Credit unions are dedicated to serving their members and helping them achieve their financial goals. Even credit unions with narrow fields of membership, for example the employees of a specific organization, extend their services to the families of those qualified members. What better way to serve a member than by taking care of the financial needs of their children? And what better way to serve their children than to teach them the fundamentals of financial wellness early in life? I believe credit unions are obligated by their mission to take an active role in teaching financial wellness to young people and the children of their members.
I didn’t learn a lot about financial wellness when I was young. Most of what I learned came from observing my parents and my own experiences. I am definitely one of those people who complained that I learned algebra in high school (and never used it since), but never learned how to pay my taxes, how to invest, the implications of debt, and other fundamentals of financial wellness. Many students are not even offered the opportunity to learn about financial wellness during their time in school, and we are feeling the implications of this deficiency in our society today.
Do you think it’s a coincidence that student loan debt is ballooning? I sincerely believe that not teaching young people how to pay for college and the implications of student loan debt is a significant contributor to the student loan crisis we are dealing with today. Credit unions can play an active role in helping to prevent this situation from occurring by contributing to financial wellness education programs to young people.
Recently, my home state of Florida mandated that financial wellness courses need to be offered as an elective in high schools. If your credit union is in a state where such a requirement exists, then it should offer to collaborate or contribute in the financial wellness education curriculum. Credit unions can help by sending guest speakers to schools, offering special accounts designed for young people, contributing educational materials to classrooms, and so many other ways. If your credit union is not in such a state, then it should advocate to its local leagues and elected officials to change this education policy. Credit unions can seek to collaborate with the local school boards, state boards of education, Parent Teacher Associations, and other education organizations to implement and strengthen financial wellness education.
Outside of the classroom, credit unions can offer seminars and participate in public events where it can specifically invite young people to learn about financial wellness topics. I learned about credit scores when my 360 Federal Credit Union, where I serve on the Board of Directors currently, offered a seminar about the subject at my old office. Credit unions can be proactive in offering young people the opportunity to learn about credit scores, debt, investing, paying for college, budgeting, and other related topics.
How will teaching financial wellness benefit credit unions? First, a credit union has an obligation to serve its members, and that includes their families. Also, a credit union needs to be proactive in searching for the next generation of its membership. This can be in recruiting the children of members, but also others in the community if the field of membership permits, and starting early can help turn these young people into lifelong members. Plus, if these young members are able to make sound financial decisions at a young age, we will feel the benefits throughout our society. The sooner we establish a strong financial wellness education program, the sooner we can serve the next generation of our members. Credit unions, with our community and service focus, are the perfect organization to lead the charge.