Arsenal Credit Union’s financial education efforts make a difference

Financial-literacy levels are low and not getting any better for U.S. teenagers, according to the latest data from the Programme for International Student Assessment (PISA).

“Financial decisions made early in life are consequential. Young Americans carry greater responsibility than previous generations for mapping their own financial security, not just at retirement but for an entire lifetime. And they must do so using the most developed and complex financial products and markets in the world,” notes Annamaria Lusardi of the George Washington University School of Business, writing in a July 9 Wall Street Journal article. “The latest PISA scores are clear evidence that young people do not have the savvy to manage the responsibilities awaiting them.”

Among the comments that students at McCluer North made about a financial education program that Arsenal sponsors at their high school: “…Now teenagers know a lot about the real world and how to survive in it…”

Arsenal Credit Union is doing its part to move the needle locally by sponsoring interactive, digital financial education at some area high schools, besides giving classroom presentations of its own at various grade levels. The former is offered through EVERFI and covers introductory topics such as saving and budgeting to advanced topics like insurance, taxes and investing. For in-person instruction given by the credit union’s certified educator in personal finance, a variety of resources are used to deliver customized content.

During the past school year, 561 students from three high schools – McCluer North, Fox and Ursuline – completed 1,968 hours of learning through the EVERFI program sponsored by Arsenal. Based on assessment tests taken before and after the lessons, students increased their scores by an average of 69 percent, with the highest gain in the Financing Higher Education topic, followed by Investing.

Some of the students at McCluer North took the time to write and send thank you cards to the credit union. “Without this program,” Bryana noted, “I would have still been a little confused on debt and credit, and also the whole concept of credit scores.” Anah said the program taught her “important life skills,” while Brandon said it helped him “learn about financing from a different and engaging perspective.”

In feedback that EVERFI received from other students and shared with Arsenal, one summarized the program this way: “It was very hands-on. I felt very involved. But mostly, actually learning about what goes with money and how to prepare for the future makes this course very helpful.”

Teachers were equally thankful. Said one, “It’s a great supplement to the High School Personal Finance course. This was something that I could have my students do the modules before I lectured over certain information, and it allowed them to have a better understanding of the materials.” Said another teacher, “Not only does it give plenty of real-life examples, but also covers some material we might not have been able to get to in a short semester.”

In the upcoming school year, Arsenal will once again financially support the program at the same three high schools, plus at least two more, while continuing to give free classroom presentations of its own at elementary, middle and high schools in the St. Louis metro area. From July 1, 2016, through June 30, 2017, the credit union reached a total of 1,919 students through 46 in-school presentations, as reported to the National Youth Involvement Board.