Financial Literacy: The Small Guy Takes a Big Step

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With the financial crisis and all the budget mess in Washington, D.C., and at the state and local levels, it appears that the whole country could use a dose of good, old-fashioned financial literacy. The Graduate School of Banking at Colorado, which I have been instructor at for 20 years, held an interesting session concerning this issue.

Josh Guttau, President and CFO of Treynor State Bank, a small but impressive community bank in Treynor, IA, had a vision that came to reality. The bank invested 10% of their profits into starting a financial literacy institute for the local school systems to improve the financial literacy of young people.

The Institute included curricula for students ranging from kindergarten to high school. The curriculum was developed and facilitated using materials developed by other organizations; however, everyone at the bank was actively involved in implementing the curriculum. The bank sought and received support from others including the Iowa Bankers Association.

They also facilitate the young people in establishing savings accounts and investment clubs. Students at the schools participated in national financial literacy contests. ATMs were placed in the schools. Josh indicated that the young people were actually training parents and adults concerning financial management, entrepreneurship and other economic matters.

They had five winners in the national contest and financial literacy scores were in the top percentile compared to average students nationwide. Teachers are buying into this educational process, and now it is part of many of the courses.

I tip my hat to Treynor State Bank, a small community bank, for investing in the future. Change starts bottom up, not top down. This is a refreshing American success story about the community bank in small town America that was willing to invest in the future instead of getting caught up in soap opera politics played out on cable television.

 

Editor’s note: Dave Kohl, Corn & Soybean Digest trends editor, is an ag economist specializing in business management and ag finance. He recently retired from Virginia Tech, but continues to conduct applied research and travel extensively in the U.S. and Canada, teaching ag and banking seminars and speaking to producer and agribusiness groups. He can be reached at sullylab@vt.edu.

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