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MADISON, Wis. – CUNA’s National Youth Involvement Board will make available investment education tools from StreetSage as part of the board’s literacy education effort. The partnership was announced at the NYIB conference here August 1 through 3. Under the agreement StreetSage, headquartered in Leaward, Kansas, will offer investment modeling software at a discount to credit unions interested in working with local schools to boost young people’s understanding of how the stock market works. Each year 5% of the money raised through the sponsorship will fund a NYIB/StreetSage scholarship based on merit, need and financial literacy. The actual number of scholarships will depend on how much money becomes available. Credit unions will be able to sign up for the program on the NYIB Web site (www.nyib.org) or the StreetSage Web site (www.streetsage.com). StreetSage founder Michael Stahl, who is 20 years old, has already published a book on investing aimed at young people, been featured in publications such as the Wall Street Journal and Business Week, and been interviewed on CNNfn, National Public Radio and other networks. Stahl told Credit Union Times that as a teenager he pretty much taught himself about the world of finance. “I was really interested in the subject,” he explained. “The reason I wrote the book (“Early to Rise: A Young Adult’s Guide to Investing”) was there was really nothing out there. By using life experiences and stories, it makes the subject relate more to young people.” Literacy education in schools has improved over the past few years, he added. “It’s not where it needs to be but we’re on the right track,” Stahl said. “Organizations such as the NYIB are doing a good job of finding new ways to present information effectively.” In the past, most investment simulation software offered only a ten-week mock-up, and that’s really day-trading, Stahl said. StreetSage mimics a 35-year market to reinforce the principles of long-term investing. Some adults might figure all the recent concern about the slumping stock market and corporate scandals will sour young people about investing. Not really, Stahl said. “I just came back from Philadelphia talking to groups of young people about this. They are much more positive and optimistic about the stock market and investing for the long term than most of the adults I speak to.” If you are interested in working to educate young people about the world of finance, Stahl offered some pointers: * Interactivity is important. * Use a lot of personal experiences and anecdotes. * Try to make the learning fun and develop an interesting twist. Michael Wood, vice president of Teenage Research Unlimited, Northbrook, Ill., was another speaker at the conference. He told Credit Union Times that as a high school student he felt he had as much financial knowledge as he needed, but he didn’t really grasp what he calls “the big picture” – the importance of savings over the long haul. Young people simply don’t visualize long-term, he said. “If they think about saving, they focus on saving for something like a PlayStation 2 platform that allows them to play the best games or a new stereo component. They have a wish list a mile long they just have to have,” he noted. “They’re very much living in the here and now. They’re very unfamiliar with what the real world is going to be about when it comes to finances. For the most part, they’re protected by their families from what is going on financially. They don’t have a good grasp of how much rent and food are going to cost, or how much is going to be taken out of their paycheck for taxes.” Studies Teenage Research Unlimited has been doing suggest teenagers feel insulated from the stock market and recession. They have grown up in a boom time, and can’t make the leap to any kind of economic slowdown. Wood applauded the idea of credit unions getting involved with the schools to boost financial knowledge. Schools are desperate, he said, to build curriculum around personal finance. But what approaches will work, and what will turn teens off? “You have to be very careful who the messenger is,” Wood answered. “Young people quickly decide whether they are going to pay attention to what you have to say. They’re accustomed to adults talking down to them, and that automatically turns them off. “You have to try to make it fun for them. They definitely learn by real-case scenarios. You want to package information in a manner that’s interactive. Consider some exercises they can do where there is some competition involved with fictitious accounts or fictitious companies and they can earn points and prizes.” In fact, he likes the idea of providing incentives for saving. For example, a credit union might hold a drawing every three months for movie tickets to reward teenage members who consistently meet their savings goals. When students realize there isn’t a grade involved, he warned, then the activity has to be engaging. If part of the lesson involves credit cards, Wood cited some surprising market research. “There has been a decline in interest in getting a credit card,” he noted. “I think that’s coming from a couple different areas. One reason is they are used to plastic, whether it’s a telephone card, a store loyalty card, a gift card or an ID for school. There’s not as much prestige as there has been in the past with pulling out a credit card. The allure is not as strong as it was before. “A second factor is so much has been written about the horrors of debt. They’ve heard warnings from parents or friends who have struggled with debt and gotten in trouble. They’re more aware of the pitfalls of getting in trouble with credit.” Other speakers at the conference were Larry Blanchard, CUNA senior vp/corporate and legislative affairs; Bob Hoel, executive director of the Filene Research Institute; Tom Decker, program manager for the Center for Professional Development at CUNA & Affiliates; and Pete Crear, CUNA’s executive vp and COO. [email protected]

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