Credit unions in the area want to spend more time educating children how to be financially responsible as a way to prepare them for later in life.
Robert W. Horner Jr., president and CEO of West Branch Valley Federal Credit Union, said teaching children about saving money can be taught in context with books like the Berenstain Bears, a family of bears who learn a new lesson in each story.
He said the book could just replace a different story, without taking up any extra time in class.
Credit union leaders met in Bullfrog Brewery, 229 W. Fourth St., to discuss the latest changes in credit unions. From left to right: Back Row: Barbara Vitolo, president and CEO of Wyrope Williamsport FCU; Tom Rachael, president and CEO of PALCO Federal Credit Union; Robert Horner, president and CEO of West Branch Valley Federal Credit Union; Michael Wishnow, senior vice president of Pennsylvania Credit Union Association. Front Row: Traci Donahue, CEO of Horizon Federal Credit Union and Linda Brown, executive vice president of Service 1st Federal Credit Union. Not pictured: Diane Powell, director of communications of Pennsylvania Credit Union Association.
"It would not add an additional burden," Horner said. "It needs to be taught cradle to grave."
A credit union is a group of people who pool their savings and create a cooperative, not-for-profit financial institution from which loans and other financial services can be made at a low cost.
Michael A. Wishnow, senior vice president of communications and marketing for the Pennsylvania Credit Union Association, agreed with the importance of starting young to show people how to handle money.
"Financial education is something we hang our hat on," he said. "I would love to see a high school requirement for financial and life skills. ... It does not necessarily have to be another subject, it could just be an economics course."
Another way to get students involved in learning financial matters is the stocks game, where students can risk fake money in the stock market and make decisions on whether they rise or fall. He said it is also important for everyone to learn the skills, not just the college-bound students.
Traci A. Donahue, CEO of Horizon Federal Credit Union, said schools need more financial literacy.
"Students need to know how to balance a checkbook," she said. "They don't know how to go over their finances. They graduate and they don't know how to write checks."
She said credit unions can also help with college planning and explaining how just one mistake on a credit report can hurt the person later in life.
Bank Transfer Day was held Nov. 5, as a way for people to learn more about their banks and whether the banks were the best choice for the individuals. The event started as a way to protest the regulatory changes and debit fees in some banks, Wishnow said.
Thomas J. Rachael, president and CEO of PALCO Federal Credit Union, said credit unions became what banks used to be.
"Banks will concede we have the better rates and fees," Rachael said.
For Linda S. Brown, executive vice president of Service 1st, credit unions are the best kept secret.
"We're still making loans," she said. "We're not making changes in our loans. We're still doing what we always did."
Credit unions are separated by meeting different needs, which means not everyone can join every credit union, but Wishnow said there is a credit union for everyone. The divisions could be geographic or workplace-based.
Wishnow said Pennsylvania has more credit unions than any other state with 539, which makes the state "neck and neck" with Texas.
"If consumers go on ibelong.org, they can find credit unions they can join," Wishnow said. "They can join multiple ones. Many people frankly belong to a credit union and a bank. Consumers should shop around. There's a decent likelihood they'll join one (credit union)."