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Websites Show Young People How to Save

Engineering major Khang Nguyen, 22, checks his SmartyPig savings account
Engineering major Khang Nguyen, 22, checks his SmartyPig savings account

This is the VOA Special English Education Report.

Young people are perhaps better known for spending money than saving it. But some new banking websites are seeking to change that. These websites offer young people the information and tools they need to watch over their money. The websites also let the users share their financial experiences with other young people.

Nineteen-year-old Alix Scott has been working at a store this summer. She is saving money to pay for college next year.

ALIX SCOTT: “I have to save for all my college money because my parents, they can’t afford to co-sign on loans. So, I have to rely on my own savings.”

But instead of putting her money in a local bank, Ms. Scott began using SmartyPig, a Web-based banking service.

ALIX SCOTT: “When I do that, I overcome the impulses to just spend the money.”

Michael Ferrari developed SmartyPig with a friend in two thousand seven.

MICHAEL FERRARI: “SmartyPig is really all about helping people save for very specific financial goals. So that could be a wedding, a vacation, an iPhone.”

Mr. Ferrari says SmartyPig opened after he started a college savings account for his new baby. He says that experience helped him realize the power of saving for a specific goal. Helping other savers pay attention to their goals is the idea behind his online company.

MICHAEL FERRARI: “For example, I’m saving up for a vacation. I want to save five thousand dollars. I want to meet this goal in three years. SmartyPig will actually calculate how much money you need to allocate every month. You don’t have to move from your existing bank, we’ll actually go in and withdraw those funds on the day you specify every month and we’ll put them into your SmartyPig account, where they’ll actually accrue interest, as well.”

Mister Ferrari says his website also enables outsiders to add money to the accounts of its users.

MICHAEL FERRARI: “Perhaps maybe a holiday is coming up or your birthday is coming up, and rather than getting a gift, your friends, your family can actually contribute to any of your SmartyPig goals.”

Twenty-two-year-old Khang Nguyen is studying civil engineering in college. He likes being able to share his saving goals with his online community.

KHANG NGUYEN: “I think it’s actually a good thing that they are able to see it. Like, a bunch of my friends after they found out, you know, about what I do, they always come ask me for financial advice.”

A growing number of young people have shown an interest in online banking sites like SmartyPig. They say they like the ease of operation and services the sites offer. These personal finance websites offer tools that help users follow their spending, set up a budget, and combine their investments. And they all involve social media, which interests young adults who are already at ease about sharing their personal information online.

Janet Stauble is with the personal finance website

JANET STAUBLE: “There’s all kinds of individuals who have their own blogs who are talking about money, creating videos, making infographics. You just kind of see personal finance information in places that you wouldn’t expect.”

Ms. Stauble says people share things on the Internet that they might not say to their friends.

JANET STAUBLE: “It’s not likely that, you know, you might go to a friend and say, ‘Hey, I paid off one thousand dollars on my credit card today,’ but people write up blog posts about it and they explain how they did it, and how much closer they are to their financial goal, whatever it is.”

Ms. Stauble believes that as technology continues to develop, more people will use the electronic banking sites.

Steve Weisman talks about financial issues at Bentley University in Waltham, Massachusetts. He says the more creative the websites are in providing services, the more successful they will be in competing against traditional banks or even cooperating with them.

STEVE WEISMAN: “For instance, SmartyPig, they are not actually a bank, but they are partnered with a bank. And what you’re going to see is big banks and little banks that are legitimate financial institutions, but not necessarily the most savvy when it comes to computers or the Internet, they will partner up with other companies that may be doing some of the web material and other assistance, while the actual banking would be done through a bank with which it is connected.”

That cooperation, he says, will change the way Americans save in the future.

And that’s the VOA Special English Education Report. I’m Christopher Cruise.