Focus on youth
The longer-term challenge facing credit unions and their members will be the ability of young consumers and future members to weather the gathering storms and emerge with the financial security previous generations enjoyed. Credit unions providing the greatest assistance and earning the trust of future borrowers will:
• Expand their student loan programs.
• Develop financial literacy outreach programs with local schools and community groups.
• Increase their financial counseling and financial planning capabilities.
• Help younger members understand the complex relationship between basic financial education and the importance of a postsecondary education so they can compete for good jobs.
2. Money Mission, a financial literacy simulation.
There’s no shortage of quality financial literacy and financial counseling programs through CUNA and the state leagues. CUNA’s center for personal finance has an extensive portfolio of Web-based financial literacy programs for all ages, as well as for Hispanics. And CUNA recently supplemented that product line with Money Mission.
CUNA also offers the Financial Counseling Certification Program, modeled after CUNA’s Certified Financial Counselor Schools. And the National Credit Union Foundation will be placing an even greater emphasis on financial literacy and education.
Credit unions that have placed NEFE’s personal finance curriculum into U.S. high schools say students using the course have a greater understanding of financial matters than do their peers, and they have a high retention level of the data. This improves their ability to make the right financial choices once they’re in the workplace. The NavPoint Institute for Financial Literacy reports similar results.
Because credit unions exist primarily to serve consumer households, they have a considerable stake in how these major economic and social trends are re-molding the workplace and the consumer household. Their strategies to enhance their bottom line will require a depth and breadth of service to members well beyond the traditional financial product portfolio and beyond relatively simple financial literacy, counseling, and planning programs.
If they recognize the fast emerging financial challenges facing their members, credit unions have a unique opportunity to carve out a significant role in helping to re-educate consumers. In addition to enhancing members’ financial knowledge, credit unions can prepare them for an economic future that is unsettling for many, but with the right training and knowledge can still be bright.
CUNA signed an agreement with the Wisconsin Credit Union League to be the national distributor of Money Mission—a new state-of-the-art, interactive, Web-based simulation game. The addition of Money Mission supplements CUNA’s portfolio of Web-based personal finance modules—Home & Family Finance Resource Center and the online coach, Anytime Advisor.
Money Mission is designed to educate 16- to 19-year-olds in the fundamentals of financial literacy. The program has unique features that differentiate it from others currently available to credit unions, including:
• An immersive, animated interface with a look and feel designed specifically for the game and its targeted teen demographic;
• An innovative approach to simulation design, offering stock market prices and cost-of-living changes;
• A wide range of life-event and financial-management choices players must make using customizable characters called “avatars” who maneuver their way through the fictional city of MissionHeights; and
• Fourteen entertaining animated lessons that teach players essential financial principles.
CUNA and the leagues also believe Money Mission enhances credit union advocacy efforts as federal and state lawmakers increasingly recognize the importance of financial education to American households and the gaps between state and school district budgets and available resources.
A unique feature of Money Mission is that a percentage of each subscription goes toward a scholarship fund available to college-bound high-school seniors.