Professor's research study teaches students how to save

University of Hawaiʻi at Mānoa
Posted: Mar 9, 2010

Elementary school children from eight public schools throughout Hawai‘i have saved a total of over $37,000 in the Kids’ $avings Project, developed by Dr. Michael Cheang, a faculty member in the Family and Consumer Sciences Department of the College of Tropical Agriculture and Human Resources at UH Mānoa. 
Funded by the Bernice and Conrad von Hamm Fund, Group 70 Foundation, Hawai‘i Community Foundation, and the County of Hawai‘i, the project is designed to encourage low-income children and families to start savings accounts and build wealth throughout their lifetimes.
The Kids’ $avings Project is a research study that gives each child seed money to open a savings account with a local credit union. The credit union tellers collect the deposits from the children at school once a month.
Phase 1 of the study began with a partnership involving Kuhio Elementary, University of Hawai‘i Federal Credit Union, and Family and Consumer Sciences Department in CTAHR. In this initial phase, 67 elementary school children saved over $12,000 in the first school year.
In Phase 2, seven other schools were recruited—Ala Wai, Ka‘uluwela, Pauoa, Lunalilo, Ele‘ele (Kaua‘i), and Konawaena (Kealakekua, Big Island) elementary schools, and Kanu o ka ‘Āina New Century Public Charter School (Kamuela, Big Island).
“I can recycle and get money. I help my grandma do chores and I get some money. I save with Super Star Savings account. I like to save for my future,” said one young saver at Kuhio Elementary. “My future is school and a family. I saved more than $100 in 3 months."
Of the 479 children in the study, some have saved more than $1,000 apiece, while the average saving by school ranges from $6-187 per child.
Despite the challenges of current difficult economic and employment conditions, findings indicate many significant gains:
  • Kids learn to save and are becoming aware of their money behaviors.
  • Parents are grateful that a school-based savings effort has made it possible for their children to start saving money regularly.
  • Parents have become aware that they have the capacity to help their children to save, and are now more conscious about their own money management behaviors.
  • Teachers and schools see opportunities to link real life experiences to concepts in the classrooms.
Despite the increasing demands on the schools of No Child Left Behind requirements, DOE funding cuts, and staffing shortages, the school principals have been instrumental in fostering the success of the pilot savings program. Other current partners for the project include state Sen. Suzanne Chun-Oakland, Hawai‘i Alliance for Community-Based Economic Development, Hawai‘i Credit Union League, Hawai‘i USA Federal Credit Union, Hawai‘i First Federal Credit Union, Hawai‘i Community Federal Credit Union, ING Direct, Department of Commerce and Consumer Affairs (Office of the Securities Commissioner), and Hawai‘i Department of Education.
Plans for the next phase of this study are under way. Bank of Hawai‘i has provided funding to support one additional school to participate. The goal is to have the study’s findings guide the development of a children’s universal savings program for the State of Hawai‘i.