Archive for category Personal Finance

A Reflective Celebration

Posted by on Thursday, 23 August, 2012

This post originally appeared on, where CUNA regularly provides articles related to credit union topics for their CU Community page.

From Joe Day:

Members Matter Most“Members Matter Most” – it’s time to let out the secret. Working for cooperatively owned financial institutions, we all know that every action we take at our credit unions is in the direct interest of our members. This member-focused attitude is also what sets us apart from other financial institutions. On October 18, the credit union movement will celebrate International Credit Union Day® (ICU Day) and will have the chance to share our message with the world.

“Members are the focal point this year, just as they are every single day in credit unions,” said Joanne Sepich, CUNA’s ICU Day coordinator. “While credit union staff always put members first, ICU Day is an opportunity to remind members that credit unions are different by design—members are what make credit unions unique and set them apart as for-people, not-for-profit, cooperatively owned financial institutions.”

The first International Credit Union Day was established by the Credit Union League of Massachusetts in 1927. Originally “Credit Union Day” (CU Day), was established on January 17 in honor of the great “Apostle of Thrift,” Benjamin Franklin. Unfortunately, at the time when CU Day was established, the credit union movement in North America was just getting started, and it was hard to celebrate a movement most people had never heard of. Inevitably, CU Day faded away.

Twenty-one years later, in 1948, the centennial of the first credit union arrived. By then, about five million people belonged to 12,000 credit unions in the United States and Canada. Credit Union National Association (CUNA) decided that it was time to give CU Day new life this time with a national celebration set aside on the third Thursday of October. We have been celebrating ever since.

Today, credit unions and associations in every part of the world celebrate with open houses, contests, picnics, fairs, festivals and parades. Others hold athletic competitions and essay or art contests for young members. Public gatherings with visiting dignitaries have effectively attracted media attention and public involvement, as have educational and public service events.

Since ICU Day generates a lot of positive attention every year, it seems only logical that our movement will continue to grow; the reality remains an uphill challenge. Still, many members of the general public do not know what a credit union is, where their nearest credit union is located, or the advantages credit unions offer over other financial institutions.

According to CUNA’s Credit Union Environmental Scan (E-Scan) :

  • About 37% of all nonmembers are “not at all familiar” with credit unions.
  • 69% of consumers ages 18-24 claim to be “not at all familiar” with credit unions.
  • About 18% of all Americans are either unbanked or underbanked.

These trends are indeed troubling, but they are not irreversible. To help inform potential members of the financial advantages of joining a credit union and direct them to credit unions where they are eligible to join, CUNA and the leagues developed This website initiative has many features designed to help consumers make the “smarter choice” including information that details the significant differences between banks and credit unions, a credit union locator to find the nearest credit union they are eligible to join, a live feed of the most important credit union news stories and testimonials from real members on their experience with credit unions.

Together with International Credit Union Day and, we can work toward bringing to light the best kept secret in the financial services industry. As we celebrate ICU Day in October, take a moment to reflect upon not only the positive difference credit unions make around the world, but also the large number of people missing out on the party. Remember, it is never too late to start writing invitations.

How does your credit union plan to celebrate International Credit Union Day in 2012?

Joe Day

Joe Day, Director of Business Development at Credit Union National Association.

Yes, You Can Use Pinterest for Your Credit Union

Posted by on Wednesday, 29 February, 2012

This post was originally published on

To pin or not to pin? As the popularity of Pinterest continues to grow, that is the question many credit union professionals are starting to ask.

If you’re not already familiar with the website, here’s a quick rundown: Pinterest is a social bookmarking website that allows you to collect—or “pin”—content from around the Web to personalized pinboards. The usefulness for credit unions might not be immediately apparent. After all, Pinterest is practically tailor-made for brands that specialize in fashion, cooking, housewares, and other visually oriented pursuits.

So do credit unions really have a place on Pinterest? I would argue that they do—if you give some deeper thought to your current and prospective members’ motivation before diving in.

But first, let’s talk about some statistics. In terms of numbers, it making more and more sense to have a presence on Pinterest because that’s where the Web users are. Check out these insights compiled by Monetate, a provider of digital marketing and optimization tools:

  • Estimated unique visitors to Pinterest increased by 329% from September to December 2011.
  • Pinterest is now driving more Web traffic than Google+.
  • The top five tips for using Pinterest include promoting a lifestyle, using it as a focus group, crowdsourcing, running contests, and inspiring your team.

So what are some specific ways that credit unions can start pinning? The key is to tap into the goals of members, and show them how your credit union can play a vital role in helping them achieve those goals.

Think about it like this: Users typically use their boards as future inspiration. They might pin images of new cars, dream kitchens, vacation destinations, or splurge-worthy shoes. Do you notice a pattern here? Your credit union can help members work toward all of these goals. You just have to position yourself on Pinterest as their biggest financial adviser and cheerleader. Here are just a few ideas to get you started:

  • Create a collaborative pinboard of potential savings goals, and invite other users to become contributors. Encourage them to pin content related to whatever they want to save money for, and offer advice and feedback through comments.
  • Lots of pinners use Pinterest to find creative ideas for kids. Try creating a pinboard that focuses on projects or activities that teach children about money. Or, for something more lighthearted, create a pinboard dedicated to something quirky, like unique piggy banks. A quick Web search should reveal lots of fun images worth pinning.
  • Use pins to direct members to specific areas of your website. But make sure you’re actually sharing content that will genuinely interest members. For instance, does your credit union maintain a blog or write articles for members? Pin attention-grabbing images or infographics that link back to your content.

As with any form of social media, getting started with Pinterest might be a trial-and-error process at first—and that’s perfectly okay. Don’t be afraid to try different approaches and strategies to find what works best for your followers.

Have you started using Pinterest for your credit union? Share your experience with a comment!

We Do Big Things: A Resource for Credit Union Planning Sessions

Posted by on Friday, 4 March, 2011

I can’t begin to tell you how great it makes me feel to work for CUNA.

Why?  One reason is because my department—CUNA’s Center for Personal Finance (CPF)—produces personal finance materials that credit unions trust to educate their members about important money matters.

And financial education is important to the credit union movement. Financial literacy efforts are part of the fabric which separates credit unions from other financial institutions. In fact, even American Bankers Association Senior Economist Keith Leggett gave a nod to credit union financial education efforts a few years ago.

So it does my heart some good to be a cog in the mighty credit union wheel.

Now, producing personal finance materials that credit unions can trust doesn’t happen overnight. Each year CPF holds several planning sessions to anticipate the needs of credit unions and the consumer-members they serve.

It’s been said, you can’t truly know where you’re going until you know where you’ve been. So, at the end of the year CPF produces a year in review identifying our contributions to the credit union movement. It’s a wonderful tool that helps the department recognize what worked well and spark ideas to plan and research for the coming year.

Let me peel back the CUNAverse curtain and share the 2010 Center for Personal Finance Year in Review with you… see below. Perhaps your credit union or credit union organization can use this as an example for crafting something similar.

What does your organization do to help with planning for the upcoming year?

CUNA’s Center for Personal Finance Year in Review – 2010


  • CPF contributed to CUNA’s ongoing PR and outreach effortsHome & Family Finance Radio

Each week CUNA’s voice of authority in financial literacy reaches a wide national audience through Home &Family Finance Radio, a joint project under the direction of Washington D.C. staff …. The project entered a new phase with the development of a Home & Family Finance Radio player for credit union websites.

  • CPF staff expertise received outside recognition

Staff currently represent CUNA and the credit union movement on the boards Personal Finance Employee Education Foundation of the and the Association for Financial Counseling and Planning Education. In 2010, the following online and print publications tapped CPF for interviews and quotes:,, Parents Magazine, Daily Herald (an online suburban Chicago news outlet), Crain’s Detroit Business, and Parenting Magazine.  Also in 2010, NCUF-funded, CUNA-sponsored, and CPF-guided preschool financial literacy
research conducted in partnership with the University of Wisconsin-Madison
was cited at an international child finance conference in Amsterdam.

  • CPF products, programs put the spotlight on credit unions

This year’s annual National Youth Saving Challenge resulted in 176,750 youth at 352 participating credit unionsputting $25,627,753 in existing and 10,631 new youth accounts. Participation in the Desjardins Youth Financial Education Award recognition program brought a record number of entries (56) from a record number of states (29). The Louisiana, California, and Illinois leagues hosted events showcasing CPF’s live group budgeting simulation Mad City Money, which also saw widespread use during Wisconsin’s MoneySmart Week, including all four of Madison’s high schools.

  • CPF partnership initiatives reached new markets

CUNA’s relationship with Coopera Consulting was strengthened by a number of
CPF joint projects, including editorial oversight of the Spanish language website El Poder Es Tuyo and the production of a basic money management seminar and four instructional videos in Spanish. CPF also brought Cabot Creamery Cooperative into a partnership with the New York Credit Union League that led to the licensing of content for a youth activity booklet about maintaining health and wealth. A new partnership with the Direct Selling Association and the Direct Selling Education Foundation resulted in a deal to license an online money management course.

Service to credit unions and members

  • New CPF products addressed new challenges and opportunities

The launch of the Money Mission, a joint collaboration between CUNA
and the Wisconsin Credit Union league gave CPF entry into the world of online educational gaming. With the launch of El Poder Es Tuyo, CPF expanded its support of CUNA’s Hispanic Initiative while garnering an award from the National Association of Consumer Agency Administrators for quality of text and design, effectiveness of message, accuracy and usefulness of information,
creativity, value to the community, needed changes and program results.

  • CPF improvements kept existing products fresh and relevant

A redesign of CPF’s online editorial service Copy & Art Express improved the 12-year-old product’s ability to deliver articles, ads, and images, allowing subscribers to beef up their newsletters and web sites and, in one case, produce a 16-page informational booklet. All told, the department’s suite of onlineEDGE products combined generated an estimated 45 million page views from 850,000 visitors to the websites of 1,223 subscribing credit unions during 2010.

  • CPF responded to consumer news and changes in federal regulation

A spate of news stories about investment and other schemes targeting seniors prompted the production of a series of articles and brochures alerting credit union members to the threat and how to protect against it. Guides to Independence added two new credit card courses that reflect consumer changes wrought by the Credit CARD Act of 2009.


CUNA Intern Published in Kiplinger’s Personal Finance Magazine

Posted by on Wednesday, 29 December, 2010

We have very talented and dedicated staff working for America’s credit unions here at CUNA. Our interns are no exception.

In fact, one of our Editorial Interns, Casey Mysliwy, was published in the December 2010 issue of Kiplinger’s Personal Finance magazine. Casey helps produce material for CUNA’s Center for Personal Finance web publications such as Home and Family Finance Resource Center and MoneyMix: Launch Your Life.

We know how talented she is, and we are very excited that a respected and established personal finance periodical such as Kiplinger’s recognizes her talents as well. Casey’s success is a testament of her talents and reflects the expertise of CUNA staff.

Watch this video to learn more about Casey’s article, and take a moment to read the article online.

Undergrads Want Financial Education – What’s Your Credit Union Waiting For?

Posted by on Monday, 30 August, 2010

Some of the funniest commercials have aired during back-to-school season, like this one from Office Max (my favorite part is the lollipop switched for a magnifying glass).

But while many students roll their eyes at these commercials, others are scratching their heads wondering how the final set of CARD Act rules–which went into effect on August 22nd–will affect their credit accounts.

It’s my opinion that this is a perfect opportunity for credit unions to reach young adults and help them with financial education.  Why?

  1. The CARD Act is arguably the most important financial change to impact this demographic.
  2. Young adults WANT to learn how to better manage their money. According to a recent study by Sallie Mae, 84% of undergraduates said they needed more financial education.
  3. Credit unions that use financial education to guide young adults through these confusing times will gain their loyalty in return.

It’s that second point that’s most interesting… the average undergraduate senior leaves college with $4,100 in credit card debt AND wishes they had known more about managing credit and their finances. That’s where credit unions can make an impact with this demographic; by providing the desired financial education using relevant communication channels.

This is the main reason I’m psyched about my role here at CUNA. I get to help credit unions provide valuable financial information to my demographic using relevant methods such as the Web and in-person seminars.

We all know using a credit card isn’t difficult. It’s HOW to use a credit card that gets tricky. And that’s what I wanted to convey to folks my age with the video I produced for our new Seminar In A Box aimed at those starting out in life.  (Credit 101: Do You Pass the Test will be released this fall.)

Jeremy was awesome, and very candid. I wanted him to tell his story and offer advice based on his experience with credit. Hearing that message and discussing the situation with peers goes a long way and I think it amplifies the rest of the information presented throughout the seminar.

Check out this shortened version of the video…

Jeremy shares more compelling stories in the longer version that’s sure to resonate with the intended audience… like the story about his roommate’s use of credit, his episode with collections, how his credit problems affected his college career, and some advice based on his experiences.

Now it’s your turn… am I off base? Do you think young adults are a lost cause for credit unions? Are there better ways to reach them and gain their loyalty? I have lots to say about this subject–too much for one post–so let’s keep this conversation going!

What I’ve Learned as an Intern at CUNA

Posted by on Monday, 26 July, 2010

Kate Neuens

From Kate Neuens:

When I walked in for my first interview for an editorial internship at CUNA I was asked what I knew about credit unions.

I sat, completely unsure of what to say. I managed to offer, “Well, I belong to a credit union.” I had no idea that credit unions are not-for-profit, cooperatives, and have a D.C. location where they work hard to protect credit union members. I also didn’t realize I had not answered the question that well (it was my first professional interview, so cut me some slack!).

I did not receive the internship at CUNA, but then I received a call a few months later that another internship was open and that I was welcome to interview. Alas, I did not receive that internship as well. I had lost all hope of working at CUNA when I got a call on my first day back to class during my junior year at UW-Madison. I was offered an internship in the Center for Personal Finance working with Googolplex and I’ve been here ever since!

When I started this internship I figured I would just read and edit stories, do my job well, but not become engrossed in the CUNA and credit union system. Well, that didn’t happen. It’s impossible to work here and not get caught up in our mission! I love that credit unions are not profit driven and are run by local communities, focusing on helping consumers. Sometimes it feels like everything is run by “too big to fail” corporations,, but all you have to do is look down Main Street in any town and know that’s not true when you see the credit union. Members aren’t nickel-and-dimed, and credit unions want to help them achieve the best financial success they can. I opened my first account at a credit union, and joined a credit union when I moved to Madison, but I had no idea about the whole amazing system behind the organizations.

Once I learned all that credit unions do to help their members, I found a new appreciation for the work I do here. I think Googolplex is a really important part of our mission here at CUNA and for credit unions. One of our main priorities is protecting consumers, and that means preparing everyone, especially kids and teenagers, for tough decisions about money. We teach youth about the importance of credit, protecting their identity, setting goals for their savings, and how a credit union is the opportune place to get help for anything financial. I’ve always been relatively smart about finding a balance between saving and spending, but I know plenty of people my age who don’t have a clue. I get some pleasure from knowing we may be stopping some kids from making big mistakes with their cash or credit.

So, I came into CUNA knowing nothing, and I mean nothing, about credit unions, and now I know a little something about these fantastic organizations. I’ve learned a lot working here, and I’ve also been taught a slew of valuable lessons and skills, like proper copy-editing, team work in the office, and a whole different type of writing style. I see credit unions as always being a part of my future, because there’s no way I’m moving my account to a bank after all I have learned here!

Kate Neuens is an editorial intern in the Center for Personal Finance. She is set to graduate from UW-Madison in May ’11 with a degree in Communication Arts and English.

Is the Credit Union Difference Reaching Consumers?

Posted by on Wednesday, 21 July, 2010

I’m grateful for the amount of positive coverage credit unions have received as consumers search for alternative banking solutions.  It’s raised public awareness about credit unions as safe financial institutions with excellent benefits for members.

In my opinion, however, the coverage falls short in delivering the full story on why credit unions are a better option for consumers. I worry that the credit union difference—our voluntary community involvement, commitment to financial education,  service to the under-served, and so on—is becoming lost in the shuffle.

The articles I’ve read tout credit unions’ better interest rates and lower fees. Yes, these are important selling points, but they’re not the only ones that motivate people to move their money or remain loyal. We can’t lose sight of our philosophical differences—either communicating them or operating by them—even though credit unions are enjoying large scale, positive exposure.

Going beyond rates and fees is what truly separates credit unions from other financial institutions.  Sure, lower fees and better interest rates are important. They motivate a certain population. It seems to me, however, that the most loyal members are those who also identify with—and are impacted by—our credit union philosophy.

So here’s my call to action….

We need to pull at the heart strings, not just the purse strings. And we can’t rely on others to do this.

Communicate how your credit union is helping the community through press releases and letters to the editor of your local paper. Reach out to your members by participating in the community and let them know about your efforts. Share member stories and promote your financial education resources like Seminars in a Box. Make a concerted effort to enhance the member ownership experience.

These characteristics are just as important to share with the world. While positive coverage focuses on credit unions as safe alternative banking solutions with great rates and lower fees, it’s our duty to trumpet the credit union difference.

Ode to My Credit Union: Becoming Your Members’ Go-To Resource

Posted by on Friday, 11 June, 2010

Tracy Anderson

From Tracy Anderson:

I have to admit that my personal finance skills have never been great.  Sure, my parents encouraged me to budget and tried to reinforce the importance of saving for a rainy day.   It wasn’t until I found myself buried with student loans and other “adult” expenses just like many other college grads that I finally cracked down on my spending, and created a personal budget.

I received plenty of help from my credit union to get my budget on track through categorized expense tracking, calculators, personal meetings and and tips on their Web site.  The small amount of personal attention made them my go-to resource for any questions or future financial assistance.

While it is great to have these resources now, I often wish I had been fully engaged with my finances from an earlier age.  I didn’t truly grasp the concept of how much life could cost until I was out on my own – thrown into the real world!

Younger generations are really struggling with money management skills much like older members, and the economy hasn’t made life easier for anyone.  This is evident by a recent article in Credit Union Magazine stating that bankruptcy filings in March of 2010 represented the highest monthly consumer filing, reaching 149,268!  American Bankruptcy Institute(ABI) Executive Director Samuel J. Gerdano states, “The sustained economic pressures of unemployment coupled with high pre-existing debt burdens are a formula for consumer filings to surpass 1.5 million filings.”

Many members are feeling lost and unsure of what their next step should be, so now is the time for credit unions to sweep in and help.  While you can help your current members get back on their feet, you also have the ability to be known as the source of good personal finance habits for potential members and prevent the financial issues many people currently face.

What kinds of things are you doing to be the trusted, go-to resource for your current and future members?

Tracy Anderson is Marketing Communications Specialist for the Credit Union National Association.

VIDEO: A Passion for Youth Financial Literacy

Posted by on Thursday, 3 June, 2010

Hard working credit union staff and enthusiastic people behind-the-scenes here at CUNA are what drive successful efforts such as the National Youth Savings Challenge.

This year, the National Youth Savings Challenge set records for both the number of youth savers and the number of new youth savings accounts.  Across the U.S. 168,438 young members (up 21.6% from 2009) deposited $24,811,741 with 10,385 new youth savings accounts opened (up 4.4% from 2009).

What motivates CUNA staff to go the extra mile for youth financial literacy? Watch this video…

You can see how personal experiences and a passion for youth financial literacy motivate those who lead CUNA’s youth financial literacy efforts. It’s more than a “job” to Lin, Rena, and Philip… their role at CUNA is something much deeper than that. To these folks, their job is about making a difference and helping credit unions help their members.

What personal experiences and enthusiasm drive you in your career? What youth financial literacy efforts from your credit union are you proud of?

Growing Credit Unions

Posted by on Thursday, 13 May, 2010

Recently, CUNA CPD had the pleasure of having three guest panelists attend our department-wide staff meeting. The guests represented various aspects of the credit union system and included Jim Drogue, VP of Credit Union Development at the Wisconsin Credit Union League, Fritz Shunke, Director at Summit Credit Union and Mike Long, Executive VP at UW Credit Union.

Each of the panelists spent a few minutes talking about their role within the credit union system, and the challenges they face…the common concern for all three? Growing membership! It is a problem they face, and a problem that many of you likely face.

In 2009, when many credit unions were struggling to keep up with changes in regulations and the overarching challenges brought on by the recession, UWCU added 28,000 new members! Considering that their total membership is more than 145,000, this statistic is pretty impressive (that translates to nearly 20% growth).

How did UWCU do it? And in 2009 nonetheless? They did it by being who they say they are: People Helping People. 

They let current events do the talking. In the past two years, banks, in general, have gotten a bad rap. Of course, bad news for banks= good news for credit unions. News outlets such as the Today Show, CBSNews, MSNMoney, CNN, and Newsweek encouraged consumers who were dismayed by the “big bank bailouts” to entrust their money with credit unions. Movements such as Move Your Money popped up… inviting the general public to do just that. (Check out comments posted by “movers” on the Testimonials page. Your credit union might even be one mentioned!)

My Favorite Bumper Sticker

They send the right messages to existing and future members. For UWCU, this includes member surveys and other correspondence that say:  “Our members’ interest always comes first.”  Billboards around town are simple, yet honest: “We are always looking out for members.” Simple, yet powerful.

They show the credit union difference.  UWCU cares about their members. This means they want to provide members with good value, built on a foundation of service excellence. How do they do this? Through conversations and caring.

UWCU empowers its employees to find out what challenges individual members are facing and how the credit union might help them with those challenges. They encourage staff to cultivate meaningful relationships with members and tailor their service to fit the members’ needs, circumstances and financial goals.

 This involves:

  • Offering an array of reasonably priced and well-designed products and services;
  • Delivering technology systems that provide members a high level of convenience and control; and
  • Providing people with the information and understanding they need to make good financial decisions.


They attract “Members for Life.” This is actually the name of their internal training program and it is a name that fits. The goal of the program is to provide a service experience for members that exceeds their expectations, provides value and unbiased advice, and is consistent across the company. How do they fare? According to Rob Van Nevel, Assistant Vice President of Member Services, “more than 98% of our members say we meet or exceed their expectations.” I am one of those members.

I became a member of UWCU when I was still in high school. (Luckily, my mother steered me in the right direction at a very early age…thanks Mom!) More than fifteen years later, I can honestly say that I LOVE MY CREDIT UNION.

My first auto loan in 2003...for this Nissan Altima!

I love Cory Poole, who helped me with my first car loan. Not only did Cory explain the loan process carefully and answer all of my questions, once the deal was sealed he walked me out to the parking lot to check out my “new” used Altima. It took just a few minutes out of his day but with that one act, Cory made me a Member for Life. He was the first person I called when my husband and I began “condo shopping” and he made the mortgage loan process a lot less scary.

I love Beth Grosskopf, who helped me lock in an amazing rate on my most recent car loan. As if that weren’t enough, she helped my husband and I consolidate some other loans so we could pay them off faster, and at a special rate.  

In addition to the people, I LOVE UW Web Branch—in fact, I might have a problem. I am on Web Branch every day, managing my money and watching my savings grow. I love the new incorporation of Money Management Tools and I secretly hope that it was the suggestion I submitted in 2009, that brought this amazing tool to life. Why? Because I know UWCU actually listens to their members. For that, and so many other reasons, I LOVE MY CREDIT UNION! And I’ve never heard anyone say that about their bank. 

What about you? What is your credit union doing to grow membership and retain members for life?