Real Financial Education

Real Financial Education

Just because I am an Ex-Banker it does not mean that I hate banking or bankers. I spent some of the best years of my life in banking and some of my best friends are bankers. (I love that I got to say that. LOL.)  However, I am also aware of some things related to politics, profits, regulation, etc. that I did not agree with or that did not align with my ethics or sense of purpose. One of those things is Financial Literacy or Financial Education. Lately, more banks are offering Financial Education but I think they may have some ulterior motives.

I worked for a bank that offered Financial Education. The classes were offered to bank customers, usually to have Non-Sufficient Funds (NSF) Fees reversed, and to community organizations. It is understandable that offering Financial Education is a good source of PR for banks. They usually track the attendance and amount of hours courses are offered, but I suggest that they track the results and behaviors of attendees after courses are offered.

I encountered a situation where a teenager with a checking account came to the branch to talk to me about reversing some of her NSF Fees waived. She had gotten 11 NSF Fees in less than one week. That is over $300 in fees! Her account was less than two months old, so I asked her if she understood how Overdrafts and NSF Fees work. This is explained to everyone who opens a checking account, but I fear that many people (especially young people) just nod their heads instead of asking questions when they do not understand what is being talked about. She said that she did not know that she would get charged more than one NSF Fee per day even if she overdrew her account more than once a day. I explained that she is charged a fee for each item that overdraws her account. She still had a puzzled look on her face. I felt sorry for her, more a sense of compassion. It was obvious that she did not understand how to use a checking account, and I did not want her to have to pay all of the fees. However, I did not just want to reverse some of the fees only to have her to repeat the same behavior. I could have had her take an online course or one taught by me. I opted to have her take the class with me to make sure she learned the concepts.

The following week we sat down together as I taught her the basics of a checking account, including debit card management and recording transactions. At the completion of the course she said she learned a lot about checking accounts, more than she learned in school. I could tell that she was a smart young lady. She just had never been taught how to manage her money and/or how to use a checking account. She left with a sense of confidence that was priceless. I felt assured that I would not be seeing her again regarding the same issue. I ended up reversing 6 of the 11 NSF Fees. I did not think about the money the bank was losing, because I knew that this young lady had just received some Real Financial Education and would never be the same again. All the best!

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