PEWAUKEE, Wis. (3/4/10)--Wisconsin credit unions are receiving their fourth Governor’s Financial Literacy Award in five years--this time for an investor education project involving 3,520 employees from 80 credit unions in more than 30,000 hours of online investment education. The effort is the largest of its kind by financial institutions there, said the Wisconsin Credit Union League, and is part of an ongoing study of how investor education can motivate investing behavior. It positions the co-ops to urge their 2.2 million members to greater investing. “Even though more Americans began saving and paying down debt last year for fear of losing a job, too few are investing regularly--something they’ll need to do to stay afloat financially beyond their working years,” said Brett Thompson, league president/CEO. The league is coordinating credit union involvement in the effort. By educating more of their staff on their own savings and investment options, credit unions "could be more proactive in helping steer members toward resources, whether in-house, online or within their communities,” he said. Studies have found that most Americans appear not to have done any retirement planning. The project, dubbed “RP3,” for REAL Progress & Pathways to Prosperity, kicked off in October and will continue through early 2011. Participants took roughly 10 hours of online learning about investing concepts such as setting goals, distinguishing among investment vehicles, managing risk, diversifying a portfolio, maximizing tax advantages, understanding mutual funds and working with investment professionals. The first phase involved 53 credit unions, whose 1,623 employees completed the courses in December and achieved passing grades averaging 88.17%. Their knowledge of investing concepts had increased 28.27%. In January, another 1,897 employees from 56 credit unions began the coursework. At its conclusion, the 18-month project will have collected enough data to measure the extent that learning had on participants’ investing behavior and what factors--such as income and age--influenced success. The study is conducted in partnership with the Puelicher Center for Banking Education at the Wisconsin School of Business, University of Wisconsin-Madison; Precision Information; the Wisconsin Credit Union League; Governor Jim Doyle’s Council on Financial Literacy; and the Wisconsin Department of Financial Institutions. It is funded by a grant from the Investor Protection Trust (IPT), a nonprofit organization devoted to investor education. Wisconsin credit unions have earned three other Governor’s Financial Literacy awards: in 2009, for their 86 in-school credit union branches instilling in students the habit of regularly saving money; in 2008, for providing free to all Wisconsin public high schools a lifestyle money magazine and online tools for teachers and students to support state teaching standards for financial literacy; and in 2006 for their overall, statewide REAL Solutions initiative teaching families to save and build wealth.