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  • CU Strategic Planning

Credit Union Members Need HEROes in the Battle for Financial Independence

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Only 55% of American adults believe they will achieve financial independence, according to a recent survey by the National Financial Educators Council.

“These survey data show that many people have given up on the American Dream. The findings point to a serious need to raise financial awareness and provide education so people can build confidence and optimism about their futures,” NFEC CEO Vince Shorb stated in announcing the results.

Right now, consumers needs are more immediate than chasing some dream. It’s about putting food on the table and gas in their car so they can get to work to support their families. We need to reframe how we approach financial counseling in these unprecedented times, and credit unions are the perfect vehicle to do that while also demonstrating their relevance to American consumers.

In a recent article that ran in CU Today, CU Strategic Planning CEO Stacy Augustine told the publication, “It's really great to talk about how you are going to send your kids to college and how you're going to be able to afford retirement, but if you can't afford SpaghettiOs today you're not thinking about college tomorrow.”

Increasing debt

A report from the Federal Reserve Bank of New York shows a 1.7% rise in total household debt in the first quarter of 2022 alone—an increase of $266 billion. Fixed expenses like housing and transportation are increasing faster than incomes all across the country, creating more debtors and more stress.

Members are facing greater needs and anxiety, and finances are often at the root of it. Latest figures show that 64% live paycheck to paycheck – or not even. Augustine noted that financial counseling isn’t just for those who are considered low-income or underserved. It’s vital for everyone.

While it’s great to have a few designated financial counselors on staff at your credit unions, right now is time for all hands on deck. “One of the best things a credit union can do now is make sure they leverage their existing staff,” Augustine told CU Today. “People work at a credit union because they care about people, and they care about their members. A lot of times it's the frontline people who can see financial problems starting in members’ lives.”

Now is the time to train frontline team members to look for red flags, like canceled checks from payday lenders. Then they can share that the credit union offers financial counseling if the member would like assistance.

Unlocking opportunities

As part of our services, CU Strategic Planning offers HERO Community Development Certified Financial Counseling Training, which provides instruction, testing and certification to help your credit union better serve members, safely increase lending at lower credit scores to drive profitability and build relationships with community organizations to achieve more collaboratively.

The HERO (Helping Everyone Reach Opportunities) online training program focuses on teaching skills that credit union staff can use with people who are seeking financial stability. HERO allows financial institutions to turn members into qualified borrowers by coaching them to become creditworthy. Participants receive testing and security equivalent to a proctored exam, and tools are constantly updated to keep up with predatory lenders’ sneaky ways.

Keeping members out of the clutches of payday lenders, buy-here, pay-here auto dealers, title lenders and others is half the battle for financial independence! The benefits of HERO financial counselor training to credit unions are numerous, including well-trained staff to better serve all members, risk mitigation, building member loyalty, keeping up to date on trends and progress tracking. Give your members the gift of a shot at the American Dream by boosting their financial independence.


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