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Bethel offers young people tools for building financial literacy

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NORTH NEWTON, KAN. – Kids want to learn about managing money. If recent action in the Kansas legislature is an indication, their parents think it’s important, too. So Bethel College would like to help.

Surveys show that teenagers are eager to learn more about money management but only 14 percent have taken a class on the topic, says Allison J. McFarland, professor of management and marketing and chair of the Department of Business and Economics at Bethel College.

“Young consumers now confront a bewildering array of financial decisions and products,” McFarland says. “Many of these products – payday loans, fast cash centers, ‘no-money-down’ mortgages, variable rate credit cards and ‘buy now, pay later’ marketing messages – are recent additions to our economy. Access to credit is easier than ever before and opportunities to borrow are plentiful. It is critical that we provide young people with the level of financial education needed to grasp both the benefits and pitfalls of their easier access to financial services.”

One way Bethel intends to do that is with a new camp being offered this summer in two parts, five half-day sessions over two weeks, one for 5th- and 6th-graders and one for 7th- and 8th-graders. These “Money$kills Camps” are scheduled for June 15-19 and June 22-26 from 9 a.m.-noon on the Bethel campus.

“We are eager to extend and apply the mission of Bethel College to financial literacy in Harvey County and the surrounding area,” McFarland says. “We will be using educational materials from the National Endowment for Financial Education, the U.S. Financial Literacy and Education Commission and other field-tested curriculum resources to provide relevant financial education to local youth for the purpose of increasing comprehension of and confidence toward fundamental financial concepts. Learning about money can be both educational and fun. The Money$kills camp will be both.”

The Money$kills Camps will cover topics such as setting financial goals, saving and investing, loans, credit, budgeting and charitable giving, and will include helping each camper create a plan for earning his/her own money.

Although this is a new camp for Bethel, money management curricula and programs geared to young people have been around for some time. Kansas State Treasurer Dennis McKinney’s office, citing financial education as a priority, has a list of resources available. Rep. Melody McCray-Miller from Park City and Sen. Jean Schodorf from Wichita are co-sponsoring a bill in the current legislative session that mandates teaching financial literacy in grades K-12 in Kansas public schools.

And with the current economic crisis in the United States, “the need for financial education has assumed greater urgency,” McFarland says.

“When we talk about financial literacy, we are usually referring to a set of skills that allow people to manage their money wisely and live within their means,” she notes. “Those who go through life making poor financial decisions will inevitably end up with a far lower standard of living than was otherwise achievable. Financial literacy at a young age can improve the chances of our children achieving their financial goals.

“While increased levels of financial literacy may not have prevented the current economic climate, any market economy will function more effectively if the population is financially literate,” McFarland says. “Although financial circumstances keep changing, the basic principles of economics do not.”

Information about Money$kills Camp is available by calling 316-284-5353, e-mailing moneyskillscamp@bethelks.edu, or stopping by one of the sponsoring Newton businesses, where it’s also possible to pick up an application for a scholarship to help cover the $75 camp fee. Current camp sponsors include First Bank of Newton, Midland National Bank and Central National Bank.

McFarland adds that Bethel’s business and economics faculty are also available to speak to school classes, community groups, church youth groups or other audiences on the importance of financial literacy. Private financial literacy camps can also be scheduled.

For more about Money$kills Camp or any of Bethel’s summer camps, including Summer Science Institute, Music Camp, Broadway at Bethel, Kauffman Museum’s Uncle Carl’s Camps and sports camps, go to www.bethelks.edu/summer. Applications for most camps are available for download through this link as well.

Bethel College is a four-year liberal arts college affiliated with Mennonite Church USA. Founded in 1887, it is the oldest Mennonite college in North America. Bethel is known for its academic excellence and was the only Kansas private college to be ranked in Forbes.com’s listing of “America’s Best Colleges” for 2008 and one of only two Kansas colleges listed in Colleges of Distinction 2008-09. For more information, see the Bethel Web site at www.bethelks.edu.

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