Iowa banking associations team to educate kids about money

The Iowa Bankers Association and the Community Bankers of Iowa are supporting Money Smart Week programs that creatively connect children to the arts — and the art of saving.

The IBA-sponsored Money Smart Kid essay contest encouraged kids in grades 7-11 to submit a 400-word news essay describing the effects of a natural disaster on a family’s financial situation.

IBA members promoted the event by advertising in their lobbies and connecting with neighborhood schools.

Prizes included $1,000 for the first-place winner, $500 to each of the four finalists and $300 to each of five additional runners-up.

“We’re excited that we’re able to support more kids this year,” said the IBA’s Lori Ristau, vice president of marketing. The scholarships will support students working toward their future goals, Ristau said. “Ultimately, it allows kids to achieve their goals and bring their skills back to the community.”

The essay prompt focused on national disasters and was timely and practical following the national tide of events this past year, Ristau said. “It hit close to home after the hurricane and consequential flooding in Texas.”

The essays were evaluated based on how well the participants understood the financial responses and resources in the wake of national disasters, in addition to the essay’s creativity and writing quality. All finalists underwent a phone interview with a member of the judging panel. “It’s kind of like a job interview,” said Ristau, who was also an essay judge.

Ristau talked with finalists about their college plans, and the content and inspiration of their entries. “The best part of the process is hearing from the students about what they’ve learned,” she said.

CBI-affiliated banks joined the fun with the Money Smart Week Poster Contest. Elementary school children from grades two through six created posters that answered the question, “Why is it important to know about money?”  Participants had the chance to win a $600 Certificate of Deposit as a first-prize winner, or $300 as a second or third place winner.

The contest ran for the 19th consecutive year and involved around 30 Iowa community banks working with between 30 and 50 schools. A board of five judges spent three to four hours sifting through the more than 2,000 submissions — a mass of posters ornate with glitter, pipe-cleaners, coins and crayon-coloring piles.

“The judging is just a ball,” said Krissy Lee, CBI’s communications director. “Some of them are just hilarious, and one thing I’ve noticed is that some of the art ability is rather impressive, and gets better each year.”

Lee said the winner is chosen based on how well the poster depicts an understanding of financial concepts. The age of the student is also considered.

The contest is a great way to teach financial literacy in a community-oriented way, Lee said. “It’s a ground-up, grass-root approach, and it’s so fun for the kids.”

Some banks supplied the paper to the schools and included a local prize in addition to the prizes from CBI. “The community banks do a good job of expanding the project to interact with the communities,” Lee said.