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Recently, a community relations coordinator from a New York credit union expressed her frustration with a Gen Y issue that I suspect many credit unions are experiencing.Her credit union runs a financial literacy program targeting Gen Y, specifically high school students. The problem they’ve been running into is that they can’t get teens to show up, and it’s a struggle to get the ones that do show up to participate even with a $50 gift certificate.In talking with some credit unions that are running successful financial literacy programs, I think a big part of the problem is expecting the teens to come to the credit union. The programs I think that are seeing success are the ones that get out into the local schools and develop relationships with teachers and administrators.Teaching financial literacy to Gen Y isn’t as much of a Gen Y-specific problem as it is an age issue. High school and college-aged kids don’t want to sit and learn about how to have financial success unless they have to.Loren Llanes, an employee at South Florida Educational Federal Credit Union, helps the credit union run two youth-targeted financial literacy programs that involve going into local schools. Llanes said that going into the kids’ environment helps to make them feel comfortable. She also said that having a teacher in the classroom is a big benefit because they set the stage and get the kids to think of you as an educator.For credit unions that would rather run a program at the credit union, try linking the program to a promotion that will benefit the parents. Offer to pay a college application fee for each teen that comes to a session.For credit unions that run scholarship programs, in order to be considered for the scholarship, require them to attend a financial literacy event.Good attendance at an event is important, but it’s only half the battle. The hardest part is going getting the kids to actually participate. High-energy and interactive activities are key.Thom Dellwo, financial education coordinator at Cooperative Federal Credit Union in Syracuse, N.Y., teaches a financial literacy program for at-risk youth. Dellwo said it’s important to take the time to connect with the students and even suggested using self-deprecating humor to break the ice and get the kids to laugh and have a good time.If you want kids to really learn, you have to put things in terms they understand. Dellwo said an exercise he does to break the ice is to ask the kids to name different words they use for money. Dellwo said he’ll use the words to make them laugh and get their attention.Don’t just spout off statistics about Gen Y’s credit card use and debt. Use real-life scenarios to show examples of a person with credit card debt and has to pay bills, and another person who used smart saving tactics and doesn’t have any debt. Make it relevant and real for them.Remember to experiment. Don’t just rely on one activity, and don’t be afraid to try new things. If you see one activity isn’t working, quickly wrap it up and switch to another.There’s not going to be one financial literacy plan that works for every credit union and every group of kids, push the envelope and get creative.

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