In a Nutshell: Data reveals that a financial literacy gap exists between men and women. Tennessee’s First Citizens National Bank recognizes this imbalance and seeks to address it through its Smart Women Program. The program is built around a series of financial education events geared toward women, which address how to handle finances during big life changes and significant events. Additionally, the bank has initiated the Smart Kids Program, which is aimed at laying a solid financial literacy foundation for school-aged children, through the help of Banzai’s financial literacy software. First Citizens National Bank has been connecting with and supporting its Tennessee communities for 130 years, and its current financial literacy efforts are an extension of its community bank mission.
Unfortunately, research shows that the financial literacy gap between men and women is real.
“Women of all demographics find it more challenging and feel less confident than men when it comes to making financial decisions regarding life-changing events caused by death, retirement, divorce and other uncontrollable circumstances,” according to First Citizens National Bank.
Studies reveal that women scored lower than men when it comes to financial literacy measures, including questions on financial and investment understanding. Still, women tend to manage day-to-day finances while men manage more long-term financial outlooks.
Of course, it’s important for everyone to have a solid financial literacy foundation. But, there are numerous reasons to focus efforts on closing the financial literacy gender divide, including closing the gender wage gap, women’s longer life expectancies, and, well, the fact that knowledge is power.
First Citizens National Bank in Tennessee recognizes the importance of closing this financial literacy gap, which is why it devotes a considerable amount of time and energy into financial education, said President and COO Judy Long.
“And we’re not only working with educating women to help them improve their financial lives,” she said. “We’re also working at the middle and high school level — starting very early in the classroom.”
First Citizens National Bank’s origins go back to 1889 when the Tennessee-chartered community bank — then called Citizens Bank — opened its doors in Dyersburg. Over the years, the bank established a reputation for its strong community-minded approach to business and steadily grew to the robust institution it is today.
With its main office still located in Dyersburg, First Citizens National Bank maintains 26 locations across Tennessee (the most recent addition is the Nolensville branch), primarily in the western part of the state, with some location near Nashville and in the southeastern portion of the state.
We recently had the opportunity to speak with Long to learn more about its financial literacy efforts through its Smart Women Program, Smart Kids Program, and more.
The Smart Women Program is Designed to Empower Women Through Financial Education
Long said the Smart Women Program was born out of her own personal experience as she began to think about retirement back in 2017. As she was preparing her retirement plan, which included updating wills and exploring estate planning and trusts for her and her husband, Long said it occurred to her just how complex the whole situation is.
“I’m in finance. I’ve got a degree in finance,” she said. “I’ve been in banking my whole career. I’m the president and chief operating officer of a bank. And this is complicated information to have to plan and understand.”
Long said her own upcoming life event led to conversations with her colleagues about how important financial literacy is to many of life’s big events, whether it’s making major purchases or taking on student loan debt.
Then, after Long spoke at a women’s event at the local college, she realized how the bank, with its educational resources, could help women boost their financial literacy to be better prepared for those big events.
“We saw an opportunity to become involved in our communities across Tennessee and focus on women that have a need to feel more confident when they’re facing life-changing events, and making financial decisions for those events,” she said.
With its mission to bridge the financial literacy gap firmly established, it didn’t take long to launch the Smart Women Program.
The program’s main attraction is the multitude of educational, Smart Women events the bank holds across its Tennessee communities. The bank encourages women to attend the events that cover a variety of financial literacy topics and how they can relate to major life events.
The Smart Women Program also maintains a robust blog covering a diverse range of financial topics on the First Citizens National Bank website.
The Bank’s Smart Kids Program Lays a Solid Financial Literacy Foundation for Students of All Ages
Taking a cue from the Smart Women Program, First Citizens National Bank launched the Smart Kids Program earlier this year. The bank’s program, which is powered by Banzai’s financial literacy software, is geared toward students at the middle and high school level.
“It’s an assortment of financial literacy classes the students can take online,” Long said. “We think starting very early in the classroom is the way to go, and we’ve done that over a number of years to some degree.”
But the Smart Kids Program allows the bank to reach even more schools and children than in previous years, with Long saying they’re now in about 82 schools across the state.
The Smart Kids Program helps young people learn by doing, according to the bank website.
“Are your kids ready for real life? It’s tough telling teens what life’s really like as adults. Here’s an idea: show, don’t tell,” according to the website. “Show them how a $10 job isn’t really $10 an hour. Show them the true costs of living without insurance. Let students experience life’s pitfalls for themselves.”
Long said teaching children financial literacy in school is important because they often don’t receive a substantial financial education at home. She said between managing day-to-day household duties and making sure their children’s other needs are met, financial literacy can easily fall by the wayside.
“Hopefully, teaching them financial literacy in school at an early age can continue through to the high school years and beyond,” she said. “That financial education becomes even more critical as they get into college, and then into the real world.”
A Community Bank with Deep Roots Across Tennessee
As a community bank, First Citizens National Bank is working hard to make an impact through its Smart Women and Smart Kids programs. But it’s community efforts don’t stop there.
“Since opening our doors in Dyersburg in 1889, we have striven to give back and make a difference in the communities we serve,” according to the bank website. “With 26 standalone locations in 11 Tennessee counties, we are truly a statewide bank that maintains a community-by-community focus.”
Even the bank’s logo — a stylized image of a tree — speaks to its close community ties through its symbolism.
“Just as a tree grows, thrives, and gains essential nutrients from a strong root system, a true community bank maintains strength and balance from the roots it establishes in the communities it serves,” according to the website.
The solid roots also contribute to sustained branch growth — something else the bank has seen over the years.
“In addition to representing the ‘crown’ of the tree, the logo mark design suggests there are three ‘people’ at the apex of the tree,” according to the website. “This conveys that the ultimate purpose of a community bank is to serve people … its customers, shareholders and the entire community.”
With the community’s best interests at heart, the bank also makes available a version of the Banzai software to anyone interested in boosting their financial literacy.
“Even our own employees that need certain areas of financial literacy improvement can take those classes — whether it’s managing their budget or maybe they’re finding themselves needing to improve their credit scores … those types of things,” Long said.
Long said for the near future, the bank plans to continue expanding its Smart Women Program.
“We want to continue to put resources into the program and just empower women for a long time to come to be able to be successful in their financial lives,” she said.