Category Archives: Uncategorized

Availa Kares Gets Kids Started on Saving for College … in Kindergarten

Availa Bank, headquartered in Carroll, recently provided funds for a program to help kindergartners in Hamilton County save for college. The program, called Availa Kares, provides area kindergarteners with a 529 college savings account already loaded with $100 and opportunities to add more.

Statistics show that students with a college savings account are seven times more likely to attend college than those who don’t have an account. Through this program, the Financial Literacy Council of Greater Hamilton County and Availa Bank are giving every student in the county a chance to further their education beyond high school while also teaching them about the importance of saving.

Availa Kares is a great example of how banks in Iowa are making extraordinary efforts to promoting financial literacy while also giving back to their communities.

Watch the video above to learn more.


Iowa High School Student Hope Dohlman Named 2018 Money Smart Kid

5-11 Money Smart Kid

Pictured, from left, 2018 Money Smart Kid Hope Dohlman, Emily Dohlman-Govern (CUSB Bank, Cresco) and Lori Ristau (Iowa Bankers Association).

Hope Dohlman, an eleventh-grader at Crestwood High School, has won the statewide financial literacy essay contest for Money Smart Week Iowa and has been named Iowa’s 2018 Money Smart Kid. Dohlman also received $1,000 from the Iowa Bankers Association to put towards her college education.

“Knowing how natural disasters can affect your financial health and vice versa, is an important aspect of financial education, and it is exciting to see these students learn about that relationship through this essay contest,” said Lori Ristau, vice president of marketing and communications at the Iowa Bankers Association. “Iowa banks are committed to helping Iowans reach their financial goals, and providing access to financial education resources through programs like the Money Smart Week Kid essay contest is just one of the many ways banks are helping their communities. We are pleased to sponsor this fun and educational opportunity for Iowa students on behalf of our member banks.”

Approximately 45 students from across the state participated in the essay contest. To be eligible, students had to be in grades seventh through eleventh and submit a 400-word essay. The essay asked students to write a brief newspaper article describing the potential devastating effects of a natural disaster on a family’s financial situation. Students were also asked to include tips and resources for readers to help prepare them for a potential future unexpected crisis.

The top five essay finalists also participated in an interview with contest judges. From those finalists, Hope Dohlman was selected to be the 2018 Money Smart Kid.

“To be better prepared, all families should establish an emergency savings program,” Dohlman stated in her award-winning essay about a hypothetical vehicle accident during a snowstorm. “By having these emergency funds set aside, families can be better prepared to pay the unexpected medical bills and also fund a small portion of the repair or replacement of their vehicle.”

In addition to Dohlman, the top ten essay finalists were recognized and awarded money to put toward their college savings funds. Individuals receiving $500 towards their college savings include: Alexander Romig (Grimes), Brayan Silva (Postville), Caleb Kehrli (Manchester), and Kyra Troendle (Madrid). Students awarded $300 toward their college savings fund include: Emma Ehlers (Edgewood), Laura Paul (Johnston), Thea Larsson (Grinnell), Tristan Stubblefield (Marengo), and Tristan Weers (Anamosa).

More information about Money Smart Week is available at

About Money Smart Week
Money Smart Week Iowa 2018 is an economic outreach program from the Federal Reserve Bank of Chicago. Throughout Money Smart Week, community groups, financial institutions, government agencies, educational organizations and financial experts from across the state host dozens of free educational events to help Iowans of all ages learn to better manage their personal finances.

More than 200 partnering organizations currently participate in Money Smart Week. If your organization is interested in participating, contact Bob Mantell at

F&M Bank & Trust Kids Bank Celebrates 20th Anniversary

IMG_0467Farmers & Merchants Bank & Trust in Burlington has been operating its Kids Bank since 1977. In April 2018, the Kids Bank will celebrate its 20th anniversary – fitting that the occasion comes during National Financial Literacy Month.

The Kids Bank and Teen Bank programs teach local students the concept of saving money by stressing that it is “never too late, nor ever too early” to begin. The important life skills of responsibility and discipline are also taught. Teaching children to save money is not just about banking. Teaching children to save is about building character, learning responsibility, developing skills and practicing a discipline that can be applied to real life situations.

As the F&M Financial Literacy programs have grown, one thing has remained the same: F&M Bank & Trust Kids & Teen Banks are banks for kids, run by kids. When students enter kindergarten, they are eligible to open accounts with F&M Kids Bank. As the students progress in age, they qualify to hold jobs as tellers, bookkeepers and serve on the board of directors. After graduating into middle school, F&M Kids Bank clients are able to join the next phase of the financial literacy program, where they star to learn about electronic banking. Skills are developed that will help them to navigate today’s banking system.

The F&M Kids and Teen Banks are in every elementary and middle school in Burlington and West Burlington. There are eight elementary and four middle school banks with deposits totaling more than $600,000.

Learn more about F&M Bank & Trust’s Kids Bank and Teen Bank here.


April is Financial Literacy Month

For the next generation to be financially responsible, they must be financially literate. With April being National Financial Literacy Month, it’s a good time to take a look at the financial issues facing today’s youth. Following are some statistics from the National Financial Education Council:

  • 57 percent of college graduates plan to move back in with their parents (MonsterTrak).
  • 62 percent of college graduates expect to leave school with an average $27,236 in student debt (The Student Monitor).
  • 39 percent of American adults have ZERO non-retirement savings (National Foundation for Credit Counseling [NFCC]).
  • More than 19 percent of American households have college debt (Pew Research Center).
  • More than half of adults (56 percent) do not have a budget (NFCC).
  • 76 percent of college students wish they had more help to prepare for their financial futures (KeyBank).

Looking at these statistics, some trends emerge. First, college education is expensive. This is nothing new, but to achieve a certain level of financial standing, a college diploma is necessary.

The fact that 39 percent of American adults have no retirement savings is scary. As new people enter the workforce, it is important for them to immediately and automatically start contributing to a retirement plan.

The idea that more than half of adults do not have a budget is painful. A budget is a map to help you through your financial journey. It allows you to live within your means while also saving for your future.

Registration for ABA’s 2018 Financial Education Programs Now Open

The American Bankers Association (ABA) Foundation hosts several financial education programs that banks can participate in free of charge. They include:

  • Get Smart About Credit – A national campaign to raise awareness among young people about the importance of using credit wisely.
  • Lights, Camera, Save! – A contest in which teens create videos to educate themselves and peers about the value of saving and using money wisely.
  • Safe Banking for Seniors – A national campaign that helps older customers and their financial caregivers understand and prevent fraud and financial abuse.
  • Teach Children to Save – A national program that aims to help young people develop a lifelong savings habit.

Click the links above to learn more about each program or to register.

Iowa author’s book to help beginners navigate personal finances

Spreading financial education is an important goal for Iowa banks. Many banks throughout the state spend great amounts of time visiting classrooms and teaching children the benefits of financial responsibility.

Financial responsibility is a topic that is also important to Joey Beech, the executive director of the Ankeny Economic Development Corporation. After helping her daughter understand how to best manage her finances after accepting her first job out of college, she decided to create a resource that will help others starting out do the same thing. It’s called A Girl’s Guide to Personal Finances.

“[My daughter] had a lot of really good questions, and as I helped her through all of that – everything from understanding what benefits to select to affording an apartment to saving for grad school –I told my husband, ‘Who’s helping all of her other friends who may not have parents who are comfortable with these conversations or who may not have background in it?’”

Beech started searching for resources to see what was available and found that there weren’t a lot of materials that explain the basics of saving.

“There’s a lot out there for those who already have money or have money to invest or who have accumulated wealth,” Beech said. “And then there’s a lot of books out there for how to get out of messes you’ve made, how to get out of debt, how to file bankruptcy, but there’s not much of anything out there on how to avoid problems [when you are just starting out] so you become the person who has the money to invest and do things with.”

That’s where Beech’s book comes in. It provides insight into the basics of life finances, including budgeting, credit, insurance, savings, investing, compound interest, and simple interest and loans.

What makes Beech’s book unique, however, is that it does not read like a textbook. Instead, it focuses on Beech’s personal experience.

“Because my intended audience was young, I wanted to make it interesting,” Beech said. “I don’t think you can make it interesting unless you make it personal. To make something a really personal example, especially something like finance, I felt like I had to target a specific audience, and for obvious reasons – my daughter, myself, my mother – that drove me to start with the girls.”

One of the key mistakes that Beech hopes her book will help people avoid is accumulating too much debt. She says that it can be too easy to get a loan, and it can be too easy to get approved for more than what is needed, which she says can be very dangerous. She cites student loans as one example.

“As a society, we say we’ll give you everything you need so you can go out and get a degree even if it takes five or six years,” Beech said. “Well, that might not be a good decision. It is important to understand before you get into it what you’re going to have to do and what it’s going to cost you in the long term.”

Overall, Beech hopes her book will help young people gain the confidence they need to manage their finances wisely. She says her book explores core concepts that have gone untapped due to technological advances. She points to balancing a checkbook as one of the core concepts that doesn’t exist for the next generation. She hopes her book will help young people understand the importance of such concepts.

“I think we will have a stronger society if we do that,” Beech said. “Everything we do in our society is impacted in some way by our financial standing. If we have a good handle on our own finances, we look at things better and we have a better understanding of life; we have less worry; we have less drive to do things we might regret.”