Saving Money to Build Dreams

A Ghanaian Teenager Banks Her Money Through YouthSave

Charlotte, 14, (on right) banks about a $1 a week through YouthSave. She is saving to buy a house for her mother (on left) and father. Photo Credit: Save the Children staff.
Charlotte, 14, (on right) banks about a $1 a week through YouthSave. She is saving to buy a house for her mother (on left) and father. Photo Credit: Save the Children

"I am going to buy a house for my mother and father," 14-year-old Charlotte declared proudly, defying her usual reticence.

She had just finished making her latest deposit into her savings account at the local branch of the HFC Bank in Baatsona in West Africa's Ghana. Each day, Charlotte plunks 40 pesewas or some 22 cents out of her 54-cent daily allowance into a royal blue plastic bank. When the amount exceeds $1.00, which usually takes about a week, Charlotte takes the money and safely deposits it in the bank.

It may not seem like much money, but it was adding up. Since Charlotte opened her account in July 2012, she has saved $37.09, some of it coming from gifts or from her mother.

"Oh yes," Charlotte's mother readily agreed, "When we came to the bank last Tuesday to withdraw money sent by my daughter, I gave Charlotte ten cedis ($5.38) which she immediately saved in her account."

Looking at the third of her four children with great admiration, she added, "Charlotte has really changed. Nowadays she doesn't spend her money on toffees or yogurt, ice cream or and biscuits. She has her own account which she really likes and that has made her very responsible."

The family attributes the change in Charlotte to Save the Children's YouthSave program, which teaches teenagers the value of saving money with such slogans as "Start tomorrow today" and "Little drops of water makes a mighty ocean."

YouthSave is a program that helps teenagers see a path toward realizing their future dreams and also teaches them responsibility now. The program operates in four countries including Ghana, where, as of February 2013, almost 1,800 teenagers had opened savings accounts.

For Charlotte and her three siblings, ages 25, 18 and 12, it is also vital. Charlotte's dad, the main bread winner of the family, earns little and has not been able to afford a permanent house for the family, causing them to move from one house to another.

Charlotte need look no further for a role model for her future ambitions than an employee of the bank where she stashes her savings. Kessewa Asiaw, a customer service representative at the Baatsona branch told her, "You know you can buy your parents a house in the future because when I was your age, I also said, ‘one day I will buy my mother a house.' When I finished school and got the job at the bank, the first thing I did was to buy a house on loan for my mother. Just believe it and you will do it."

Saving to buy a house may seem like a pipe dream for a young teen. But with the savings available through YouthSave, Charlotte has her eyes firmly fixed on her goal. She is banking her savings and banking on her future.

More about Save the Children's YouthSave Program

Save the Children launched YouthSave based on research findings that teenagers and young adults who save money are healthier and more educated, and their well-being improves. Further YouthSave research showed teens in poor nations wanted to save more money in secure savings options. This led to the design of youth savings accounts that are offered by YouthSave's partner banks in Colombia, Ghana, Kenya and Nepal. Save the Children also is working with our partner banks, community groups, schools, and parents in these countries to help teens learn valuable skills on how to manage their money better.

Supported by The MasterCard Foundation, YouthSave is a five-year project led by Save the Children in partnership with the Center for Social Development at Washington University in St. Louis, the New America Foundation, and the Consultative Group to Assist the Poor (CGAP). From 2010 to 2015, Save the Children will measure how the program is working and release its findings.