Off the Record

What’s Your Financial Literacy Story?

Ongoing education and social responsibility are the drivers of financial empowerment.

April 3, 2014

April has finally arrived, and while some will savor its showers and budding crocuses, others among us will revel in helping people become better at managing their finances.

That’s because April is National Financial Literacy Month, and if anyone should be making the headlines this month, it’s credit unions.

Ongoing education and social responsibility—the drivers of financial empowerment—are among a credit union’s cooperative business principles. It’s these principles that fuel the passion and spirit of credit unions, distinguishing them from other financial services providers.

And when it comes to engaging their members and communities in ways to improve and advance the quality of life we all cherish, there are not many others who do it better than credit unions.

Yet, when you stop and think about it, singling out a month-long observance doesn’t quite rock the boat for organizations committed to providing financial education throughout the course of the entire year.

By doing something that’s part of one’s DNA, credit unions can easily lose objectivity and not think much about the tremendous influence their programs have on the lives of deserving Americans.

That’s why it’s so important for credit unions to herald the importance of financial empowerment and tell their stories of accomplishment and inspiration. Otherwise the message seems to go unheard.

I recently posted a Tweet asking credit unions how they plan to mark National Financial Literacy Month. I wanted to hear you stories and then share them as a source of inspiration and motivation.

I’ve heard from some—and there’s still time to hear from you.

Tena Lozano told me that the Richard Myles Johnson Foundation, the state credit union foundation for California and Nevada, will mark National Financial Literacy Month by hosting Bite of Reality, an interactive financial education simulation designed to teach teens how to manage money.

Bite of Reality is based on CUNA’s Mad City Money program. It’s a 2.5-hour, hands-on simulation that appeals to teens while giving them a taste of real-world financial realities.

Participants are given a fictional occupation, salary, spouse and family, student loan debt, credit card debt, and medical insurance payments—minus the headaches that accompany them, of course.

The teens then visit various table-top stations to “purchase” housing, transportation, food, clothing, household necessities, day care, and other needs. Fortunately, the game also includes a “credit union” to help with their financial needs.

Schools Financial Credit Union, Redwood Credit Union, Orange County’s Credit Union, United Health Credit Union, Desert Valleys Federal Credit Union, Bay Federal Credit Union, Delta Schools Federal Credit Union, SkyOne Federal Credit Union, Kinecta Federal Credit Union, as well as the Beach Cities Chapter, will all participate in this impressive effort.

Now, what’s your financial literacy story? Share them with me or via Twitter using the hashtag, #FinancialLiteracyMonth.

WALT LASKOS is editor-in-chief for Credit Union Magazine.