Preschoolers learn about financial planning

Published 8:32 pm Monday, November 15, 2010

It’s never too early to teach children about financial responsibility.

In three Suffolk Public Schools, students in the Early Start program are learning about saving early thanks to “Thrive by Five,” a United Way of South Hampton Roads program.

“Of all the financial programs I know of, teaching preschool-aged children is most vital,” said Lori Irwin, director of Live$mart. “This is the time in their lives that they’re establishing their value systems. Most financial decisions are not mathematical, they’re based on impulses or values espoused. We want to help guide them through a sound value system.”

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The program is part of the three-pronged Live$mart initiative by United Way.

In addition to education through schools, local housing authorities and organizations, the program helps provide financial stability for families by providing them access to free tax preparation and connecting them with applicable tax credits and other resources.

“Thrive by Five” is part of the education component of the initiative to help parents engage children at the point of character development with activities that train positive financial behavior. It was developed by the Cooperative Extension for Credit Union National Association and includes eight free lessons designed for parents to implement with their young children.

In Suffolk, the eight lessons are provided to parents and their students at Hillpoint, Kilby Shores and Nansemond Parkway elementary schools. Suffolk’s schools are the first in the area to take advantage of the program, according to Irwin.

There are 450 families that have access to the program between the three schools. Approximately 125 have taken advantage of it.

The next class offered will include a holiday financial planning tool kit.

“We want to help families prepare and get through the holidays by minimizing debt and get ahead of the new year,” Irwin said. “We see many low-income families incurring debt and overspending during the holidays. We have materials to help them reduce costs of meal planning, gifts and decorations.”

Visit to access the toolkit online or call Irwin at 853-8500 extension 112 for more information.