use the following consumer education column. Your bank is free to use this as a community column in your local newspaper, a letter to the editor, a press release or in any other way you see fit. The purpose is to give our members an easy-to-use tool for promoting the banking industry to Wisconsin's communities.

April is National Financial Literacy for Youth Month, and many nation-wide organizations work to promote consumer finance throughout the month. One of the largest efforts to educate our nation's youth about the importance of good money habits is Teach Children to Save Day. Held on April 28 this year (during Wisconsin Money Smart Week), Teach Children to Save Day is a national effort that has really taken root in our state. In fact, Governor Scott Walker has signed a formal proclamation declaring April 28, 2017 as Teach Children to Save Day in Wisconsin. 

As part of the Teach Children to Save Day effort, the Wisconsin Bankers Foundation has distributed over 300 free Reading Raises Interest Kits to bank branches across the state. Bankers at these branches request a kit, which contains a children's book and lesson plan about saving money and spending wisely, and use it to conduct presentations in elementary classrooms and youth groups throughout the month of April. These presentations reach over 15,000 students annually. Through these hands-on activities, the students learn important concepts such as wants versus needs, rainy-day funds and simple budgeting. 

Setting the foundation for financial literacy early is important in today's fast-paced world. Did you know only 34 percent of American high school students know how to balance a checkbook? That just 26 percent know how credit card fees work? Not only does learning financial concepts early help students form good money habits, it also prepares them for the more complex lessons in compound interest, credit and debt that can have a massive impact on their adult lives.

To help address gaps in Wisconsinites' personal financial capability, the state Legislature will soon debate a bill requiring financial literacy curriculum in grades K-12 in all school districts. This bill is an important step towards instilling this fundamental skillset in future generations. While a majority of school districts already have some sort of financial literacy program, the bill will ensure all students have access. 

While in-school education is important, many banks, libraries and community centers also host adult-focused events such as seminars on home-buying, getting out of credit card debt, and instructional sessions for seniors to learn about fraud. These events are particularly popular during Financial Literacy Month, so check with your local bank today for events taking place near you!

An archive of Consumer Columns is available online at www.wisbank.com/ConsumerColumns.