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By Molly Pastore, NEFMA Board of Directors

Our team at Navigant Credit Union is deeply committed to providing financial literacy education in the communities we serve.

Through our partnership with EverFi, we have spent the last several years bringing proven, student-friendly financial education curriculum into local classrooms. Since its launch, our program has reached more than 4,000 students across Rhode Island, who have completed more than 30,000 financial literacy modules and logged more than 22,000 hours of learning. In addition to our work in the classroom, we also have a diverse suite of free resources available on our website, and we host regular in-person and virtual educational seminars to help our members and neighbors through their financial journeys.

We’re extremely proud of our commitment to financial literacy education and its results. These efforts showcase our credit union’s deep, inherent commitment to giving back to the local community, and we truly feel as though they’ve made a difference in the lives of our members and neighbors.

Plus, at the risk of sounding crass, our commitment to this cause has also evolved into one of Navigant Credit Union’s most effective marketing tools. With National Financial Literacy Month coming up in April, I want to talk about why.

Here are just three of the many reasons financial literacy education is an effective marketing tool for banks, credit unions and other financial institutions.

It’s a problem worth addressing.

According to Standard & Poor’s Global Financial Literacy Survey, less than 60% of American adults are considered sufficiently financially literate. The National Foundation for Credit Counseling found that just two out of every five American adults know how to set a monthly budget. A study from the Financial Industry Regulatory Authority (FINRA) Foundation found that more than half of Americans admit to being “financially anxious.”

Clearly, the widespread lack of financial preparation is a major problem. And it’s one our industry has a unique ability (and opportunity) to address.

It’s an issue directly related to our industry.

As financial institutions, we are responsible for guiding our customers and/or members through every step of their financial journeys. Whether they’re opening their first savings account or considering a “milestone purchase” like a home or a car, we need to ensure they have the tools they need to make the best decisions.

We’ve learned that offering free courses such as the options we’ve listed in our online Financial Wellness Center is a highly effective way to better engage our members. These resources give our members the knowledge and confidence they need to take the next steps in their financial lives, while also highlighting the fact that our team is ready and available to help them take those steps. Simple, proactive decisions like this show our members that we value their financial well-being, and give them the information they need to start the process of preparing themselves to achieve their goals. 

Finally, it’s an issue that’s near and dear to many people’s hearts.

With national credit card and student loan debt trending toward all-time highs, financial literacy education is becoming a more and more prominent issue, both for local media outlets and for local elected officials. Taking a strong stance on this issue (and backing that strong stance up with real, concrete action) is a highly effective way to earn media coverage and develop relationships with key stakeholders in your local markets.

This is an issue that affects virtually every age group in every city in every state across the country. Somewhere in New England, somebody’s journey toward financial literacy is beginning right now, and we as financial institutions have an opportunity – and a responsibility – to help them get off on the right track!