How to Empower the Next Generation of Credit Union Savers

Recent research by members of the Financial Literacy and Education Commission documented that providing financial education at an early age plays an important role in shaping financial practices later in life. Early financial education empowers youth by:

  • Developing Healthy Financial Habits Early — Long-term healthy money habits begin to develop in childhood, as early as preschool.
  • Creating Opportunities to Save Regularly — Access to financial education programs and savings accounts provides opportunities to develop positive long-term financial behaviors.
  • Taking a Hands-on Approach to Money — Students who participate at an early age in financial education programs that include real-world financial experiences are more likely to develop positive attitudes about money.
  • Creating Benefits Beyond Money — Children with savings have greater expectations for education beyond high school.

Even though access to financial education and savings accounts early in life has clear benefits, national data indicates that nearly 7.6 million children live in households that do not have a bank or credit union account. Furthermore, only 17 states require high school students to take a course in personal finance. Likewise, surveys of American teenagers show that most do not have a basic understanding of financial concepts or know how to apply them to real-life financial situations. If the state of financial literacy among America’s young people is going to improve, local partners, non-profit groups, financial institutions, parents and educators will need to work together.

Financial education delivered by parents and caregivers is one of the most important ways to address the lack of financial knowledge among young people. Parents and caregivers can tackle important financial lessons at home through activities and conversations, such as playing board games, saving money in piggy banks, reading financial articles or books, and playing interactive games like the NCUA’s World of Cents mobile learning app. Children also learn from watching their parents or caregivers make real-world money decisions related to spending, earning, saving, and borrowing.

Research from the Financial Education and Account Access among Elementary Students study shows that young people who use a savings account and receive financial education in the classroom can exhibit more positive financial attitudes and behaviors about money. Credit unions can and do play an important role in helping young people take steps toward achieving a sound financial future. Credit unions across the nation collaborate with schools, local governments and non-profits to provide financial education workshops and reality fairs that simulate real-world financial decision-making scenarios, like buying a car or saving for an emergency. Credit unions also offer in-school, student-run branches at elementary, middle and high schools. These branches allow students to open their first savings account and learn how to make smart financial decisions. Credit unions also assist teachers by providing in-classroom lessons on personal finance.

If your credit union is looking to expand or refine your youth savings programs or options, interagency guidance is available with frequently asked questions that may be helpful. You can access these documents on the NCUA’s public website. Another helpful resource, provided by the Conference of State Bank Supervisors, is an interactive map outlining the requirements in each state for opening a bank or credit union account for a minor.

The NCUA provides financial literacy and consumer financial protection resources to assist credit unions and their member-owners with youth financial literacy. Our consumer website, MyCreditUnion.gov, provides consumers of all ages and at all of life’s stages with timely and practical financial literacy tips, interactive learnings tools and financial calculators in a variety of formats like brochures, videos, online resource centers, and calendars. We also offer an information graphic “Empowering Youth to Save,” and two interactive learning tools, World of Cents and Hit the Road, that teach financial skills and money concepts like earning and spending.

We encourage you to link to these resources on your website, use our resources as part of your financial education programs, and refer your members to our resources on social media.