Bank counting on kids

Finances: Students at Elmer A. Wolfe Elementary in Union Bridge are learning about the benefits of saving money.


Sure, Brandon Eckard plans to be the next Michael Jordan when he grows up. But he wants to go to college before joining the NBA -- in case he has to fall back on being a lawyer or businessman -- and if he doesn't get a basketball scholarship, that means hefty tuition payments.

That's why he's saving now. Brandon, a 9-year-old at Elmer A. Wolfe Elementary in Union Bridge, won a fourth-grade essay contest yesterday on the importance of saving money.

"Another reason why I should save for the future is because I need to buy a house and pay taxes," he wrote in his essay. "If I don't I would live on the streets or be very poor."

The contest, whose winners were announced during an assembly in the cafeteria, was sponsored by Carroll County Bank & Trust. It fell just before the American Bankers Association's National Teach Children to Save Day, which is today.

Fourth- and fifth-graders participated in the contest, and the two winning essays earned $50 savings bonds. The second-place essays earned $15 checks, and third place brought $10 checks.

Carroll County Bank & Trust, based in Westminster, announced in January that it would be acquired by BB&T Corp. of Winston-Salem, N.C., in July.

Community outreach efforts such as the essay contest won't be affected by the acquisition, Michael L. Oster, president and chief executive officer, said yesterday.

"That's one of the reasons we selected BB&T as a merger partner," Oster said. "They do approach banking as community banking and make a big commitment to the community."

The bank runs a mini-banking operation in the school every Monday morning at which 188 students have accounts.

The bank oversees similar programs at eight other schools in the county, with balances ranging from $1 to $1,500.

"It teaches children that it's important to save money," said Suzanne Stultz, Wolfe's activity coordinator. "We emphasize that if they put money in the bank it will earn interest, and if it's at home in a drawer they get nothing in return."

Fifth-graders take turns being tellers, with Stultz and bank employees overseeing the transactions and helping the young tellers and customers fill out deposit tickets. The money is then put into the real bank, where it earns 2 percent interest, and children must have a parent's permission to withdraw it. Some children put in a dollar or five every week. Others put in a dime or a quarter every now and then.

Ten-year-old Brittney Nicholson said she likes being a teller because she gets to learn how to count money and to see that lots of her peers are saving. She has an account at the school because saving money makes sense, she said.

"So you can do things when you're older," she said, "Like buy an expensive car or go to a good school or college."

Lisa Monthley, who oversees the school's savings program for Carroll Bank & Trust, said she's been surprised by some children's financial acumen.

"One little boy said he was saving for a CD, and I asked him who his favorite musical group was and he said, `No, Miss Lisa, I mean a certificate of deposit,' " she said. "It amazes me how educated kids are. They get so excited."

Christina McNemar, who won the fifth-graders' essay contest, doesn't have a savings account through the school, but she does have a college account that her grandparents started.

She'll use that money to earn her degree, get a good job and put half her salary into savings.

"With that much saved after every paycheck, I should be able to retire at age 45," she wrote. "When I retire, I would like to help people and ride horses. Doing yard work for elderly people because they can't do it very well, this would make me happy."

Pub Date: 4/20/99

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