Financial Literacy Month 2024 Kicks Off

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Well, readers, we did it! We successfully survived the cold and dreary months of winter and can now emerge from our hibernation to greet April. With longer days, warmer weather, and blooming trees, there’s no doubt that spring is officially here. As we open the windows, dust off our patio furniture, and start our spring cleaning, we cannot forget that April doesn’t just mean the start of spring, but also the start of Financial Literacy Month.

The history of Financial Literacy Month

But before we pull the streamers, webinars, and prizes out of storage and get going, let’s reflect on the purpose and history of the month. What exactly is Financial Literacy Month and how does one celebrate it?

Originally founded by the Jump$tart Coalition in 2000, the event began as Youth Financial Literacy Day, intended to help increase financial education in schools. Eventually, 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 well-being. Then in 2003, the United States Congress requested President George W. Bush 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 then, Financial Literacy Month has occurred every April, when financial institutions, schools, and businesses around the country work together to help the population become more financially literate. Now, nearly a quarter of a century into the event, financial institutions celebrate Financial Literacy Month with great gusto; from webinars to informational flyers, to social media campaigns, to student-run branches and more, credit unions are long-standing champions of the festivities.

Here at CUSO Magazine, we take Financial Literacy Month just as seriously as our credit unions and are eager to share how credit unions are celebrating the event and working to educate their communities and how you can do the same!

Financial literacy is more important than ever

It’s no secret that today’s consumers are facing great financial difficulties. The ever-rising cost of living coupled with high-interest rates has left members struggling to get by, let alone accumulate any savings, pay off debts, or build a retirement fund. Even traditionally inexpensive options consumers once relied on, such as fast food, have not been immune to increasing costs, with a Big Mac meal from McDonald’s costing a staggering $18 in some parts of the U.S.

While it’s important for worker’s compensation to rise with the cost of living (though 60% of workers say their pay has lagged inflation, according to a Bankrate survey), it’s also critical that members know how to make the most of their money and make better financial decisions in order to achieve true financial wellness. Knowing what to do with the money you make is just as important as bringing money in. In 2021 alone, Americans reported losing an average of $1,389 because of a lack of personal finance knowledge, Annuity reports.

However, the road to financial education and wellness can be rife with noise. Social media is filled to the brim with “experts” constantly advising users on how to spend their money, leaving many confused as to what the right solution for them is. Because of this, it’s no wonder that, according to Annuity, 25% of Americans say they don’t have anyone they can ask for trusted financial guidance.

This is where credit unions come in. As trusted financial institutions that put their members before profit, consumers can trust that the advice and education credit unions provide will have their best interests at heart. Credit unions can help them cut through the noise and find effective and reliable methods to achieve financial wellness. This is why participation in Financial Literacy Month is essential for credit unions. When consumers cannot trust the information they are getting online, they should be able to depend on their credit union for help.

In turn, helping your members and community better understand their finances and becoming a reliable source of information and trusted financial partner will increase overall faith in your credit union, bringing in new and more loyal members.

How to get involved

Now that we’ve covered the who, what, where, when, and why, let’s discuss the how. How can your credit union make the most of the month and ensure you are doing everything in your power to educate your members and support them on their journey to financial wellness? How can you best help them meet their financial goals?

While April is definitely the best time to go all out in your financial literacy education, your credit union must be working to answer these questions year-round. Efforts should not be limited to one month. Therefore, the best place to start is by examining what your credit union is currently doing every day to increase financial literacy and wellness amongst your membership base.

To start, your website should have a dedicated section to financial literacy with plenty of resources, such as financial articles or blog posts, for your members as well as information on how the credit union can help them meet their goals. If you have financial wellness coaches or financial advisors available, this would be the place to advertise that. If you host any webinars members can take advantage of, share any information on them on your website and social media.

If you don’t offer either of those things, this is the perfect opportunity to consider doing so! Every member’s journey to financial wellness will be different, but they should all start with an honest look at their finances and what steps they can take to start getting on track to meet their goals. Webinars on financial topics such as saving for retirement, how to get a mortgage, or making a budget can be fantastic resources for your members. Alternatively, many credit unions are starting podcasts as opposed to webinars, in which they share tips and advice on a variety of financial topics each week. Even a social media post once or twice a week with some financial tips can make a huge impact.

It’s also critical to remember your audience. While financial literacy is important for all your members, don’t overlook your younger members such as high schoolers. Helping older members correct and improve their financial behavior is a huge part of Financial Literacy Month, but there is a reason the event was originally focused on youths. Having a good financial education foundation on which to build good money habits as a teenager will set them up for success as adults. However, only a staggering 17% of U.S. adults said they took a personal finance class in high school.

Despite this gap in education, over 73% of teens want more personal finance education, especially considering only 36% of Gen Z are financially literate. There are many opportunities for credit unions to work with schools to help meet this need. The Credit Union of Texas opened branches within high schools and hired students to run them, providing many with a chance to learn how to handle money and gain a better understanding of basic financial concepts. Others have looked to apps such as Zogo to help make the learning experience more engaging and rewarding for younger audiences. Or, if all else fails, offering a few education sessions at schools can make a huge difference—especially on topics such as student loans.

Credit unions are setting the standard

If you need any more inspiration on how to celebrate Financial Literacy Month, look no further than your fellow credit unions, who by far lead the way in financial literacy, going above and beyond to help their members.

If you’re looking to get financial literacy and wellness tools on your website, Beacon Credit Union offers an excellent example to follow. Their financial help page offers a variety of financial calculators as well as various trustworthy financial tools members can use to get their finances under control. Apple Federal Credit Union, on the other hand, has a series of articles on financial topics on their website along with tips on how to become financially well. Others are sharing their articles, tips, and appointments with financial counselors on social media to let their members know they’re here to help.

Ent Credit Union in Colorado started the month early, hosting 2nd graders in their branches to teach them about saving and spending. Family First Credit Union also kicked off the festivities early, with a webinar on homebuying earlier in March. These two credit unions are a perfect example of how we should be invested in financial literacy all year-round, not just in April.

There’s no doubt that credit unions are already off to a great start, but the month is only beginning! We can’t wait to see how other credit unions will step up and get involved, and we here at CUSO Magazine are not exempt. We will be participating and working to help you better educate your members all month long, so check back throughout April to see what we have in store!

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