If offered an opportunity to save money via a formal financial education program, will young people participate in the programming and open a savings account? That was the key research question motivating this pilot study, which was implemented among youth aged 11 to 15 years who self-identified as American Indian. This pilot study was conducted in partnership with a local financial institution, a middle school (Grades 6, 7, and 8), and an Indian education program. It investigated the uptake of savings accounts as tools for youth development and financial inclusion among American Indians in Sand Springs, Oklahoma. Two staff members from the local bank presented a financial education program and hands-on learning experience about the importance of saving and the process of opening a savings account. The goal of the program was to increase awareness among American Indian middle-school students about the importance of saving and investing. The program sought to provide one step toward moving individuals from financial stress to financial independence. Preprogram questionnaires were utilized to gain a better understanding of the participants’ habits and existing knowledge about the importance of saving, investing, and preparing for college. Postprogram questionnaires were utilized to find out what students learned and whether they opened savings accounts.
Data were collected on savings account uptake 1 month, 4 months, and approximately 12 months after program participation. Results show that, 1 month after the program, 32% of participants had opened a savings account with the bank. Four months after the program was delivered, all 19 participants still had their accounts open. Approximately 12 months after the program, 17 participants still had active savings accounts open and four had added money to their savings accounts. Only two withdrew all funds from their accounts.
These results sharpen understanding about the relationship between formal banking services and American Indian youth. The findings are used to identify leverage points at which action can be taken to support early financial education and financial capability with middle-school-level students.
Tovar, Molly Ed.D and Manshack, Lindsey MPH, "Financial Capabilities in Indian Country" (2018). Buder Center for American Indian Studies Research. 2.