Researchers Say Credit Unions’ Online Investment Ed Program Positively Changes Behavior

Christine Henzig, CUDE
Director of Communications
The Wisconsin Credit Union League
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Pewaukee, Wis. –  Investor Education in Your Workplace®—a program developed with the help of Wisconsin credit unions—positively impacts investing behavior, new research shows. Researchers from the University of Wisconsin-Madison found that employees improved their financial behavior after taking part in the program’s ten-part online education series, covering topics such as “Basics of Investing,” “Investing in Mutual Funds” and “Working with Financial Advisers.”
After taking the series, 8% of the participants reported opening an individual retirement account, 6% reported establishing a written budget, and 5% each reported drafting a written financial plan and saving for three months of expenses.

In a report for the Filene Research Institute, J. Michael Collins, PhD, assistant professor and director of the Center for Financial Security at the University of Wisconsin, said the research “supports the idea that remote learning tools like online education can improve financial knowledge and lead to better financial behavior. That’s promising in a cultural environment that increasingly prizes on-demand information access.”

The program, made possible thanks to the Investor Protection Institute and Investor Protection Trust, encourages credit unions—and thereafter, other employers in their communities—to offer voluntary, online investment education to employees. It is the first program of its kind using credit unions to engage thousands of citizens in voluntary, workplace-based investor education.

During the pilot phase of the program, from 2009 to 2011, each credit union employee completed 10 hours of self-paced study of basic investment concepts online. Fourteen of those grads completed more advanced online study to become Certified Financial Educators® (CFE®) through the Heartland Institute. They, in turn, encouraged participation by additional companies. In Wisconsin, 5,476 learners from 80 credit unions and 24 Wisconsin businesses completed 60,000 hours of investment training.

The program has been used in three states to encourage proactive investing and – as a result of additional states expected to adopt it – has become one of the nation’s fastest growing workplace-based investment education programs. It is expected to stimulate many millions of dollars in investing nationwide. In 2011 the program received a Wisconsin Financial Literacy Award.

Funding for the program includes a grant of $30,000 from the National Credit Union Foundation and $500,000 in grants from the Investor Protection Trust (IPT), a nonprofit organization devoted to investor education. Since 1993 the IPT has worked with the states to provide the independent, objective investor education needed by all Americans to make informed investment decisions. Visit Additional partners in the project include the Wisconsin Department of Financial Institutions and the Educated Investor®, which provides the online university system and assistance with project management.

Credit unions are participating in the project as part of their REAL Solutions initiative, which helps people of all incomes build wealth. As not-for-profits that have no stockholders, credit unions’ role is to help people regardless of profit.

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 in the form of 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 Read The League’s REAL Solutions 2011 Scorecard that 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

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