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Why is youth education important?

The lack of financial literacy in America is troublesome. Only 27% of Americans state they feel well-informed about managing their household finances. While parents are generally considered the primary source of financial education for their children, only 26% feel competent about teaching personal finances to their children. The younger children are when they learn the basics of financial education, the more astute they will be as consumers regardless of age. Youth are likely to know more about their iPods than personal finance.

Why should credit unions care?

Credit union membership is aging. It is vital to the future of credit unions to attract and retain younger members. But it is also critical that these younger members have the financial knowledge to save and borrow money responsibly. Many are not learning these skills either at home or in school. A further problem is that many young people are not familiar with credit unions. So even if they have good financial skills they may be taking those to banks.

What can credit unions do?

Credit unions can become active in their area elementary and high schools and teach financial literacy. Many states are beginning to mandate that financial education be taught in high schools, but schools don’t have the resources or perhaps even the skills to teach financial literacy. Credit unions can step in and fill those voids and make the learning process fun, as well as informational.


Madison, WI

Mad City Money » View details

In October 2009, approximately 1,300 high school students took part in CUNA’s Mad City Money through a partnership between Heartland CU and four Madison public high schools. Mad City Money is a budgeting simulation program for teens that teaches them the realities of living life as an adult.


Centennial, CO

Seeds for Financial Success » View details

The Director of Financial Education at Arapahoe CU has made 254 presentations to 6,000 students in Centennial’s seven school districts on budgeting, checking account basics, identity theft, purchasing a car and the uniqueness of credit unions. Students are encouraged to join the credit union to put their new skills to work.

Suggested Pilot Programs

Washington, DC

Lot$a Mot$a » View details

Lot$a Mot$a is an Interactive Money Lab concept that grew from Filene Research Institute’s I3 group. While the concept has undergone two successful pilot tests to date, it remains on the burner ready for implementation by a credit union or group of credit unions and a supporting CUSO.




Volunteer & NCUF Deputy Executive Director Tom Candell counsels a teen on her budget after she visited all the booths at NCUF's Reality Fair at GAC.

A Reality Fair (or “Financial Reality Fair”) is an interactive financial literacy tool for high school students. The Reality Fair concept is a unique opportunity for students to experience some of the financial challenges they will face when they start life on their own. It’s a hands-on experience in which students identify their career choice and starting salaries then complete a budget sheet requiring them to live within their monthly salary while paying for basics such as housing, utilities, transportation, clothing, and food. Additional expenditures such as entertainment and travel are factored in as well.

Throughout the fair, there are many temptations for additional spending, and students must learn to balance their wants and needs to live on their own. After the students have visited the various booths covering components of independent living, students balance their budget, and then sit down with a financial counselor for review.  

After NCUF held their first Reality Fair at GAC, David Mauldin, Vice Principal of H.D. Woodson High School said, “I think the fair engaged our students in the process of learning more effectively than any field trip I personally have ever seen. Soon many of them will be out in the real world where every day is a ‘financial reality fair.’ They are all more prepared to make wiser choices because of this event.”

For detailed information about Reality Fairs, see pages 32-34 of the Resource Guide for "Credit Unions: Focused on Financial Capability Across the Nation."


Questions? Contact Lois Kitsch at lkitsch@ncuf.coop or (407) 616-2409.

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