Charles Schwab Asks Teens to Take Savings Pledge, Make Change Count

See-through piggy bank loaded with changeAccording to a report from Packaged Facts, kids between the ages of 12 and 17 are expected to spend more than $200 billion in 2011 -- the folks at financial investment firm Charles Schwab, would like to see a chunk of that change pledged to savings. Literally.

In an effort to extend its MoneyWise financial literacy program, San Francisco, Calif.,-based Charles Schwab Foundation is encouraging teens to log on to its website to take part in the (free) Make Change Count Pledge, and commit to four personal steps: save money; spend wisely; plan for college; and share what they learn."Our goal is to empower teens with the knowledge and skills to make smart financial decisions throughout life," said Carrie Schwab-Pomerantz, president of Charles Schwab Foundation. "We know that teens have the ability to strongly influence other people in their lives, so it's our hope that they will take the Make Change Count pledge as a first step on the path to lifelong financial well-being for themselves, and for the benefit of their friends and families as well."

A key part of the program is helping teens understand the importance of differentiating between "wants" and "needs." Schwab-Pomerantz admits the definition is not always black and white. "The interesting part of the discussion concerns the more gray areas -- for example, in some families a cell phone (for a teen) may be a want, but in others, it's a need. The key is to discuss purchase decisions in the context of your family, weighing short-term gratification against long-term goals."

Teen Tamara Johnson, a Money Matters scholarship winner and National Ambassador for the Money Matters: Make it Count program, told WalletPop that learning to save money changed her life. "When I first began participating in the Money Matters program, I was working at the time and getting my paycheck every two weeks, but I soon realized that the money I was making could be used for a greater purpose instead of the new shoes I wanted ... The money I saved through my high school career is now helping me as a college freshman."

Hopefully, it's a lesson that catches on. Schwab-Pomerantz told WalletPop the secret to staying motivated on a savings plan is to, "keep your eye on the end goal, and in the meantime make it as real as possible. For example, if college is the goal, visiting college campuses or even something as simple as posting photos of various colleges or universities can be motivating. When a goal is abstract, it's too hard to hold dear."

Johnson said, "I believe many adults don't realize how many teenagers there are who actually want to learn about financial literacy. I know as my friends and I grew up, we all wanted to learn how to plan for college and use our money wisely. The only problem was we didn't know where to go to get the resources."

The Charles Schwab Foundation wants to change that. In addition to its efforts to bring financial literacy into partnerships with the Boys and Girls Clubs of America, as well as lobbying with the Jump$tart Coalition to include finance management within the public school curriculum, the organization has created a website featuring savings calculators, budgeting plans, financial aid information and interactive games.

"Teens have their entire lives ahead of them," said Schwab-Pomerantz, "Although we are dedicated to helping people of all ages achieve financial well-being, we believe that helping future generations carries special promise ... We also know that the financial world has become extraordinarily complex -- so it is more essential than ever for teens to become astute consumers of financial products and smart decision-makers."

Schwab-Pomerantz told WalletPop the foundation hopes at least 50,000 teens will log on and take the pledge by the time the program finishes at the end of March 2011. "We plan to take the next five months to encourage teens to take the pledge," said Schwab-Pomerantz, "and will
announce the results in April to coincide with National Financial Literacy Month."

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