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WEST PALM BEACH, Fla. – Experts say the quickest route to reaching younger members is through financial literacy efforts. “One myth is that youth programs have to be elaborate,” said Raleigh-North Carolina-based State Employees Credit Union Senior Vice President Education Services Leigh Brady. “It just isn’t true-any and everything you do with kids is a good start even just giving a presentation to a class of second graders is awesome.” Lake Jackson, Texas-based Texas Dow Employees Credit Union Director Member Education Kathy Crim who has conducted over 700 presentations to reach some 25,000 students couldn’t agree more. Crim says interactive programs work best. A recent fifth grade presentation, which provided students with deposit slips, checks, registers and fake cash, produced such great results it was featured in the local news. Here’s how it worked. Students each started with an initial $500 of play money in their accounts. Students earned a weekly “salary” for jobs well done and extra “cash” could be earned by doing nice things for people. Students are paid in “cash” and have the option to keep the cash or deposit it into their account via a deposit box in the classroom. The money earned could be spent on a variety of school supplies and privileges such as eating with the teacher or sitting with a friend. At the end of the term, students bid at an in-class auction. “It was so wonderful- these kids were getting a real-life practical lesson in paying yourself first,” said Crim. “One student said he spent $8,000 at the auction just so he could have lunch with me. When I told him he shouldn’t have spent so much he told me, `oh don’t worry I still have $15,000 in savings. The teacher told me that she was amazed how thrifty and responsible the kids were with their accounts.” It also doesn’t hurt to offer savings incentives and prizes that are age appropriate, for example offering concert tickets to see Shania Twain or Christina Aguilera and Justin Timberlake, says Cyndy Roback, vice president/chief operations officer at Newark, Ohio-based Fiberglas Credit Union. The credit union used the concert tickets as part of a drawing during youth week and it was a huge hit with its teen members. Roback adds that credit unions need to make time to be in the schools. Roback recently met with the Newark Board of Education and got approval to offer the NEFE program in all the district schools. “We’ll do all ordering which will help us with tracking and what the schools like most when we propose it is that we’ll send our staff to present to classroom,” said Roback. Tracking can also go a long way to showing the board and upper management just how loyal this segment can be- yet too many credit unions still overlook it. Credit unions should track everything from number of members to the youth club Web site hits -it will help in gauging what is working and what needs to be improved. Experts also advise that credit unions with multiple clubs to not only automatically transfer the young member to the next level when they reach the age limit but make it into an event-from sending a birthday card to free movie passes. “Too many times I hear credit union people say they don’t see the value in both educating and marketing to youth- that it is a credit risk or has too great a loss potential,” said Rachel Parrent, educational services representative of Bridgeton, Missouri-based Vantage CU. “Yet the facts prove that credit unions find that most kids have low delinquency rates and are more responsible at paying back their debts. Remember the likelihood of having a member for life is greater when you start younger than if you wait until someone is 30 and try to get them to transfer from somewhere else. It is like the principle of saving the earlier you start the richer you’ll be.” Parrent says youth clubs can be whatever the credit union wants to put into it. Don’t have enough time to create everything in-house? Everything from newsletters, logos and programs can be outsourced. Brady also suggests that if credit unions only have time for one program then start with the 0-12 year old group and never underestimate the power of a club mascot for branding and bringing people together. “We have about 17 FAT CAT mascots that are present not just for the kids club events but at all community events, branch openings and anywhere we want to create a buzz,” said Brady. “The kids love the mascot and it not only makes for a great presence but it gets the parents involved because FAT CAT is everywhere.” [email protected]

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