By Gerry Singleton, Vice President, CUNA Mutual Group
According to the Bureau of Economic Analysis (BEA) the US economy grew by 5.7 percent in 2021. This represents the strongest calendar-year growth since 1984. GDP is a strong indicator of America’s overall economic health. With such strong growth, one might assume Americans are also benefiting from this economic revival.
Unfortunately, that is not the case. In a recent media release from the National Credit Union Foundation (NCUF) about the newly created FinHealth Fund, it was shared that the financial health of more than 160-million Americans is fragile and uncertain. The FinHealth Fund aims to transform lives by helping people improve their financial health. To accomplish this goal the FinHealth Fund will focus on three interrelated efforts.
1. Creating a national resource library (e.g., current work, case studies, toolkits and other resources) to help credit unions embrace financial well-being for all as a strategic imperative.
2. Providing education and upskilling for credit union employees to establish a workforce ready to passionately serve people where they are in their financial lives.
3. Supporting industry-wide consumer research, data capture and analysis to prioritize efforts and quantify improvements to members’ financial health.
The fund, which was created after a group of about 60 different CU industry leaders met in September of 2021, aims to raise $10 million over the next five years. Four-credit unions (BCU, Chicago, Ill.; Coastal FCU and Local Government FCU, Raleigh N.C.; Redwood CU, Santa Rosa, Calif.) have already committed a total of $1 million to the fund. And CUNA Mutual Group has contributed another $1 million.
CUNA Mutual decided to contribute to the FinHealth Fund for three reasons.
1. We are where you are
The first and possibly simplest reason being we want to be where our credit unions are. The need for this fund was identified by CUs last year. The strategy is being driven by CUs. And CUNA Mutual wants to be there to support our CUs on this journey.
2. Organizational Purpose
The second reason CUNA Mutual decided to participate goes back to the organization’s purpose. That purpose is to make a brighter financial future accessible to everyone. As I mentioned earlier, the fund’s collective goal is to transform lives by helping people improve their financial health. Contributing to the fund was a natural fit because it directly aligns with CUNA Mutual’s purpose and the mission of the credit union movement.
3. More than just a transactional relationship
The third reason we contributed to this fund is to be there to provide the consumer with more than just a transactional relationship. Consumers need more than an institution to cash their checks. They need financial advice and coaching. They need places to live and raise their families. They need transportation to work and school.
Why should your CU get involved with the FinHealth Fund? For a very long time, CUs have been leaders in improving the financial health of the consumers they serve. Although some economic indicators like 2021’s GDP may suggest we can take our foot off the gas, others, like the fact that there are more than 160 million Americans whose economic health is fragile at best, tell us now is not the time to let up.
How can you get involved? The answer is two-fold. First, you can donate. But more importantly, as these resources curated by the FinHealth Fund become available, use them. Use the resource library. Take advantage of the upskilling for your employees. Use the data and research made available. Taking these steps will help make brighter financial futures available to more than 160 million Americans whose financial health hangs in the balance.
Gerry Singleton is the Vice President of Credit Union System Relations for CUNA Mutual Group. He is responsible for establishing, strengthening and maintaining relations with credit union trade organizations and state leagues. Gerry can be reached at Gerry.Singleton@cunamutual.com.