Give the Gift of Financial Education

As soon as they come, the holidays have gone again, but for millions of people, the cost of food, gifts, decorations and travel will linger long into 2017. The cultural norms many of us take for granted over the festive season, can be an overwhelming burden on many budgets.

This new year is an opportunity for credit unions to stand out from the crowd and offer more than just the products and services of a financial institution. Instead, let us demonstrate our authentic difference by reaching out to our members and helping them manage their expenses by providing financial education and counseling, too.

There’s a social mission at the heart of our movement that extends far beyond volunteering and charitable donations. It calls on credit unions and partner organizations like CUNA Mutual Group to work with members and help them better understand their finances; increasing their financial capacity and empowering them to build stronger, more financially secure futures.

One leader who embodies this mission is Lynette Smith. As CEO of Washington Gas Light Federal Credit Union in Springfield, Va., she is driven to reach out to vulnerable and underserved communities. She works tirelessly to address their financial capabilities, far beyond simply providing financial products and services.

Her credit union – like thousands of others – offers free financial seminars to help members plan and prepare for everything from tuition fees to retirement. They provide on-site credit counselling for those members already burdened with debt, and even run outreach programs specifically targeting younger people.

Lynette is growing her credit union, and indeed the wider movement with it, by building prosperity within the community she serves.

So before 2017 hits its stride, while so many people will still be struggling with holiday spending, let’s focus on the founding principles credit unions were built upon. Let’s truly look for ways to help the people we are here to serve build for their futures.

Let’s provide these opportunities now so that members are still talking about them once January comes, because through financial education we can build financial capabilities, and put people before profit all year long.

Gerry Singleton is the Vice President of Credit Union System Relations for CUNA Mutual Group. He is responsible for establishing, strengthening and maintaining relations with credit union trade organizations and state leagues. Gerry can be reached at

CUNA Mutual Group is the marketing name for CUNA Mutual Holding Company, a mutual insurance holding company, its subsidiaries and affiliates.

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