Financial education in a time of crisis

It’s that time of year again. April is Financial Capability Month where we collectively encourage people to create budgets, build emergency savings, pay down debt, and take hold of their financial futures. But this is no ordinary spring. The world is experiencing a health and economic crisis. People are practicing social distancing, sheltering in place, or fully quarantined. As a result, livelihoods are being lost every day simply because the nation is doing the right thing and staying home. So, how do we approach financial education when the world is in crisis mode? By doubling down.

Typically, financial education efforts must clear a number of hurdles just to be heard. In April, we’re competing with the weather warming up and days getting longer. We’re not as enticing as coffee with a friend or as fun as shopping for a new outfit. We will never be as entertaining as sports games or movies. And let’s face it, those who aren’t on top of their finances are often afraid to look and see where they really stand. 

With everything happening in the world, now is the perfect time to reach out to your community and encourage them to take a hard look at their finances. For one, we have a captive audience, and they are paying attention to their wallets. Giving people an activity to focus on, even a budget, might be a welcome diversion. Maybe most importantly, in this time of uncertainty there is one thing financial educators can offer that other distractions can’t: peace of mind.

This is a scary time with an unknown outcome or end date. Yet, instead of putting our financial education efforts on hold with everything else, this is the time to explain that building a budget means knowing how you spend your money and where you can cut back if your income suddenly drops. Let your members know that building emergency savings can mean security in such uncertain times. Teach them that when everything seems out of their hands, they can take back a bit of control by taking hold of their finances. And let them know where they can find help if they are in a tough financial situation.

While financial fairs may be cancelled and one-on-one coaching is not recommended, find ways to get the message out. Host webinars, provide worksheets that parents can work on with their kids, set up a 30-day financial bootcamp where you challenge your members with a new task every day, and share financial tips on social media. Be a voice of encouragement in this time of uncertainty.

Financial education is one area that credit unions shine because you care deeply for your members and your communities. Instead of being discouraged by the current situation, let’s be inspired to try something different.

Looking for resources? April is also Military Saves Month, and Military Saves has numerous resources ready to go via their digital tool kit that you can use.

Beth Merlo

Beth Merlo

Beth Merlo is the Vice President of the Defense Credit Union Council (DCUC). She joined DCUC in 2006 and has worked in all parts of the organization. As Vice President, ... Web: Details