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Wisconsin CU League News Release - 05/19/2010
 


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Wisconsin credit unions set lofty goal: to stimulate investing among the least-likely investors

Thousands of underserved and low-wealth citizens will get a needed push to make positive financial strides


Pewaukee, Wis. – An investor education project that, since last fall, has provided more than 30,000 hours of online investor education to credit union employees, is taking on a new challenge. Credit union staff around the state will complete advanced investor education online so that they, in turn, can motivate the least likely investor to make positive financial strides – financially underserved or low-wealth individuals. As many as 5,000 such citizens could benefit in the first year alone.

“Most Americans haven’t done any retirement planning,” said Brett Thompson, President & CEO of the Wisconsin Credit Union League, which is coordinating credit unions’ effort. “But we can’t afford to let the failure of entire generations to plan for their futures become a public burden. That burden would be enormous – totally unsustainable. So we can’t afford to let the average citizen – those who live paycheck to paycheck – think they can’t become successful investors.”

In July, up to 25 credit union employees from around the state – those who completed basic investor education online as part of an ongoing study involving 3,520 credit union staff from 80 credit unions – can apply to enroll in 50 additional hours of online investor training this fall. Those graduates will earn a Certified Financial Educator® (CFEd®) designation valued at $1,700. Each of these grads will, in turn, train at least 200 financially underserved or low-wealth individuals so they can turn modest contributions to investment accounts into significant assets.

“By offering advanced training, we’re applying a basic concept of investing – exponential growth – to the challenge of expanding our reach. When each of 25 of our advanced investing grads teaches 200 others, we’re making swift in-roads to bring investing tools and thus financial success to those who might otherwise never attempt to advance their financial position,” Thompson said. “Modest wage earners often mistakenly believe that they can’t ever get ahead because they feel they have too few dollars to invest. That’s one of many fallacies our training corrects. Every person with income, no matter how modest, can secure a solid financial future through investing.”

Individuals from virtually every facet of credit union operations participated in the basic investing project that kicked off last October and will continue through early 2011. Dubbed “RP3,” or REAL Progress & Pathways to Prosperity, the project engaged participants in approximately 10 hours of online learning about investing concepts including setting goals, distinguishing among investment vehicles, managing risk, diversifying a portfolio, maximizing tax advantages, understanding mutual funds and working with investment professionals.

The first phase involved 53 credit unions, whose 1,623 employees completed the courses in December and achieved passing grades averaging 88.17%. Their knowledge of investing concepts – determined by comparing a pre-test to a post-test following completion of the coursework – had increased 28.27%. In January, another 1,897 employees from 56 credit unions began the coursework. Upon completion of their studies in April, that group achieved an average passing grade of 87.69% and improved their knowledge an average of 23.31%.

Credit unions, which are financial institutions owned by their 2.2 million depositors, are participating in the RP3 project as part of their REAL Solutions initiative, which helps people of all income levels build wealth. As not-for-profits with no outside investors, credit unions’ role is to help people, not chase profits.

The advanced investment training phase of RP3, like the initial phase, is being conducted in partnership with the Puelicher Center for Banking Education at the Wisconsin School of Business, University of Wisconsin-Madison, Precision Information, the Wisconsin Credit Union League, Governor Doyle’s Council on Financial Literacy and the Wisconsin Department of Financial Institutions.

Funding for the latest phase includes a $15,000 grant from the National Credit Union Foundation and a $53,000 grant from the Investor Protection Trust (IPT), a nonprofit organization devoted to investor education. Since 1993 the IPT has worked with the states to provide the independent, objective investor education needed by all Americans to make informed investment decisions. Visit www.investorprotection.org.

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