WEST PALM BEACH, Fla. – It is smart for credit unions to have fun incorporating education into their teen and preteen club programs. According to a Teenage Research Unlimited survey, young people aged 12-19 spent $170 billion last year, and 19% of teens surveyed said they have stocks and bonds, 9% have mutual funds and 8% have certificates of deposit. The survey also finds that kids have a growing interest in finances and those financial institutions and investment companies that take an interest in kids will be well served in years to come. East Lansing, Michigan-based MSU Federal Credit Union is ready to tap this eager youth market with the launch of its GO Teen program. Designed as financial education and service for students from 13-18 years of age, the GO Teen program offers teens savings accounts, debit cards, checking accounts and even credit cards for those age 15 and up. "We decided to start this program after reading statistics that 68% of parents never talked to their college students about credit cards, budgeting or the importance of maintaining a credit report," said MSU FCU Vice President of Marketing Joyce Banish. "If you ask a parent if they want their child to have a credit card, most will say no. But if you ask them if they want a tool to teach their children about budgeting and credit they will say yes." To that end, the credit union will be offering a series of workshops to help teens handle their personal finances including checkbook balancing, protecting themselves from identity theft, selecting a credit card, why good credit is important and ways to save. MSU student and MSU FCU Marketing Assistant Tangie Jones kicked off the first seminar on budgeting with a game of financial Survivor to show teens first hand the difference between "wants" and "needs". With a focus on fun, Jones worked on keeping the learning as interactive and entertaining as possible by offering pizza and prizes. According to Jones, it is important to offer teens a mixed bag of offerings. For example, MSFCU offers ComputerLine, which allows their teen credit card holders to review their savings, loans and credit card balances anytime. Jones says getting your own statement listing all the purchases made in a month can be a "real eye opener and forces teens to reevaluate their spending. That item may not seem as exciting as it was before if it still has to be paid for-with interest." In addition to its youth program, Wyomissing, Pennsylvania-based Bellco Federal Credit Union Vice President of Operations Robin Shappell has taken her basic financial skills course on the road as a guest speaker at Wyomissing High School. About 80 eleventh graders will learn about credit reports and scoring and how to maintain a good credit history. "I love doing this," said Shappell. "The kids are very receptive and eager to learn more." [email protected]

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