WASHINGTON - The American Bankers Association, with help from Citibank, on Tuesday held its fourth annual "National Teach Children to Save Day," emphasizing the importance of compound interest and promoting "fiscal fitness."

Bankers gave presentations nationwide to children in kindergarten through 12th grade and also participated in hands-on activities and games designed to teach children the value of saving and investing. Event organizers said the day is intended to remedy many children's lack of understanding of money management basics.

"While today's kids can surf the Internet or use a CD-ROM to do their homework, some don't know the fundamentals of saving and personal finance," Donald G. Ogilvie, the ABA's executive vice president, said in a statement.

Mr. Ogilvie pointed out that the U.S. savings rate is at its lowest since the 1930s. The program is intended to "encourage savings and create smarter financial consumers at the same time," he said.

John P. Pothoven, chairman of the ABA Education Foundation and chief executive officer of Mahaska State Bank in Oskaloosa, Iowa, said last year's program reached about two million students in more than 1,000 communities nationwide.

"I've heard countless good stories from kids that have participated," he said. "We are doing a service by getting bankers into the school system. Kids are the future - we're investing in the future."

He also praised Citibank, the unit of Citigroup Inc., which is the only large bank to be involved on a national scale. Mark Rodgers, a Citibank spokesman, said it was already running an activity called "kids day" when it heard about the ABA program last year. "It was a natural fit for us," he said. "We already had a number of programs designed to promote financial literacy." Mr. Rodgers said a representative from each of the 366 Citi banking centers in the United States participated in the event.

He also emphasized the importance of teaching the basics early on. "Children develop financial habits at an early age," he said. "Unfortunately, money doesn't come with an instruction book."

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