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Top Unique Financial Literacy Programs at Credit Unions

by on July 13, 2012

NerdWallet recently released an article about the great online financial literacy services that credit unions have to offer. However, as you might know from experience, there’s only so much you can learn from reading an article. For our community members that need a serious crash course in personal finance, a website just isn’t enough. Classes, seminars and real-world examples are much more effective. They give you the opportunity to review concepts on a deeper level, ask questions, and speak directly with a real expert.

Expert information, free of charge

Many credit unions have services like this available free of charge. You may not even need to be a member. And, since credit unions are not-for-profit, you can be certain they’ve got your best interests at heart. We’re excited to spread the word by highlighting some of the best examples of unique and effective financial literacy programs at credit unions around the country. Read on to see how these institutions have thought outside the box to better educate their members on all things finance.

Best Teaching Facility: HarborOne Credit Union (Brockton, MA)

HarborOne Credit Union has 14 branches in Abington, Canton, Bridgewater, Taunton and surrounding cities. Their Multicultural Banking Center was created to serve the people most heavily targeted by sub-prime and payday lenders: low-to-moderate income residents, minorities and immigrants. The facility includes classrooms, a computer lab, a resource library, and a fully functional credit union branch. HarborOne offers free classes on computer basics, buying a home, credit repair, money management, prepping for the citizenship test, and even English as a second language. It’s no wonder this facility has already won awards, including the 2010 Wegner Award for Outstanding Organization. Credit union membership is open to anyone living or working in Bristol, Plymouth, Forfolk or Barnstable counties.

Best for Kids: TLC Community Credit Union (Adrian, MI)

TLC Community Credit Union has 5 locations in Adrian, Beecher, Blissfield and Tecumseh. Through their Youth Financial Literacy program, they operate 10 student-run credit union branches in Lenawee County elementary schools. All simulate the roles and functions of a real credit union branch, and give students the opportunity to learn about real credit union products. All students are eligible for an age-appropriate, free savings account that they can open with just 25 cents. The credit union also does financial literacy presentations in the classroom, to help students learn to utilize their savings wisely. Membership is open to anyone who lives or works in Lenawee, Hillsdale, Jackson, Washtenaw or Monroe counties.

Most Accessible: Veridian Credit Union (Waterloo, IA)

Veridian Credit Union has locations throughout Iowa. In addition to their K-12 in-school education programs, they also offer a variety of community programs to address the needs of low-income residents, non-English speakers, and people with special needs. Their online resource center offers financial literacy articles, videos and “radio segments”, so you can learn about managing your money in whatever format works best for you. When you’re ready to open your first account, Veridian will work hard to make that fully accessible, too. For the sight-impaired, they offer monthly statements in three different formats: Braille, 130% normal size, or even an audio recording. Many Iowans qualify for membership, including all Iowans with disabilities as defined by the American with Disabilities Act of 1990. Visit Veridian’s eligibility page for more details.

Best for Businesses: St. Mary’s Bank (Manchester, NH)

Don’t let the name fool you; St. Mary’s Bank isn’t really a bank. They’ve been around for so long that they were established before the credit union system existed. They’re actually the oldest credit union in the United States, with 1 location on McGregor Street. Their Bank at Work program will provide your employees with on-site banking at your place of business and free financial seminars. As an added incentive, St. Mary’s Bank will even provide breakfast or lunch. The program is very flexible: a representative will work with you to make sure it’s perfect for your company’s needs. Be sure to check out their business links and resources page, too! Membership is open to everyone. All you need is $5 to open your share account.

Best for Boomers: Boeing Employees Credit Union (Seattle, WA)

Boeing Employees Credit Union has over 40 locations in the Puget Sound area. We definitely recommend you check out their free financial seminars if you’re nearing retirement age. You’ll learn all about retirement investment strategies, money management, and diversifying your portfolio. If you can’t make it in person, be sure to check out their webcasts on buying a home, understanding your credit report, budgeting, and preventing fraud. You can also read articles on owning a home, paying taxes, creating a will or trust, and more. Credit union membership is open to current and former Boeing employees, and anyone who lives, works, worships or attends school in Washington State. Please see the Boeing Employees membership page for complete details.

Most Creative Outreach: Centris Federal Credit Union (Omaha, NE)

Centris Federal Credit Union has 11 branches in Omaha, Bellevue, LaVista, Council Bluffs, North Platte and Grand Island. They offer free financial counseling and youth education initiatives, but they deserve a special mention for recognizing the importance of outreach. Reaching out to unbanked community members is especially difficult. In June, Centris opened 9 Centris Express kiosks at branches and grocery stores in Omaha to better serve the unbanked community. Unlike a regular ATM, these machines can cash checks, send money orders, pay bills, and even re-load cell phone minutes, all for free or at very reasonable prices. Centris membership is open to anyone who lives, works, worships, or attends school in Douglas, Sarpy, or Lincoln counties in Nebraska, or Pottawattamie County in Iowa.

Best for Students: TopLine Federal Credit Union (Maple Grove, MN)

TopLine Federal Credit Union has 5 locations in Bloomington, Brooklyn Park, Como Park, Maple Grove, and Plymouth. Through their Get Smart With Your Money initiative, they offer a money seminar series for three different age brackets: 5 – 8, 9 – 13 and 14 – 18. Youth of all ages will learn about balancing needs versus wants, planning and goal setting, spending and saving, and using gift cards. For teens, the curriculum includes information about credit and checking accounts, too. Be sure to call ahead and register; spaces fill up fast. Credit union membership is open to people who live, work, worship, attend school or volunteer in Anoka, Carver, Dakota, Hennepin, Ramsey, Scott or Washington counties. Family of eligible members may also join.

Best for Teachers: McGraw-Hill Federal Credit Union (New York City, NY)

McGraw-Hill Federal Credit Union has 3 locations in New York City and 1 in New Jersey. If you’re a teacher, be sure to check out their educator seminar series. You’ll learn strategies for teaching financial literacy to your students and brush up on relevant topics In addition to basic budgeting, you’ll discuss how major life events like marriage, divorce, a medical emergency or having a baby can affect your finances, and review strategies to help your students plan ahead. All attendees between the ages of 16 and 29 will receive a free $15 iTunes gift card. You’ll also earn a professional development certificate. Originally created to serve employees of the McGraw-Hill companies in New York, credit union membership is now open to 100 other businesses and organizations. Please see their membership application page for more details.

Best for Non-Profits: St. Louis Community Credit Union (St. Louis, MO)

St. Louis Community Credit Union has 10 branches in St. Louis, Dellwood, Florissant, Jennings, University City, Richmond Heights and Wellston. The St. Louis Community CU Foundation provides financial literacy education and resources for low-to-moderate income residents. They offer free seminars and courses, credit counseling and scholarships. Many of these are conducted on site at their classroom headquarters, the CU Excel Center. St. Louis also partners with local nonprofits like Employment Connection, the YWCA, Better Family Life and Beyond Housing. Membership is open to anyone who lives or works in St. Louis City or St. Louis County in Missouri, or St. Clair, Madison, Monroe, or Jersey Counties in Illinois. Family of eligible members may also join.

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  • Aussie Mick

    It’s great to see the unions involved in these education programs. As a resident of Australia I can find no sponsors for these learning centers. I would like to get some formal qualifications so I can start something here in Australia. Any suggestions for on line training I can enroll in from Australia. I have a MA and have been reasonably successful financially and consider my self financial literate.

    • NerdWallet

      Haha, I have no idea what to do with this one.

    • Laura

      Hi Mick! You can visit these websites and review content as you see fit; no enrollment required. It sounds like you’re looking for something more advanced. I personally haven’t heard of any online certificate programs, but that doesn’t mean they don’t exist! I think this would be a great topic for us to research in more detail.