Mississippi Making Strides with Financial Counseling Program

Christopher Morris

Number of Counselors Continue to Grow via REAL Solutions Enhanced FiCEP

Madison, Wis. – Prior to the first REAL Solutions enhanced version of the Credit Union Financial Counseling Certification Program (FiCEP) to certify credit union financial counselors, there was only one certified financial counselor in credit unions in Mississippi. Eighteen months and two programs later, there are now 59 certified credit union financial counselors in 17 credit unions in Mississippi.

This is a unique partnership between the National Credit Union Foundation/REAL Solutions, Credit Union National Association’s Center for Professional Development (CUNA CPD), the Mississippi Credit Union Association (MSCUA), and Mississippi credit unions to train staff who are then able to give professional financial counseling and education to members and potential members throughout the state.

MSCUA has marketed the program to credit unions and has proctored all student exams. Tom McWilliams, MSCUA Senior Vice President, has led the charge to recruit students and to make the proctored testing as easy for students as possible.

“Tom McWilliams has done an extraordinary job coordinating this program with the FiCEP partners & students, and in doing so made Mississippi’s success a model for other states,” said Charles Elliott, MSCUA President/CEO. “Our graduates have emerged from the program with renewed enthusiasm, and new-found knowledge and skills to implement in their own credit unions. Our high FiCEP participation and graduation rates are an inspiration and a testimony to the commitment Mississippi credit unions share to be a partner in their member’s financial future and success.”

Students used the CUNA CPD’s FiCEP to study for their Credit Union Certified Financial Counselor certification. CUNA staff graded all tests and issued students with their certificates. Mark Lynch, REAL Solutions Field Coach, conducted 8 tutorial webinars and two face-to-face training days during each of Mississippi’s two programs.

Late last year, MSCUA released a short YouTube video highlighting FiCEP.

“Credit union members are extremely loyal,” remarked Jennifer Lovett, CEO/Manager at MS DHS Federal Credit Union, in the video. “FiCEP extends an extra step towards that loyalty for them to show that your credit union does care. That the credit union cares about you, what’s going on in your life, your future, and they want to take steps to help you.”

REAL Solutions Enhanced FiCEP – Making Strides Nationally
In the past two years, REAL Solutions has worked with thirteen state credit unions leagues and has completed ten programs. Four programs are currently in progress and two are scheduled to commence in the next month. Each program takes around five months to complete.

In addition to assisting students to achieve their certification, REAL Solutions places emphasis on developing a counseling and education plan as well as tracking, measuring and reporting the activities and the outcomes of their programs.

“FiCEP is a great program to help credit union staff counsel members to better prepare for their future and to assist when they are faced with financial difficulties,” said Lois Kitsch, NCUF REAL Solutions Program Director. “That is a great extension of the credit union difference and the more counselors that are certified, the more consumers can achieve financial freedom.”

Credit unions interested in having staff trained to become financial counselors should contact Kitsch at

About REAL Solutions®
REAL Solutions® is the signature program of the National Credit Union Foundation. REAL ― “Relevant, Effective, Asset-building, Loyalty-producing” — Solutions works to help credit unions offer a wide range of products and services that have proven successful in serving working families with low wealth and modest means. Using product/business models created and tested by credit unions, REAL Solutions disseminates information to credit unions through special meetings, an online impact center at, and state and national conferences. As NCUF’s signature program over the past five years, REAL Solutions has been adopted in 40 states and is saving members tens of millions of dollars. It has now become a documented business strategy for credit unions to grow their memberships by serving the underserved. Real people with real needs are finding REAL Solutions at credit unions.

About the National Credit Union Foundation (
The National Credit Union Foundation is the US credit union movement’s primary national philanthropic program provider, fundraiser and grant-maker. Through NCUF grants and programs, credit unions provide widespread financial education, create greater access to affordable financial services, and empower more consumers to save, build assets, and own homes.

NCUF is funded primarily by investments in the award-winning Community Investment Fund (CIF) and by generous Corporate Supporters led by the Credit Union National Association and CUNA Mutual.  All NCUF donors provide support that empowers NCUF and state credit union foundations to make financial freedom achievable through credit unions.

The National Credit Union Foundation is a 501(c)(3) tax-exempt charitable organization. NCUF continues to earn the Better Business Bureau seal of approval as an “Accredited Charity” for meeting all 20 BBB Wise Giving Alliance Standards for national charities.

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