Public Library of Cincinnati and Hamilton County

Parents tired of teens asking for an advance on their allowance or expecting them to pay for the latest electronics enrolled their kids in a unique program called Money: Making, Saving, and Spending for Teens. Project Principal Jennifer Korn said she heard several times, ”Yeah, my mom made me sign up, and I thought it was going to be dumb, but it was really fun.”

The library’s Teen Advisory Board is a vital part of this successful program. Members are involved in marketing and in content review. Because teens are heavy users of Twitter and Tumbler, they actively promote programs to their peers, and they also share opinions and suggestions about the project. Board members gave feedback on the planned topics and activities before the program was finalized for the community.

The library partnered with Extension staff from Ohio State University and hosted a series of eight, four-hour workshops on financial topics. The sessions were interactive and featured individual and group learning plus some gaming. Teens were required to develop a budget, use a laptop to make a spreadsheet and encouraged to explore occupational websites. There was a break for pizza, but first they had to demonstrate they knew how to write a check to enjoy it.

Imagining Your Future Self

Budget Bonanza was the culminating event for this workshop series, which reached nearly 500 teens. The simulation required each teen to assume the persona of a 27-year-old adult with a full-time job and family. Teens received an income and visited 14 stations (housing, transportation, groceries, clothing, communication, child care, credit and debt, student loans, life and medical insurance, retirement fund, entertainment, charitable giving, savings, and chance) staffed by community volunteers. At each station, the teens had to make spending decisions that fit within their budgets.

Survey Results

Among all the activity choices, post-participation survey results showed that teens most enjoyed creating and maintaining a spending plan, followed by avoiding scams, using credit cards and loans responsibly, and the impact of education on income and job stability. A majority of Budget Bonanza participants said the credit card debt and student loan stations were the most informative, because they demonstrated how quickly and dramatically compound interest raises debt amounts.

Lessons Learned

• “The financial literacy programs we developed for our teens have shown us the great need for this type of program. This grant armed us with some great tools to move forward with regular financial programming for teens, and it has also given us new ideas for adult and family-oriented financial literacy programming,” said Korn.

• “The Budget Bonanza was so popular, it will now be an annual event during the summer. We also plan to incorporate financial themes into the summer learning programs and to coincide with school breaks,” added Korn


Looking to take your library’s financial literacy efforts to the next level? Connect with ALA’s Financial Literacy Interest Group.