MADISON, Wis. (1/2/08)--Credit unions are ringing in the new year with financial education programs already underway while others are starting new programs to help members face today's economic realities. Some credit unions are educating consumers in a debt jam with seminars or personal attention. Others are partnering with organizations or teaming with other credit unions and school districts. In Chandler, Arizona, First CU, a $463.7 million asset credit union with 14 branches throughout the state, announced last month it has partnered with Take Charge America, a nonprofit organization that helps consumers with their finances. Their program will offer credit union members new free financial education tools. The services will help members:
* Understand credit scores; * Budget to meet living expenses; * Manage credit card and other unsecured debts; and * Balance checkbooks.
In Florida, Card Services for Credit Unions (CSCU) sponsored a community outreach event at the $479 million asset Suncoast Schools FCU, based in Tampa, to promote financial literacy. CSCU and Visa brought in NFL Pro-Bowler and Tampa Bay Buccaneer Derrick Brooks, who worked with Practical Money Skills for Life to deliver his message to more than 600 Tampa Bay youth. The program provides free money management resources and lesson plans for the home, classroom or at work. "Credit unions have always been on the forefront of educating consumers about money management," said Robert Hackney, CSCU president. "The need for financial literacy in America has never been greater, and credit unions like Suncoast are stepping up to meet this challenge." At Telesis Community CU in Van Nuys, Calif. Patty Marcoux, senior business service officer at the $618.2 million asset credit union, breaks up her workday to teach orphaned teenagers how to manage money (Los Angeles Daily News
Dec. 24). "It goes hand in hand with what we believe in," Marcoux told the newspaper. "It allows us to teach the kids financial literacy, and that is something Telesis is big on." At Utah's second largest credit union, Mountain America CU, Mick Huerta, bilingual mortgage loan professional, will present a home buying and basic credit seminar series for the public on the first Thursday of each month this year. One of the most important things in preparing for home ownership is to understand how credit works, he said. "Knowing how the system works can help you get better interest rates on credit cards, auto loans and mortgage offers," he said. The Ohio Credit Union League launched its financial education initiative, MoneyAndStuff, in Youngstown. The league sees a direct connection between personal financial illiteracy and the upswing in bankruptcy rates, record debt, and home foreclosures. "We are stepping up our efforts as leaders and collaborators in financial education because the financial health of Ohio's youngest citizens is at risk," said OCUL President Paul Mercer. He noted that credit unions "are investing in brighter futures for the next generation." Ohio's program offers a website resource for parents, educators, public officials, credit unions and the media; targets the most impressionable ages--4 and 5, and 11 and 12; and emphasizes credit concepts and how to manage borrowing. Wisconsin credit unions continue to get kudos for its student program in high schools, says the Wisconsin Credit Union League. Michele Otte, a teacher in the social studies department of Kiel High School, noted that Premier Financial CU, New Holstein, has gone out of its way by providing National Endowment for Financial Education resources and the league's brass/STUDENT PROGRAM personal finance initiative (The League News
Dec. 31). For more information about financial education programs, use the links.