FORUM Credit Union has been helping consumers create their own "financial expression" through its SaveItUp program.From Feb. 1 through Oct. 31, the more than $1 billion credit union issued a challenge designed to encourage people to save money, change their spending habits and become better managers. Participants had to complete items in five categories-budget, thrift savvy, goals and education-to be entered for a chance to win up to $5,000."We liked the Filene i3 group idea of savings revolution, but we wanted everyone to be able to benefit from it," said FORUM CU Senior Vice President of Strategy/Marketing C. Andrew Mattingly. "The goals for this were first to change behaviors. For example, sitting to do a budget to know where your money is going and, second, having an impact so if they don't like where their money is going, developing a plan to do something about it. Show how small changes can impact one big behavior. In this case, spending their money where they want it to be and setting a goal for that."Mattingly said SaveItUp revolved around how to ensure members would be involved so that even if they didn't start until September, they could still make a change in their financial life. To help, the Indianapolis-based credit union provided access to tools and information through the SaveItUp Web site (www.saveitupchallenge.com) ranging from budget worksheets and savings blogs to articles and resources from money management expert and national syndicated radio host Dave Ramsey. In addition, financial coaches were available to follow up with members on a regular basis to help make sure members stayed on course. As further encouragement, participants also shared their stories and challenges along the way to their goals on a featured savers section of the SaveItUp Web site.Although the program recently wrapped up, FORUM CU Marketing Manager Courtney Keeler said the credit union was happy with the overall response so far, and the feedback in general has been overwhelmingly positive."A lot of members have really gone all out to take advantage of the challenge and put their all into it," said Keeler. "One of the ideas we were trying to push is that you need to control your money, not let it control you. And it was just great to hear the stories about how members were finally starting to do just that."Keeler said the dedication to financial literacy is simply part of the culture. In addition to offering members four financial advice blogs, the credit union also provides for your information videos that cover topics ranging from first-time home buying and college planning to retirement and marriage.In 2007, FORUM launched the Weekly 5 Club Account, a savings account that gives members the chance to win prizes or even cash for making regular savings deposits. Members are given a unique set of numbers for each club account that they then can check to see if they have the winning numbers.FORUM awards one prize per week valued at $10, one prize per month valued at $50, four prizes per quarter valued from $25 to $250 and four prizes per calendar year valued from $100 to $1,500. If there are no matching numbers, the prizes rollover to the next drawing. The Weekly 5 Club accounts now total 736, carry an average balance of $1,512 and have a total balance of $1.1 million.This year FORUM offered four of Ramsey's Financial Peace University classes that teach consumers how to make the right decisions with their money. The 13-week classes were held at FORUM's headquarters and branches in Broad Ripple, Lawrence and Southport. As a group, the 31 graduates reduced their debt by a combined total of $120,850 and saved a collective sum of $25,050."From the e-mails, survey comments and blog posts, it's something that has resonated with people, and we're hearing from them how great it is that a financial institution is involved in something like this," said Mattingly. "We've even had some new members telling us they joined because of what we're doing. And it shows that we're an organization that cares about our members' financial lives. So this has been a very good experience. We know there's room for improvement and we're learning as we go."For the 2010 challenge Keeler said the push will be to have members create their own goals in categories like savings, debt reduction, and financial literacy, all while working with a personal financial accountability partner at a FORUM branch location. In addition, plans are underway this time around for SaveItUp participants to sign up and perhaps update their progress online."It will help with tracking just how many people are participating throughout instead of finding out at the end of challenge, which is what happened this year," said Keeler. "We also are now looking to make changes based on direct input from members on what they'd like to see included in 2010."–[email protected]

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