While the nation’s attention still remains focused on the Wisconsin union-legislative fight, the state’s credit unions have been quietly helping member businesses and employees cope with the economic fallout through literacy efforts being promoted this week.
Though it has been under way for some time, the timing for the co-op education venture of the Wisconsin Credit Union League, the Washington-based Investor Protection Trust, the University of Wisconsin-Madison, and an online education firm, has worked well in demonstrating CUs’ behind-the-scenes efforts to provide the free literacy services to 4,000 workers.
Over the past three weeks, with the support of the Wisconsin Department of Financial Institutions, Office of Financial Literacy, the “Investor Education in Your Workplace” program, as it is known, has been promoted through three online webinars attracting nearly 50 employers representing 50,000 plus employees.
Agency officials said that with the financial challenges hitting state and private employers, many workers find themselves in need of the online literacy investment services extended under the CU-sponsored program. Many workers, it was pointed out, face changes in the traditional retirement and other benefits employers provide, and these employees need help to understand key concepts to become wise and safe investors.
“Essentially, Wisconsin credit unions and the project team have pioneered a best practice for workplace-based investor education that other businesses nationwide can replicate and already two states have begun following in our state's footsteps implementing similar programs,” said David Mancl, director of the Wisconsin Department of Financial Literacy. The other two states are Pennsylvania and North Carolina.
Under the Wisconsin venture, businesses starting last month were asked to subscribe to the Investor Education program with CU executives picked as “champions” to help spread the word and get employers involved. So far nearly 20 have signed up for the program and pledged over 5,000 employees to participate in the program.
Funding for the Wisconsin project totaling $250,000 comes in large part from Investor Protection Trust, a nonprofit created in 1993 to support consumer decision making related to investing.