AEDI's vision for Children's Savings Account policy in the U.S. includes automatic account opening. We believe that every child deserves a savings account, and evidence from opt-in programs in the United States and around the world suggests that only universal enrollment structures can come close to that ideal. However, even automatically opening an account for every child does not guarantee real engagement with accounts. In many CSAs, this engagement--measured by frequency of deposits, participation in financial education, and uptake of incentives--has proved more elusive. Part of our CSA efforts, then, has focused on how to increase this dimension, believed to be significant for cultivating a college-saver identity, and the educational expectation effects that come with it, as well as for encouraging the kind of savings behavior that will lead to significant asset accumulation.
One of the ways in which we are exploring interventions to support engagement is through investigating the effects of financial education on children's and parents' participation in and enthusiasm for CSAs. Toward this end, AEDI is excited to announce the development of a new financial education curriculum--¢hoice$ and ¢hance$--designed to complement Children's Savings Account interventions. While most financial education curriula focus on consumer decisions, ¢hoice$ and ¢hance$ helps children and parents understand how savings supports the realization of their goals and how to overcome obstacles to their savings success. It's a CSA-strengthening curriculum, and we think it might help on the critical engagement front.
The curriculum, developed by Angela Ward and Cynthia Franklin of the University of Texas at Austin in partnership with the Center on Assets, Education, and Inclusion, features seven lessons, each of which is accompanied by a take-home module for parents. ¢hoice$ and ¢hance$ builds on Solution-Focused Brief Therapy principles to cultivate a saver identity among children. Developed for children around the third grade, ¢hoice$ and ¢hance$ begins with exploration of children's values and beliefs about money and how it works. It explains compounding and the mechanisms through which saving money can help children achieve their larger goals. It is in this dimension, supporting children's realization of how money can help them shape their futures to align with their visions and aspirations, that ¢hoice$ and ¢hance$ distinguishes itself. Here, as children are saving in their CSAs, they are growing not only in their knowledge of concrete financial terms and concepts, but also in their confidence that they will be able to achieve their financial objectives, and that saving will be a behavior that makes that more likely.
AEDI has plans to pilot ¢hoice$ and ¢hance$ in CSA programs in different parts of the country, to further refine the curriculum and expand the evidence base regarding the effects of integrating financial education into a children's savings effort. We will be evaluating the initiative and its effects within a larger CSA initiative.
More information about ¢hoice$ and ¢hance$ is available on AEDI's Children's Savings Account page, or by contacting AEDI directly. We are eager for feedback from those who have had a chance to review the curriculum, and we look forward to a conversation about what you would most like to see in a financial education program to complement your CSA, and about how we can best support savings success within CSA initiatives.