In a Nutshell: BOK Financial has an impressive history of growth and expansion as a financial partner for consumers and businesses. Through its Youth Banking initiative, the bank provides products and services to help parents move their teens forward financially. Parents can oversee Student Checking and Youth Savings accounts as their teens build skills. The bank offers family finance tools and resources with unique skill-building tips. It works in communities across its service footprint to challenge young people to take positive steps toward creative financial competency and leadership.
When Leasa Melton took her first steps toward a career in banking through a program offered at her high school in the 1990s, financial education was primarily a subject learned at home.
Parents taught children to balance a checkbook, contribute to a savings account, and sometimes even manage credit. You may have used a spreadsheet for budgeting, but more likely you used pencil and paper. Retirement planning was for adults.
Digital transformation has made modern banking a much more diverse and complex industry. People budget and transact through apps and find few reasons to visit bank branches. A higher portion of the teen population can access credit, and far fewer companies provide a secure retirement through pensions.
Family life is more complex too, with many parents ceding responsibility for financial education to schools. But teaching the obsolete skill of balancing a checkbook still sometimes takes center stage in class.
In short, there’s more access and choice but little practical guidance in the modern financial marketplace. As a result, financial missteps can be more damaging than ever.
That’s why it’s vital for banks to carry some of the responsibility. Today, Melton is VP and Manager of Product Strategy at BOK Financial, a bank with a leading presence in Texas, Oklahoma, and neighboring states and an asset value of more than $50 billion. BOK’s youth banking initiative combines targeted products and services with family finance articles and tools to help teens assert more control over their futures.
Melton has college-age children and older, so BOK Financial’s emphasis on youth banking carries personal importance. Melton also helps young people in the community build financial skills as a Junior Achievement volunteer.
“Helping my kids transition into adulthood and working with students through Junior Achievement lets me see the light bulbs go off in young minds,” Melton said.
Youth Banking Accounts Provide Real-World Experience
Melton has served on the Junior Achievement Investor Challenge team for three years and enjoys volunteering through the United Way. She said BOK’s Youth Banking products, including its Youth Savings account and Student Checking account, are a great starting point for creating financially literate teens.
As the Youth Banking page on the BOK Financial website attests, either account “can serve as a lasting gift, offering the reassurance that your child’s future financial security is off to an incredible start.”
Both feature low opening deposits with no monthly service fees and online statements. All youth from up to age 18 are eligible.
Convenient online and mobile account access to BOK’s Student Checking account is free. Accounts have a free Visa debit card compatible with all mainstream digital payment services. There are no overdraft fees in case of accidental account overdraws. The minimum deposit is $25.
Student Checking Accounts also offer access to QuickSave, BOK’s tool that allows users to transfer a set amount of money to savings every time they transact with the debit card.
During the first three months after QuickSave enrollment, BOK matches 100% of QuickSave transfers. After that, the bank matches 5% of transfers. Within a few weeks after each anniversary date in the program, those matching funds automatically enter the user’s savings account.
Youth Savings accounts are available for a deposit as low as $5. With free online and mobile access, users over 13 can deposit checks, transfer funds, and view their transaction history.
Together, these accounts are essential tools for teaching children real-world skills for budgeting, saving, and using credit wisely.
“Our Youth Banking accounts give everyone an easy entry point,” Melton said. “They allow for parents to have oversight and teach their children about the different features and how bank accounts work.”
Family Finance Resources Engage Parents and Teens
BOK Financial has always placed a high priority on educating parents and teens about sound money management. Melton said that commitment is even stronger today than in the past, owing to the bank’s renewed emphasis on community financial literacy.
“BOK Financial continues to be intentional in our efforts toward educating parents and teens,” Melton said. “We’ve all seen the low rates of financial literacy across the country, and we want to live up to our responsibility to share insights, especially with our younger audience.”
The Youth Banking page highlights articles from The Statement, BOK Financial’s community news site, which addresses various money and business topics, offers perspectives on financial and economic issues, and highlights the bank’s community empowerment efforts.
Youth-oriented content on the Youth Banking page refreshes frequently, but articles are likely to tackle topics that are timely and relevant to young readers. Those include fraud protection, investment fundamentals, debt management, benefiting financially from taking a first job, teaching children about money, and the benefits of financial literacy.
“We’re really focused on creating new content, populating that with new tips for parents and teens,” Melton said. “There’s a little something in there for everybody.”
The Youth Banking page also presents helpful family finance resources. One is a questionnaire for parents to learn not how to teach their kids about money but why. The quiz invites parents to reflect on their financial history, identify their financial goals and core values, understand how money affects their decision-making, and define financial security.
There’s also a teen budget worksheet that allows parents and teens to build a financial plan in a handy analog format perfect for working together. A quiz parents can take to identify their financial literacy gaps helps prepare them to better instruct their children.
“We’re just giving parents talking points and ideas about bringing up the conversation and starting young,” Melton said.
Building the Belief That Financial Fitness Starts at Home
As a parent and Junior Achievement volunteer, Melton regards BOK Financial’s commitment to youth financial literacy as a valuable element of community well-being. Everyone wins when young people leave home with financial competency and wealth-building skills.
She takes pride in the creativity of BOK’s content creators, who keep raising the bar to provide fresh subject matter to engage their youthful audience.
“I still learn things from the content our team puts out there,” Melton said. “I wish I would have thought of some of it when my kids were young.”
But there’s no time like the present, and Melton sees BOK’s youth banking initiative as a way for parents and children to connect over the vital, if frequently overlooked, subject of financial literacy. The best place to do that, she contends, is at home.
“Financial fitness starts at home,” Melton said. “Practicing and discussing things with parents is much less risky for children than learning through trial and error.”
That’s because financial mistakes can have lasting consequences. Getting off on the wrong foot financially can mean a lifetime of playing catchup while others forge ahead. No parent wants that for their children.
“There’s no right or wrong answer as to when you start, but financial literacy really does start at home, and that starts with a parent,” Melton said.
All BOK Financial does is help by placing products, services, tools, and insights within easy reach so bank customers and the public can take necessary steps to improve skills and build the next generation of informed consumers.
Melton is confident BOK’s commitment will continue to build economic strength in its communities so all Americans can benefit from a more financially savvy population. That means moving well beyond teaching checkbook balancing and connecting with the modern world.
“My daughter wouldn’t know what a checkbook register is because she’s never used one,” Melton said. “There’s a lot for all of us to learn and keep learning.”