Pewaukee, Wis. – April is Financial Literacy Month, but credit unions –not-for-profit financial institutions owned by their 2.2 million members – teach money management year-round. It’s all part of credit unions’ voluntary REAL Solutions initiative, which helps people improve their financial position. For example, credit unions offer:
o Youth-run, in-school credit unions. Young people have saved more than $3 million in 97 youth-run branches of credit unions housed inside schools and youth centers statewide. None of the branches drive credit union profits; they teach young people the habit of saving. The branches are considered a “best practice” for youth financial education.
o Savings programs. April 22-28 is National Credit Union Youth Week, which invites younger members to save. Last year during Youth Week in Wisconsin alone, 2,950 young people deposited $465,992 into savings accounts. Read the state proclamation acknowledging this and other financial education efforts by credit unions statewide.
o Classroom learning. Credit unions provide the brass|STUDENT PROGRAM, which includes the lifestyle money magazine brass, free to any Wisconsin high school that wants it. Resources for students and teachers online support state teaching standards. A total of 405 teachers at 350 schools receive it for classroom use. Credit unions also provide free to schools the High School Financial Planning Program, a classroom course teaching personal finance “basics.”
o “Experience” learning. Money Mission®, offered on credit union websites, is an online life simulation that challenges teens to balance their life along with their finances. Schools point students to Money Mission to engage their students in financial learning. So far, it is helping students in 48 states learn the fundamentals of personal finance and has awarded $20,000 in scholarships to college-bound students. This, as well as day-long “reality” simulations at local schools, has engaged close to 15,000 students in financial decision-making.
o Teacher education. Credit unions sponsor local teachers attending the National Institute for Financial & Economic Literacy, held annually in Madison. The Institute improves financial lessons for tens of thousands of Wisconsin students.
o Free financial counseling. Credit unions provided almost 30,000 hours of this assistance in 2011 to prevent foreclosures and improve borrowers’ creditworthiness. Referrals to classes improve access to checking accounts.
o Presentations. Credit unions delivered 5,460 presentations to 34,104 consumers in 2011 to improve their financial savvy on topics ranging from basic financial management to improving credit reports, home buying and more.
o Events. Some credit unions support Money Conferences, events that teach low-income families financial basics. Other credit unions offer “savings challenges” involving cash prizes. And others offer classes during Money Smart Week.
Credit unions are cooperative financial institutions that are owned by their members and do not have stockholders. Because they are not-for-profit, they return earnings to members via more competitive rates of return on accounts, lower interest on loans, lower fees and improved services. Around 2.2 million Wisconsin residents belong to credit unions, of which nearly half are open to the local community. Find a credit union to join by visiting www.asmarterchoice.org. The League’s REAL Solutions Scorecard explains how credit unions returned more than $201 million to their members in 2011 and served their communities regardless of profit. It is available at www.theleague.coop/scorecard.