Banks are the pillars of their communities, supporting businesses and families as they grow and prosper. One common way is through financial education. While most banks see financial literacy as critically important for their customers and communities, supporting the financial education of consumers also benefits the bank. Dedication to financial literacy creates better customers, supports the bank's mission and/or brand, and continues strong partnerships within the community. The key to reaping these additional benefits of financial literacy is for banks to view it as an opportunity to set themselves apart while making a difference, said Jeff McCarthy, VP – marketing director at First Bank Financial Centre, Oconomowoc, and vice chair of the 2018-2019 WBA Marketing Committee. "At the end of the day, community banking is about supporting our community businesses and families, and what better way than by addressing this knowledge gap?"

"Teach Them Early"

Financial education intersects with the banking industry because good bank customers—commercial and consumer alike—are also financially literate. "Providing educational seminars, participating in school programs, and promoting efforts of financial literacy organizations remains a must for all community banks, as the children we influence will someday be our depositors and borrowers – our future customers," explained Cathy Couey, chief retail officer at Security Financial Bank, Eau Claire, and a member of the Wisconsin Bankers Foundation Board of Directors. Starting early with financial education is an effective way to grow future customers for the bank, said Frank Habib, interim executive director of EconomicsWisconsin, a not-for-profit which has been delivering quality teacher training in economics and financial literacy in a free market and free enterprise environment for the past 55 years. "Invariably, the more those students learn, the better graduates and employees they'll become because of that early investment," he explained. "Teach them early. They'll become a well-informed and good customer."

Unfortunately, today many consumers don't receive the early education in money management that they need in order to thrive and avoid financial pitfalls. "A lot of people don't know what they don't know about their finances," said McCarthy. "And even when they know they don't know everything, people are afraid to ask questions because they don't want to look dumb. There's a large knowledge gap, but people are intimidated. People feel like they should know and they're a little embarrassed that they don't, so we try to create an atmosphere where people can ask questions."

The difference between understanding personal finance and never learning those skills can be dramatic. "It's very important to teach these life skills," said Habib. "Your choices will have a long-term impact on your life, and unfortunately, the costs of not understanding this are exorbitant sometimes." But financial literacy isn't all stick, no carrot. Michael Frohna, president of Junior Achievement of Wisconsin, which has been inspiring and preparing young people for success in a global economy for 78 years in Wisconsin (and for 100 years in the United States), summarized the ultimate goal of financial education: "Financial literacy allows people to pursue a life that's unique and meaningful to them," he said. 

"Make Lives Better"

That quest for betterment is what ties financial education to a bank's mission or brand. For most financial institutions, at least part of their mission or vision is to help their customers and their community. That goal can be nuanced and look different depending on the institution's niche or geographic location, but it's one that many banks share. "I personally feel it is a banker's responsibility to aid consumers in making the best financial decisions," said Couey. "Offering and/or participating in financial literacy proves your dedication in helping your customer reach their financial goals."

"We feel it's incumbent on us to expose people to these topics and issues so they can be set up for success in the long term," McCarthy agreed. First Bank Financial Centre (FBFC) sees financial literacy as part of the bank's strategy to live out its mission, rather than another marketing channel or way to prospect for potential customers. "It's not really about ROI," McCarthy clarified. "It's more about investment in our mission, which is 'Make Lives Better.' It's an investment in the people in our communities as a way to make lives better. It's a proof point to support our overall mission and support our brand."

In addition to the financial benefits of being educated about money, banks can also enhance their brands or missions by inspiring and mentoring young people through their financial literacy outreach. Frohna explained that of all the curriculum Junior Achievement presents to a class, the students probably only retain about a quarter of it. "The other 75 percent of what they remember is the volunteer talking about their own experience," he said. "Bankers have a tremendous ability to go into a classroom and tell stories that augment the curriculum and really bring it to life." Another reputational/brand benefit of demonstrating a banker's job and banking to students early: a recent national study revealed that 20 percent of Junior Achievement students chose a career path based on the career field of their classroom mentor. "It pays to volunteer, because you can change perceptions of what bankers do," said Frohna. 

Building Vibrant Communities 

As the financial cornerstone of their communities, banks also fill key partner roles with many local organizations, including the chamber of commerce, schools, and other entities. "Ultimately, I think organizations like ours and entities like banks really have the vibrancy of our communities at the heart of what we do," said Frohna. "Finding more ways we can partner and reach people who don't have all the tools they need to thrive will benefit everyone in the long-run by creating communities who are financially literate and responsible."

Partnering with an organization dedicated to financial education can be an effective, efficient way for banks to act out their mission to benefit customers and the community. "We align ourselves with best-in-class organizations and tools," McCarthy explained (FBFC is a Ruby level partner with Junior Achievement). "We participate in reality stores at our local high schools, and our online component is powered by EverFi, which is a nationally recognized leader in financial education." 

One of the primary reasons banks gain efficiencies through these partnerships is because no new contacts or infrastructure need to be built in order to deliver financial education in the bank's market. "What's important is banks don't need to create anything," Habib explained. "There are enough solution-oriented agencies to do that." He recommended lending facilities, such as meeting rooms, and hosting or sponsoring events through those agencies as a better use of the bank's resources than creating new materials. Serving on the boards of these organizations is also a valuable way for bank executives, in particular, to give back.

Whichever strategy Wisconsin banks utilize for their financial education efforts, the Wisconsin Bankers Association and Foundation have both dedicated resources to help bankers provide the education needed in their communities, Couey explained. "They promote Money $mart Week and Teach Children to Save Day by providing Reading Raises Interest Kits to communities within Wisconsin, and provide the online resource," she said. "All of this aids bankers in providing resources to help educate consumers on financial development." 

By, Amber Seitz

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. An archive of Consumer Columns is available, as well.

This biggest misconception about saving money is that many people think it's something you do at the end of the month with what you have left over after all of your expenses. The truth is, nobody ever has leftover money. There's always something to spend it on. The better way to think about saving is as something you do first, before you spend anything. This is often called the "pay yourself first" method. Here are a couple of strategies for paying yourself first to build up your savings. 

Create a budget. Perhaps the most important "save first" technique is to figure out how much you can afford to put away each month. Add up all of your essential expenses for the month (bills, loan payments, etc.) and then subtract that amount from your total income. The bottom number tells you how much money you don't need to spend each month. Use that number to decide on the amount you want to "pay yourself" at the beginning of each month. Remember: Don't try to save every penny available. Leave yourself some wiggle room by only committing to saving half or a third of that bottom number. 

Make it automatic. Many Americans with a savings account also have a checking account, and vice versa. Link your accounts together and set up an automatic transfer from checking to savings on the day of or the day after your payday. That way, the money you want to save will never appear in your checking account, making it easier to avoid the temptation to spend. Start small, with amounts in the $25 – $50 range, then gradually build it to $100 – $150 as you find ways to cut your spending each month.

Use direct deposit. If you're not already taking advantage of paycheck deductions through your employer, start as soon as possible. Many employers offer direct deposit to their employees, and one option is to earmark a portion of each paycheck for a savings account, CD, or IRA. Even if you only save $25 each paycheck this way, that money will go directly into your savings fund. 

Consider a CD. No, not the thing "old people" used to play music on back in the days before iPods and smartphones… Certificate of Deposit accounts are federally insured (so you cannot lose the money, even if the financial institution is sold or fails) and mature after a specific period of time (usually one month to five years). Not only is it more difficult to withdraw funds from these accounts, most CDs earn much higher interest rates than savings accounts. They can be a great tool if you find yourself dipping into your savings account on a regular basis for unnecessary expenses.

To find the best way for you to save, talk to your local banker. They'll be able to set you up with the right combination of financial products to help you reach your savings goal, whether it's early retirement or next year's vacation.

An archive of Consumer Columns is available here on WBA's website.

Visit MyMazuma for the latest financial education resources for consumers, including budgeting tools and advice for paying down debt.


By, Amber Seitz

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.

Elder abuse is a growing issue across Wisconsin and the entire nation. Over the next two decades, Wisconsin's 65 and older population will increase by 72 percent. In 2017, one in nine seniors reported being abused, neglected, or exploited. Law enforcement, advocacy groups, and Wisconsin's bankers are working together to prevent financial exploitation of our state's seniors, and you can help, too! Here's how:

First, understand what financial exploitation is. The U.S. Centers for Disease Control (CDC) defines elder financial abuse as "the illegal, unauthorized, or improper use of an older individual's resources by a caregiver or other person in a trusting relationship, for the benefit of someone other than the older individual." Common examples include forgery, misuse or theft of money or possessions, and use of coercion or deception to surrender finances or property. 

Second, learn to recognize the red flags of financial abuse. Keep a close watch on your elderly family members and friends and look for signs such as unusual spending or withdrawal patterns, frequent purchases of unusual or out-of-character items, unpaid bills and/or utilities being turned off, or the presence of a new "best friend" who is accepting generous "gifts" from the older adult.

Finally, know who the typical perpetrators are. Unfortunately, in most cases the abuser is someone the elderly person knows and trusts. Many times the perpetrator is a family member. They may express feeling that the elderly person's belongings are rightfully theirs. The abuser may have financial difficulties such as a tendency to gamble. They may also express fears that the victim will "use up" all of their savings and deprive the perpetrator of an inheritance. Non-relatives may move from community to community in order to avoid detection. They may also try to gain access to elderly persons by masquerading as a counselor or by finding a job as a caretaker. 

Elderly persons who are most at risk are lonely, isolated, unfamiliar with financial matters, and may have lost someone recently or have mental or physical disabilities. 

By using the information above to identify possible elder financial and reporting it to the authorities, you can help stop or prevent this injustice. 

The Wisconsin Bankers Association and its members have worked closely over the past few months with Wisconsin Attorney General Brad Schimel and his Elder Abuse Task Force in creating an awareness video addressing the issue of elder financial abuse for frontline bank staff. Even though the video is designed to educate bank staff, family and friends of Wisconsin's elders will also find it full of useful information. You can watch the video on YouTube here. 

An archive of Consumer Columns is available online at

Visit MyMazuma for the latest financial education resources for consumers.

By, Amber Seitz


Analyzing business financial statements and tax returns starts with understanding the basic components of the balance sheet and income statement, along with the reconciliation of retained earnings, plus footnotes and other disclosures. The business tax return is nothing more than a financial statement with similar components, but with a different format and structure. A second step is to use a diagram, with the components in rough proportion to dollar size, to see how the components “flow” together and interact to create three major financial relationships: (1) Sales to total assets, (2) profit retention, and (3) leverage. A third step is to identify and understand the key principles underlying the three primary methods of accounting, followed by examining an accountant cover letter, if applicable.

Topics to be covered include:

  • Identify various financial statement analysis options and tools, plus the basic structure and purposes of financial statements and tax returns
  • Diagram the statement components and how they flow together and create three major relationships
  • Identify various levels of accountant-prepared financial statements (compilations, reviews, and audits) and related accountant cover letters
  • Describe key issues in using internal or company-prepared statements, as well as interim statements
  • Compare and contrast the three primary methods of accounting
  • Key standards, limitations, and alternatives within accrual accounting or generally accepted accounting principles (GAAP)

Target Audience:  Credit analysts, portfolio managers, assistant relationship managers, community bankers, small business lenders, commercial lenders, consumer lenders, branch managers that lend to business owners, private bankers, and special assets

Richard Hamm, Advantage Consulting & Training

Registration Option
Live presentation $330

Recording available through June 29, 2022