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Don’t Just Tell Members to Pack Their Lunches 

packed lunch in clear plastic container
By John Buzzard

2 minutes

Commit to going deeper with members to help them reach their financial goals.

Sponsored by CO-OP Financial Services

The concept of perpetuating awareness about the importance of financial literacy education and the consequences of not understanding personal finances was boosted when in 2004 the U.S. Congress designated April as “National Financial Literacy Month,” also known as “National Financial Capability Month.” 

Each April, federal and state agencies, credit unions, banks and a bevy of nonprofit organizations take a stab at reminding consumers about the importance of sound financial practices with a goal of penetrating through the static and noise of normal everyday life. 

Let’s face it—there are consumers with needs that may never be met through regular savings practices and advice gleaned from the public domain. A 2018 Money.com article cites the New York Federal Reserve’s Survey of Consumer Finances, which found “people’s peak earning years also appear to be their peak debt years.” It’s understandable—students enter the workforce, raise families and incur debt to support their needs for more space, education and cost of living.

The story continues: “People between the ages of 45 and 54 reported the highest levels of debt overall, totaling $134,600. Those in the 35-44 age bracket carry the second-largest amount, at $133,100.” 

It’s clear that indebtedness imitates life. We also know from experience that life isn’t waiting around for us to repay our current debts before the roof begins to leak or our teenager requires braces. National Financial Literacy Month has to take on real-life problems by solving them through planning and sound financial advice. Let’s not tell people to pack their lunch and live frugally—this is deeper.  

Knock, Knock, Who’s There?

In the credit union industry, the promise of “people helping people” is embedded in everything we do. Our mission is not to simply fulfill our members’ banking needs, but help them achieve their financial goals as well.

So, how can we as credit unions rise to that occasion of always being the trusted advisor when members come to us with simple inquiries about their car loans, mortgages and credit cards? 

By being more consultative. Ask your member why they are seeking more information. Try this simple question the next time you are working with a member to meet their financial goals: “Do you have some additional financial goals that we can discuss in addition to this request?” 

Being open to listening to the financial goals of your members may just be the catalyst that allows your relationship to shift from loan officer to trusted advisor in the course of a short afternoon. Analyzing the member’s current financial picture and getting him headed in the direction of meeting future goals is the ultimate definition of financial literacy. Taking the first step in promoting financial literacy really starts with you and ends with a smile on your member’s face.  

John Buzzard is industry fraud specialist with CUES Supplier member CO-OP Financial Services, Rancho Cucamonga, California.

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