MADISON, Wis. (2/11/10)--One of the biggest challenges in financial education is providing the right information at the right time. A new Filene Research Institute report shows how credit unions can deliver just-in-time financial education to young college graduates. The new report, “Delivering Financial Education to Graduating College Students,” details work by Filene Research Fellow Bob Hoel and University of Wisconsin-Madison lecturer Ronald Smith. The report says financial education is effective when:
* It targets a narrowly defined audience. College students about to graduate share interest in an identifiable set of financial decisions that they have not faced before. * It delivers education when the targeted audience needs it. People are more likely to pay attention and change behavior when the information relates to an imminent financial decision. * It offers concrete advice. There are small group forums where students can receive topical advice, and where students can receive one-on-one advice from a financial expert.
“People want to be told what to do,” Hoel said. “Knowing that you need to make good decisions isn’t enough. But getting real numbers, specific advice, and one-on-one time with an expert--that’s what makes a difference.” Filene researchers examined a “Financial Independence Seminar” that can be replicated at colleges and universities nationwide with the help of college alumni associations and credit unions. The basic program was developed and tested at the University of Wisconsin-Madison over the past five years. It is surprisingly simple, Filene said. Graduating students from all majors are invited to participate in a one-day program with two lectures and several breakout sessions. Most participants also sign up for a half-hour of one-on-one counseling during the four weeks after the main session. Students participating reported the seminar helped them take actions that will improve their financial well-being. When surveyed three months after the seminar, 98% said the seminar helped them make real-world financial decisions; 79% took at least one major step to improve their financial well-being; and 55% took more than one step. Some took as many as six steps. Ninety-four percent of graduates who took the seminar three years earlier said the seminar helped them make real-world financial decisions. College alumni associations are the best on-campus sponsors of these programs, according to Hoel and Smith. Credit union professionals can lead some of the breakout sessions and serve as counselors for one-on-one sessions. Credit unions also can be co-sponsors of the seminar. The seminar can be offered for less than $1,000. For more information, use the link.