The cooperative business model rests on the Rochdale Principles, which of course first appeared in 1844. While quite a few of the original principles have been swept aside by the evolution of business, Principle Five – education – has stood the test of time.
For credit unions, Principle Five naturally lines up with financial education, and teaching members and the general public how to manage money effectively. South Carolina credit unions called attention to this every day mission with a one-day special event called Financial Literacy Day. Held Tuesday April 12, credit unions from across the Palmetto State gathered in Columbia to host a Reality of Money budget simulation for 50 area high school seniors.
The Reality of Money provides participants with a profile listing a career, income and life situation. Some students may be pharmacists or lawyers with advanced degrees, while others are high school drop outs. Some are single, some are married and some have children.
The students then navigate a series of booths that include a mix of needs and wants – housing, transportation, entertainment, clothing and health care being a few examples. A few wrinkles that students encounter along the way include being given a good or bad credit score, and “stuff happens”, a series of random life events from flat tires to tax refunds and everything in between.
The goal of the exercise is to of course end up with a surplus after navigating all the booths. However, the broader take away for students is to make good life decisions in order to set themselves up to succeed with money – things like finishing high school and pursuing some sort of degree or certificate, and delaying having children.
Following the Reality of Money event, credit union volunteers and students alike gathered at the State House grounds for a press conference featuring a group of South Carolina elected officials. State Treasurer Curtis Loftis, one of the speakers at the event, noted that “you can work for your money or your money can work for you.”
It’s that same impulse – teaching people the lessons that will lead to better financial outcomes – that drives credit unions to provide financial education to members and the general public.