April is finally here, and while most of us are probably sighing in relief as the snow melts and warmer temperatures arrive, credit unions and financial institutions around the country are preparing for the month’s main event: Financial Literacy Month. Financial Literacy Month aims to encourage people and institutions to work together to increase the overall financial literacy of our country and help consumers build healthy money habits.
Now hopefully, your credit union already has a great plan in place with lots of events and offers to help your members make the most of the month and get in control of their finances. But if this is the first you’re hearing of Financial Literacy Month, don’t fret! There’s plenty of time for your credit union to get involved in the festivities and make the most of the month.
What is Financial Literacy Month?
Founded by the Jump$tart Coalition back in 2000, the event began as Youth Financial Literacy Day, intended to help increase financial education in schools. The day was then expanded to be a month-long effort, and the focus was widened to include educating not just kids, but the general population on the importance of financial wellbeing. During this time, Jump$tart was responsible for the month’s activities and support. Then in 2003, the United States Congress requested President George W. Bush to declare April as Financial Literacy Month.
The Resolution written by Congress conveyed the overwhelming gaps in financial education, citing sources that found few adults were planning for retirement; high-school and college students were unaware of how credit worked; many families had a lack of savings; and 52 million people remained unbanked. They urged the President to “issue a proclamation calling on the Federal Government, States, localities, schools, nonprofit organizations, businesses, other entities, and the people of the United States to observe the month with appropriate programs and activities.”
Since its founding, the month has seen thousands of organizations, schools, and financial institutions work to provide education and resources for financial literacy to those in their communities, as well as offering rewards and contests to incentivize more people to participate. Now celebrating the event for the 22nd year and with more online resources than ever, it’s not only financial institutions, businesses, and schools taking on financial literacy, but individuals are committing to tackling the subject for themselves as well, though Jump$tart still sponsors the event.
Why should credit unions participate?
For credit unions, participation in Financial Literacy Month really is not optional. As cooperatives with the mission of people helping people, we are responsible for more than simply conducting transactions for our members. From their credit union, members are meant to be provided with services and a personal connection that banks do not offer. The number one goal of any credit union should be to ensure the financial health and wellbeing of its members. Financial literacy falls into that category, and credit unions should be working hard this month to provide their members with resources and events.
This is the perfect opportunity for your credit union to show its dedication to its members and represent what makes cooperatives different. As the cooperative principles state, it’s our responsibility to care for our community and provide education and information to our members. We need to convey a true dedication to promoting their financial wellbeing. If this is something your credit union regularly does with events, great! If not, Financial Literacy Month is a great way to get started. Failing to participate might say more about your credit union than you want it to.
How to get involved
Need some more inspiration on how to celebrate Financial Literacy Month? A great start would be to simply let your members know via social media, lobby signs, website banners, etc. that April is Financial Literacy Month! It might inspire them to take part, even if they end up utilizing resources outside of the credit union. Once you manage that, consider how you can actively work to increase your members’ financial literacy. There are a number of simple and effective ways to do this.
An easy way to get involved would be to offer free meetings with a financial wellness coach or free financial counseling. This will help your members understand their current finances so that they can make a plan for the future. Alternatively, you could host virtual (or in-person) classes on topics such as student loans, saving for retirement, and credit scores. To incentivize members to participate, you could offer rewards, contests, or a raffle for those who attend any financial literacy event during the month. They could earn points or entries towards those rewards by completing tasks such as making a budget, checking their credit and taking steps to improve it, attending workshops, or reading articles on financial literacy.
A few credit unions have already stepped up to provide great examples. Neighborhood Credit Union of Dallas, Texas will be celebrating the month by hosting two free workshops for their members. Meanwhile, Financial Partners Credit Union in Downey, California is going all out, encouraging members and nonmembers alike to get financially fit with a month of financial literacy events and rewards.
(1/3) It's back! April is Financial Literacy Month and we want to help you get financially fit all month long! On April 1st, join our Financial Fitness Challenge -- to strengthen your financial knowledge, save money, and be entered to win weekly prizes! pic.twitter.com/9UeKVytA31— Financial Partners Credit Union (@FP_CU) March 29, 2022
Let the festivities begin!
Above all, this month should be a great time for you to connect with your members. Don’t just hope your members want to take part, encourage them to and reward them for doing so. Remember, the name of the game is to help them understand their finances and establish healthy money habits. Don’t leave it to a social media post or two!
If you need resources, the event is hosted and sponsored by the Jump$tart Coalition, which has information for organizations looking to take part in the month’s festivities. You can access their media toolkit here, which has graphics and social media posts to help you get started. As for us here at CUSO Magazine, we’ll be working to bring you content on financial literacy all month long so you can in turn offer support to your members.