Credit Unions Using Financial Literacy

by Roy Page

According to the Survey of the States conducted by the Council for Economic Education in 2011, only 22 states require high school students to complete an economics course, with only 16 requiring testing on the subject. Although 77% of today’s 16 to 18 year olds think they’re knowledgeable about financial matters, the 2011 Teens and Money Survey conducted by Charles Schwab revealed that 18 year olds were 10% less knowledgeable about money matters than their peers were in 2007. Only about one third understand how to balance a checkbook, manage a credit card or understand credit card fees.

Teens tend to learn about money from three main sources: parents (82%), real life experience (65%) and school (52%), according to the Schwab survey. That means your credit union has three avenues of approach to consider, each with its own merit.

Financial literacy for parents. The average credit union member falls more into the parent category than the student category. If you already have a relationship with parents, why not help them feel better prepared to teach their teens about money? Many adults will admit that they, too, could benefit from learning more about effective budgeting and financial management. Rather than making financial education a separate effort, incorporate educational components into your regular member interactions.

Financial literacy for youth. Nothing drives life lessons home quite like learning them yourself, but that doesn’t mean those lessons can’t be positive ones. Do you offer checking products or loans targeted toward college students? What about youth accounts for teens? Incorporate budgeting tools and advice into products young adults are likely to need in order to help them learn good money management skills firsthand. Financial literacy that feels more like empowerment than education can be powerful. See how we helped Tinker Federal Credit Union create their youth resource Buck the Norm.

Financial literacy for schools. Working with schools to offer financial education is great way for credit unions to create shared value, and programs like Banzai! make it easy for you. Many schools lack the resources to develop their own financial education programs. As a local non-profit organization, you have the knowledge and credibility to offer a meaningful service that benefits your entire community. Your effort can be as simple as an annual seminar or as complex as a semester-long program: it all depends on what you’re capable of offering and what fits the school’s needs. Keep in mind that in order to be effective, financial literacy needs to be hands-on and engaging – it shouldn’t leave students napping.

Actively working to improve financial literacy in your community isn’t just about building membership, it’s about laying the foundation for a healthy local economy and helping younger generations live better lives. That’s something everybody can support.


Survey of the States

Teens and Money Survey



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