Now that the economy has moved from continual decline to constant fluctuation, it's important to see how this is changing perceptions in America and in turn creating opportunities for credit unions.
Specifically I want to focus on what impact the economy is having on today's youth. At no point was the economic impact on young adults more evident to me than this past month. As part of financial literacy month, I and other members of my company made high school classroom visits in conjunction with First Tech Credit Union and Oregon Community Credit Union. These visits were part of the brass STUDENT PROGRAM, an initiative to get free personal finance resources to high schools teachers and students. Below are some of the takeaways I gathered from students. They present possible opportunities for credit unions to reach young adults.
Student comment: "I liked the way they explained the many ways to get a job."
Jobs were one of the most frequent topics discussed by students. Not surprisingly, this group has seen one of the highest unemployment rates of any age group. Roughly 19.1% of workers 15-24 were unemployed, compared to 8.6% of those 25 and older. Are there opportunities for your credit union to reach young adults through internships, part time jobs, or other career opportunities?
Paying for school
Student comment: "I'd like to see 10 ways to save money on college or lower college expenses."
Students are desperately looking for ways to pay for school. For credit unions, this means offering college scholarships and student lending options as it becomes harder for students to qualify for money. You may already offer these, so the next step is actively promoting these services. This is a key life stage your credit union needs to be involved in.
Student comment: "I would like to hear more about why getting a credit card can be a good thing."
Students are struggling for ways to begin building credit. This makes it all the more important to establish family relationships prior to teenagers and early twentysomethings leaving the house and to look to opportunities like secured and co-signed card. Don't believe me? Even Paypal is getting on this bandwagon of family financial interconnectedness. They recently launched the Paypal student debit card, allowing parents to track teen spending.
Student comment: "I liked how you guys talked a little about the IRA and advice on spending/investing/saving money for your future."
Students are interested in learning about investing. I'm concerned however, about how this generation will feel about the stock market in the future. When you've grown up seeing your parents lose $2 trillion in retirement, crooked dealings on Wall Street, and computer errors causing massive drops on the stock exchange, will you want to begin investing in stocks? Credit unions have an opportunity to offer more stable investment products (and no, share certificates don't cut it for an 18-year-old investing for the long haul), including IRAs and Roth IRAs. The message of saving and investing in a more stable format could be a resounding message for this group and their parents.
If you'd like to get more information about ideas and ways credit unions are engaging young adult members, feel free to check out our resources page for credit union examples or hear directly from students as they talk about their thoughts on personal finance or post your own ideas in the comments below.
Bryan Sims is the 26-year-old CEO/Founder of brass|MEDIA, Inc., a socially driven media and technology company dedicated to helping young adults understand money. You can follow Bryan on Twitter (@bryansims).