Michael Cheang has turned $25 into a savings adventure and valuable lesson for a thousand Hawaiʻi children.
“Research shows that those who learn to save as children tend to be better at managing their finances in their adult years,” says Cheang, an assistant professor of family and consumer sciences in the University of Hawaiʻi at Mānoa College of Tropical Agriculture and Human Resources.
He began his Kids Savings program in September 2008 with a grant from the Hawaiʻi Community Foundation that provided $25 to each participating child to open a savings account. It started with one school on Oʻahu and has grown to 17 public elementary schools, including 11 on the neighbor islands.
“It is quite phenomenal to think that about 1,000 kids, mostly from low income families, have been able to save about $106,000 since we began,” he marvels.
The University of Hawaiʻi Federal Credit Union was the first institution to partner with Cheang. Tellers set up in the cafeteria at participating schools each month to handle transactions.
“It’s very encouraging to see the children develop savings habits that will positively impact their financial future,” says Branch Operations Manager AshLee Mahelona, impressed by the students’ enthusiasm.
Families who hadn’t thought of saving or didn’t believe they could afford it are now regular savers, and appreciative parents have opened their own accounts, Cheang adds. “They report how their kids are now making smart money choices and how it has improved their family dynamics.”