Now a 9-year-old, fourth-grade student at Propel Homestead, Kaitlyn already has saved more than $2,000 toward her college education.
Fund My Future, an innovative program launched by Propel public charter schools in 2013 with the goal of teaching kids the importance of saving money for the future, recently expanded to include all kids in Allegheny County.
According to a 2013 study by the Assets and Education Initiatives, kids with savings accounts are three times more likely to attend college and four times more likely to graduate.
“When we first learned of Fund My Future, we jumped at the opportunity to start a savings program for Kaitlyn to go to college,” says her mom, Yvette Giles. “We knew that since we live in the city of Duquesne, we would not be able to take part in the Pittsburgh Promise – which is only for families that live in the city of Pittsburgh. So, we decided that this was a great way to save money for Kaitlyn’s college tuition.”
Fund My Future not only teaches children the value of savings at a very early age; the program also offers incentives and prizes throughout the year.
“They have raffles and drawings where the students receive everything from Kennywood tickets to Dave and Busters gift cards to $5,000 to add to their account,” Yvette says. “The best part for me is, because of the way Propel has set up the children’s savings accounts with the bank, we are unable to touch the funds until she graduates high school. This eliminates any ideas of parents borrowing from it on a rainy day.”
To participate in Fund My Future, any adult can sign into the Fund My Future portal and provide the name of each child. To be eligible for various raffle prizes, parents must then link the bank or credit union account being used as the vehicle for long-term savings to the child’s name in the Fund My Future portal. There is a chance to win prizes for every dollar deposited.
At Kaitlyn’s school, Thursdays are Fund My Future days.
“Kaitlyn takes her money to school in her Fund My Future envelope with her name and account number on it and gives it to the administrator who makes the deposits into the bank,” her mom says. “We started off four years ago giving her $1 or $2 a week. Then we increased it to $5 and then to $10. As we watched her statements, we really began to see the growth.”
The Giles family is now committed to saving $20 a week.
When Kaitlyn receives money for Christmas or her birthday, she goes to the bank to make the deposits herself and request a copy of her balance.
“She gets so super excited every time she sees how much she has saved,” says Yvette, who arranged with her employer to have $10 from her paycheck directly deposited into her daughter’s Fund My Future savings account.
Toni Corinealdi, Fund My Future program manager, says there are additional benefits to families besides teaching children the importance of saving.
“It can build confidence through regular interaction with bank tellers, allowing children to be exposed to the practice of filling out deposit slips, making deposits and learning banking terminology so that when they do get their first job, this practice won’t be foreign to them,” she says.
Another plus: Fund My Future participation can start families talking to each other about saving.
Since the program began in Propel charter schools in 2013, more than 2,000 Fund My Future savings accounts have been opened. Leaders hope to grow the program by having at least 1,000 more accounts opened by families in 2018.
“We want Allegheny County to be known as a region of great opportunity, and part of that is ensuring that all of the county’s children have a chance to have bright futures,” said Allegheny County Executive Rich Fitzgerald at the launch of the countywide expansion of the Fund My Future program. “We’re thrilled to see this program expand to the entire county and look forward to its continued growth as more and more families begin saving for their children’s future.”