When I moved to the US from Australia 16 years ago, I was shocked to find the financial challenges that many Americans faced. I was also stunned at the level of income and wealth inequality. I’d never seen payday lending and check cashing outlets before and wanted to learn more about why they existed. I was on a steep learning curve.
Diving into the credit union world
When I began working as a consultant in the credit union space, I was amazed at the number of credit unions that were teaching financial literacy in schools and colleges every day. This seemed like the ideal solution to the financial problems many people were facing. However, I then saw research data indicating that this financial education was not having a long-term positive impact. The research showed that lessons learned in a classroom presentation were long forgotten when the information could have made a real difference in their lives.
While I was trying to wrap my head around this dilemma, I came across a survey conducted by Common Cents Lab which found that 93% of people who wanted to improve their financial wellness were able to name at least 3 things they could do immediately to make progress on their goal. Yet they didn’t do it. For me, the answer was clear. Credit union members who struggle to manage their finances need a coach or a motivator more than they need a teacher.
Taking financial wellness to the next level
In 2010, I discovered CUNA Financial Counseling Certification Program (FiCEP) program and the power of equipping credit union staff with the skills to be able coach their members to improve their financial health. For the past 10 years, I’ve worked with CUNA, state Leagues and hundreds of credit unions across the country to equip credit union staff with skills and information they need to coach, counsel and educate their members using the FiCEP program. I’ve also helped many credit unions develop programs to ensure that these staff are putting their skills to the best possible use.
One of the best examples of the credit union difference is our philosophy of “People Helping People.” And, one of the best examples of putting this philosophy into action is being there for our members when they need our help. There are lots of ways that credit unions can be there for their members. However, this can only happen in a meaningful way if staff have the skills to be able to coach members and help them find solutions to their financial challenges.
The CUNA FiCEP difference
What I love most about CUNA FiCEP is that it equips staff with the three vital things they need to be able help their members:
If there was ever a time in our history when credit unions need to be in a position to help their members overcome serious financial challenges, now is that time. I would urge those credit unions that already have staff trained as certified credit union financial counselors to train more staff, and I would urge those credit unions who do yet have trained staff to do so as quickly as possible.