Guide Members Down the Safe Path with Financial Counseling
I was six when my dad taught me to ride a bike. This wasn’t an easy feat since I’ve always been a little clumsy. It took a lot of hard work and conquering of pretty daunting fears to keep getting up on that seat to try again. After many scraped knees, sore feet and even hitting a few parked cars, I was finally able to go on my first solo bike ride. What a thrill to gain a little more freedom, all thanks to a patient teacher.
Since becoming a financial counselor, I have met plenty of people who are clumsy with their money. For some members, it’s from no fault of their own. Due to underemployment, divorce, an economy that is limping along or health reasons, some well-intentioned people are struggling to make ends meet. Others just aren’t money savvy or have never had anyone teach them the basics of personal finance. Still others have made poor decisions they regret and are looking for reprieve. They all have one thing in common– they have come to Meritrust looking for guidance.
The 2012 Consumer Financial Literacy Survey prepared by Harris Interactive Inc. reveals many of the money management problems that plague our society: 33% of adults admit to paying bills late, 39% carry balances month to month on a credit card, 57% do not have a formal budget written for their household and 25% say they are spending more money this year than they did last year. According to the survey of more than 1,000 participants, 42% of adults would give their money management skills a C, D or F letter grade. That number is up 2% from last year.
Meritrust’s desire to focus on the well-being of our members, coupled with my financial literacy experience, led us to pursue my financial counseling certification through the CUNA Credit Union Financial Counseling Certification program. We have since developed a free financial counseling service for our members. Every meeting with a member, every consultation with our lending or collections department and every community organization that has shared resources has provided me the opportunity to accumulate more personal finance knowledge. More importantly, it has taught me compassion and given me the tools necessary to help our members maneuver through difficult financial situations. Not every encounter has been successful, but hundreds of members have benefited from our decision to focus more intently on meeting members’ basic financial needs – as well as hopefully helping them avoid some scrapes and bruises while on their path to financial independence and confidence.
As an adult, you won’t catch me on a bike all that often these days. But thanks to my dad, I have the skills to avoid the parked cars and mud puddles that undoubtedly arise – both on the road and in life. My goal is to help our members gain this confidence, conquer their fear and achieve the financial freedom they desire and deserve.
Chris will be speaking at CUNA Certified Financial Counselor School, June 9-13 in New Orleans. Register today to start earning your Certified Credit Union Financial Counselor (CCUFC) designation so your credit union can also help members down the path to financial freedom!
Chris Wolgamott, Financial Counselor at Meritrust Credit Union, has been in the credit union industry for almost 14 years at Meritrust in Wichita, KS and BECU in Seattle, WA. He spends a majority of his time counseling members as well as developing and teaching financial literacy classes to schools and non-profit organizations in Wichita and throughout the state of Kansas. Chris earned his Bachelors degree from Wichita State University in Management and Marketing, and obtained his Masters of Adult Education degree from Kansas State University. In 2009, Chris was given the opportunity to testify to a congressional sub-committee about the need for financial literacy and how credit unions in Kansas are meeting that need state-wide.
He also earned the CCUFC designation for financial counseling though CUNA in 2010 and was a 40 Under 40 award recipient from the Wichita Business Journal.