Credit Union Journal
By: Aaron Passman
January 30, 2012
First-ever study finds CUs invested $140m in financial education
Credit unions invested more than $140 million in improving consumers financial knowledge during 2010.
That's just one of the findings from a comprehensive report released by the National Credit Union Foundation, which says the study is the first of its kind to examine the effect credit unions have had in financial education and counseling.
The study, titled "Credit Unions: Focused on Financial Capability Across America," is a project of NCUF's REAL Solutions program, and available free at realsolutions.coop.
The report is the result of nearly a year of data collection from NCUF and state leagues, and finds that 1.6 million consumers received financial counseling and advice from CUs in 2010. In addition, credit union representatives presented more than 24,000 financial literacy sessions to more than 600,000 students nationwide. Of the nation's in-school credit union branches, the NCUF found that 111,500 student members had deposited $34 million at 1,400 branches.
NCUF and REAL Solutions collected data through an online survey based on the responses of 576 credit unions of all asset sizes, representing 8% of all U.S. credit unions and 27% of total U.S. membership (as of December 2010). The report includes a state-by-state breakdown of financial education practices along with best practices from several CUs across the country.
The Beginning of the Process
NCUF Executive Director Wendell "Bucky" Sebastian called the study "the beginning, not the end," and said that "long range, the hope is that we will get much more data, better data, and will be able on an ongoing basis to document the efforts of the credit union movement to their members in the form of financial education, financial counseling and financial well-being."
Sebastian said that tracking ROI when it comes to financial education is "pretty hard, because you're talking about educating people."
"This is a first effort, and we're going to try to drill down into the data and collect that information, and become the repository of financial data for credit unions in the United States," said Sebastian.
Sebastian said that NCUF and REAL Solutions will continue to accept and analyze financial education data from any CUs that want to submit it and will likely seek out updated data en masse on a biennial basis.
The NCUF's Grants Committee is now planning to look at items in the new report to determine whether or not there are any scalable projects that fit with the organization's business model. From there, said Sebastian, it may select one or two projects and put out RFPs to try to replicate them nationally.
Sebastian said the study didn't reveal any poor practices in financial ed, but does reinforce that such efforts are still not reaching enough consumers. He said the best practices being shared will work to improve financial literacy efforts.
Sebastian suggested growing market share in financial services contributed to making such a study feasible.