COMMENTARY: Making a difference

IBC Bank CEOs Adrian and Al Villarreal of McAllen and Brownsville, respectively. (Courtesy photos)

BY ADRIAN VILLARREAL AND AL VILLARREAL | SPECIAL TO THE MONITOR

The month of July is designated as Make a Difference to Children Month in an effort to acknowledge children’s immediate needs and future aspirations. It is also a time to recognize the great work that our parents, teachers, businesses and civic communities are doing to help children around the Rio Grande Valley who frequently face a lack of access to health care, food and other basic necessities. Our youth deserve to wake up each day knowing that their dreams are within reach. While we adults have a responsibility to care for children every day of every month, unfortunately too many kids continue to fall through the cracks. In a recent ranking published by WalletHub of the most financially literate states in America, Texas was ranked No. 25.

We understand that our children are the future, which is why IBC Bank partnered with our RGV school districts and created the Minitropolis program in 1996. This program was created as a tool to help our teachers impart the importance of financial literacy at a young age.

Minitropolis mirrors a fully functioning mini-city and replicates an actual community for students in elementary schools. This program offers an exciting, hands-on learning tool that allows teachers to apply classroom-learned concepts to real-life scenarios such as purchasing groceries, establishing recycling centers and operating a community bank. The goal is for students to master the basics of financial literacy, understand the importance of saving money and learn leadership skills that will help them as adults.

At IBC Bank, we believe we have an obligation to ensure that the communities we serve have access to financial literacy tools and resources, so that all generations have equal opportunities and are equipped with adequate skills to lead productive lives.

Financial literacy is grounded in the knowledge and understanding of fundamental financial concepts such as learning how to save, managing a budget and building a good credit history. A study by Cambridge University found that children’s money habits are formed by the time they are 7 years old, so it is critical to incorporate money management knowledge and skills into a child’s life lessons early and often.

There is no doubt that engaging families in the education of their children can be an effective practice for boosting student achievement and school success. At IBC Bank, we provide parents with opportunities to learn about financial literacy and ways to incorporate these at home. Throughout the year, IBC Bank hosts a variety of financial literacy classes across the Rio Grande Valley for children and their parents. This way, parents and children can focus, learn and participate together.

In honor of National Make a Difference to Children Month, here are a few ways to begin building a solid financial foundation for children at home, not just in the month of July, but all year round:

• Pay a salary, not an allowance. This concept encourages the idea that money is earned, not given freely. Paying a “wage” for chores and “taxing” earnings will prepare them early on for what to expect in adulthood.

• Encourage savings. Summer is the perfect time for kids to earn money, whether mowing lawns, walking dogs or babysitting. Parents should invite their children to accompany them to the bank to deposit their earnings into a savings account. The first-hand experience can be extremely powerful.

• Pay the bills. Explain the costs of real goods and services by involving children in monthly bill payments like cable, internet, electricity or water.

Small changes go a long way. There is an important role we all can play by promoting and helping children’s long-term success. At IBC Bank we are committed to “Do More” in the communities we serve, starting with our children.

Adrian Villarreal is president and CEO of IBC Bank-McAllen, and his twin brother Al Villarreal is president and CEO of IBC Bank-Brownsville.