CUNA Resources

How I use my financial counseling designation to better my community

July 29, 2020

In this personal story, Andrea Finley, CCUFC, CFEI and Financial Wellness Coordinator at SC Telco FCU in Greenville, South Carolina, shares her experiences growing her credit union’s financial wellness program.

The skills I learned in the CUNA Financial Counseling Certification Program (FiCEP) program created more opportunities for me to lead my credit union forward in financial education. I learned the right methods to inspire members to take control of their financial freedom and overcome difficulties with confidence. Through this course, not only did I learn the psychological reasons behind financial decision-making, but also the impact these decisions can have on someone’s life.

The FiCEP program is a launching board for you to do incredible things for your members and community. When you walk away as a Certified Credit Union Financial Counselor (CCUFC) designee, you’ll have the skills to expand or kickstart a financial counseling program.

My best advice for someone looking to get the most value out of their FiCEP certification is to remember these four steps:

  1. Look at existing partnerships and relationships
  2. Ask questions
  3. Listen
  4. Be flexible – needs will vary

By following these four steps, I helped my credit union expand our relationship with our local Habitat for Humanity chapter and turn it into a valuable financial wellness-focused partnership. SC Telco already had an established relationship with Habitat for Humanity in which the credit union provided the mortgage financing for homeowners. After I received my CCUFC designation and started in my new role as Financial Wellness Coordinator, I started looking for ways to grow our mortgage program with Habitat for Humanity. I met with the organization and asked, “What more can we do to help you?” After explaining the training I received and my desire to help improve the financial lives of members in our community, I listened. They shared their needs and pain points, and together we created the Homeward Bound Program.

Through the Homeward Bound Program, I work with participants who currently do not qualify for ownership through Habitat for Humanity. I help families define a budget, set financial goals and determine practical steps to make those goals a reality. Over two years of providing financial counseling through this program, more than sixteen families have graduated from the program to homeownership — they are now living in their own homes! This accomplishment is so rewarding that I’ve found other ways to expand access to financial counseling services through Habitat for Humanity by hosting financial workshops for families participating in other Habitat of Humanity programs.

By getting out into the community and building relationships, we’ve set up successful programs through other local non-profits, including a seven-week personal finance class. We also partnered with our local juvenile detention center to provide personal finance education. The financial education that we’re offering through SC Telco FCU programs not only builds the credit union’s reputation and future lending portfolio, but it also strengthens our community through financial inclusion.

The opportunities for financial wellness programs are endless — you just have to ask and listen. Look at your community, identify established and potential partners, and don’t be afraid to ask! Ask: “How can I help you?” and “What can we do?” — you will be surprised at how many doors will open. This strategy has proven successful for me and SC Telco FCU.

Start your journey to becoming a CCUFC. Explore training options here.