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Financial Programs & Counseling

Why are financial programs & counseling important?

Improving financial literacy has the potential to improve the lives of millions of Americans. Only 27% of Americans state they feel well-informed about managing their household finances. Financial education can help people own a home, live comfortably in retirement, finance one’s own or children’s education, and generally choose wisely among the marketplace of financial products and services. Uninformed choices can be dangerous and costly.

Why should credit unions care?

Well-informed and educated consumers make good credit union members because they save and borrow responsibly. That is the ultimate mission of credit unions – to help their members improve their financial well-being. Consumers have an increasingly complex myriad of financial options from which to choose. Credit unions can use financial programs and counseling services to strengthen member relationships and loyalty, while improving their members’ financial skills.

What can credit unions do?

Most, if not all credit unions provide some type of financial counseling, whether informally through member service representatives or through more formal programs, such as Balance or certified financial counselors. Credit unions are in a position to be viewed as reliable and reputable places to obtain financial information. They can help their members understand how to qualify for, shop for, obtain, and maintain credit. They can help their members become efficient managers of credit.

CoVantage Credit Union

Antigo, WI

Accel Credit Counseling » View details

Accel Credit Counseling provides assistance with personal and family budgeting, understanding credit reports, money management, debt repayment, and learning how to avoid bankruptcy & repossession. The program also provides housing counseling with HUD-approved counselors who can help members with everything from pre-purchase education, closing support and foreclosure prevention.

Cutting Edge

Milwaukie, OR

Financial Check-Up » View details

Member service representatives are called “Financial Doctors.” Members are encouraged to sign up for a FREE annual check-up with a doctor, who, together with the member, review the member’s account and product usage to ensure the member is receiving full advantage of all credit union offerings.


Chelsea, MA

Fuel Accounts » View details

FUEL accounts are similar to Individual Development Accounts (IDAs). Families with middle or high school students in the Chelsea School System agree to save a predetermined amount each month based on the goal of $1,500 by senior year. They also agree to attend at least six savings circle meetings per year to learn more about financial management. The students agree to participate in an afterschool program for homework support and a positive environment. As of January 2010, 100 students and their families were participating in the program.

The National Credit Union Foundation (NCUF) through its REAL Solutions™ program have made available this free online report entitled “Credit Unions: Focused on Financial Capability Across the Nation,” which is the result of an almost yearlong data collection effort by NCUF with the help of state credit union leagues.

In an effort to help the credit union community understand the depth and breadth of existing programs, NCUF and REAL Solutions™ conducted a comprehensive national study of credit-union provided member and consumer financial education and counseling. The data derived from this study will be useful to state leagues/associations and the broader credit union industry because it quantifies the extent to which credit unions are providing opportunities for members/consumers to advance their financial knowledge and decision-making skills.

Credit Unions: Focused on Financial Capability Across the Nation” describes ten financial education/counseling interventions offered to members/consumers by credit unions. It provides cumulative data about member use of and access to credit-union provided financial education/counseling products, tools, and courses, and it reveals probable keys to program success. National data is supplemented by case studies of credit unions and state leagues/associations that illustrate each type of educational intervention. Finally, an overview of financial education/counseling programs at credit unions within each state provides a comprehensive look at the varied and numerous educational outreach efforts geared toward credit union members and consumers in general.

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Resource Guide

The resource guide for “Credit Unions: Focused on Financial Capability Across the Nation” is designed to assist credit unions and others to access resources, information and curriculum already created to help them offer even more financial literacy programs. This resource guide is intended to broaden and extend the intervention techniques described in the original report. Each method of financial counseling/education gives examples, additional resources, and further information and tips to help credit unions expand their current education programs or introduce new ones.

State Supplement Pages

Credit Unions: Focused on Financial Capability Across the Nation” would not be complete without sharing the efforts of leagues/associations and credit unions in each state as they strive to provide high quality financial education and literacy services to members and consumers. In every state, access to information and participation in educational/counseling programs helps members and consumers make better financial decisions, thereby improving family security and overall financial capability.

Many of the statistics cited in the following state supplements were gleaned from the National Credit Union Foundation’s 2011 Credit Union Member Financial Education Inventory. Other statistics were derived from surveys conducted by individual credit union leagues/associations. For state advocacy efforts, each double-sided page below contains state information on one side and national statistics on the other. To view/download the state pages individually (they are also included in the full report), please click on the links below:

Data & Survey Information
The data on which this report is based was collected through an online survey of U.S. credit unions. Data collection began in March 2011 and continued through year-end 2011. This report is based on information submitted by 576 credit unions of all asset sizes. They represent 8% of all U.S. credit unions, and 27% of all U.S. credit union memberships as of December 2010.

This report is one of several ongoing projects to assist credit unions with educational program development, measurement, and implementation. In the coming years, NCUF and REAL Solutions will continue to gather and publish data about credit union provision of financial education/counseling.

REAL Solutions, CUNA & Leagues Have Partnered to Offer Financial Counseling Training to CUs

Enhanced FiCEP helps more CU Members Prepare for their Future

An enhanced version of the Credit Union Financial Counseling Certification Program (FiCEP) is available to credit union staff thanks to a collaboration between the National Credit Union Foundation’s REAL Solutions® effort, Credit Union National Association’s Center for Professional Development (CUNA CPD), and the Mississippi, Michigan, Illinois, Hawaii, Louisiana, New York and Texas credit union leagues.

FiCEP, a self-study program offered by CUNA CPD is a program where credit union employees learn how to counsel members to better prepare for their future and to assist when they are faced with financial difficulties. Until now students have had the option of attending a face-to-face school or through self-study. Through this enhanced version of the program, students not only get the self-study guides, but it includes 8 webinars (1 per module) which will review the printed materials and add real-life experiences, as well as two in-person meetings which will feature networking, education and proctored exams.

Credit unions interested in having staff trained to become financial counselors should contact Lois Kitsch at lkitsch@ncuf.coop.

More About FiCEP
FiCEP enables all credit union staff to become more confident in helping members build a stronger financial future. FiCEP is designed for credit union staff who work in the financial counseling, collections, and loan departments, or any other staff members who are committed to helping members gain control of their financial future.

FiCEP enhances credit union services by:

  • Proven financial counseling skills become a part of the credit union’s culture;
  • Written for all staff levels so anyone can offer financial counseling during every member interaction;
  • Certification satisfies members’ needs as they continually look for the value of the credit union;
  • Differentiates the credit union with certified financial counselors; and
  • Helps members transform the way they deal with money through real-world counseling.

When staff successfully complete the proctored exams for both parts (eight total modules), they will be a Credit Union Certified Financial Counselor ready and able to assist credit union members reach their financial goals.

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