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Balancing for Better Financial Literacy

By Jessica Latimer | Citizens Bank Staff

Believe that anything is possible and that everyone has the ability to make a difference to #BalanceforBetter.

This isn’t a conversation about women versus men or us versus them. This is a conversation about equality. On International Women’s Day, and every day, we must do our part in pushing for balance. Balance that comes not only with empowering girls and women, but with educating boys and men about things like finances.

Remember: Women’s issues don’t appear in adulthood; they are rooted in our childhood.

I grew up sharing a pink bedroom with my sister while my brother had his own gray room. My sister and I had a strict curfew while my brother was asked to be home by a certain time. My sister’s and my allowances were dispensed at the store to buy clothing (an admitted obsession) while my brother received cash to put toward his dirt bike.

My parents were raised modestly and weren’t intentionally perpetuating biases. They were simply emulating how they were raised and what they perceived to be “normal.” They were, in fact, excellent parents who raised my siblings and me to believe that we can do anything we put our minds to. Unfortunately, those conversations never linked back to money.

The end result: As a kid, I resisted. My first bike was blue, I let a barber cut spikes in my hair, and I would stay at friends’ houses to avoid a curfew altogether. As an adult, I struggled. I graduated with $100,000 in student loans and — because I insisted on moving out despite not being able to budget and a salary that couldn’t support my lifestyle and shopping habits — accrued credit card debt upwards of $20,000 by my mid-20s. At that point in my life, my financial IQ was a zero!

Does any of this sound familiar? According to a recent study by NFCC’s Consumer Financial Literacy, one in four Americans — like my younger self — admit they don’t pay all their bills on time. In fact, financial literacy in the United States is so poor that the entire month of April was designated as Financial Literacy Month more than a decade ago.

With the advent of social media and the uprising of women sharing salacious experiences, we are at a moment of reflection in our history.

As conversations about equality surge, movements like Me Too and Time’s Up gain traction, and women march on the Capitol, it’s hard to protect kids from the hard realities of the world we live in. But we can prepare them for the future.

Through initiatives like teaching children financial literacy, we’re starting the conversation early about saving and spending habits, wants versus needs, and budgeting. By doing so, we’re setting the foundation for conversations later in life about things like taking out student loans, buying a home, demanding fair and equal pay at work, and saving for retirement.

Don’t agree? Here are three concerning stats from the most recent Global Gender Gap Report:

  1. At the current rate, it will take 217 years to close the economic gender gap.
  2. Women represent fewer than 50% of leaders in every industry analyzed.
  3. Historically, female-dominated industries tend to pay less than those with higher male representation.

From 7 to 17 to 70, financial conversations should be life-long.

Risk Business Analyst Karthika, Risk Manager Mercedes, and Senior Business Systems Analyst Cassie with members of Girl Scouts of Eastern Massachusetts.

While more than 400 colleagues across Citizens Bank volunteer to teach financial literacy in our communities, we talked to three who recently spent time with a group of 7-year-olds at the Girl Scouts of Eastern Massachusetts. The FDIC Money Smart lesson focused on “prioritizing and making decisions on how to spend money,” recalled Risk Manager Mercedes. “This session really made them start to think about how important keeping a budget is regardless of their income,” added Risk Business Analyst Karthika.

For former Girl Scout and Senior Business Systems Analyst Cassie, the opportunity was a valuable learning experience. “I think it’s important to teach financial literacy early, because not all children understand exactly how money is earned and spent,” she pointed out. “These girls weren’t under the impression that anything is for granted.”

But it doesn’t end with one lesson. Financial literacy is learned over time. In order to prepare you for these types of conversations with your own children, we wanted to share some sample worksheets that you can print and review at home. To access the whole workbook, click here or on one of the samples below.

What to Remember

Women’s issues are everyone’s issues — and they won’t be resolved overnight. However, through productive conversations and financial education, we can create change. Remember: It was only 100 years ago that the 19th Amendment passed and women gained the right to vote.

Share with Us

How do you talk to your children, nieces and nephews, and friends’ kids about finances? How do you think these conversations set them up for a financially literate future? Share with us on Twitter at @citizensbank.

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