PEWAUKEE, Wis. (2/16/11)--Wisconsin companies are rapidly enrolling employees in the Investor Education In Your Workplace program, a grant-funded program that offers 10 hours of self-paced, online training on money and investing. Several thousand Wisconsin credit union employees received training in the program, and some are certified educators, offering the same online program statewide, said the Wisconsin Credit Union League. As many as 4,000 Wisconsin workers could soon become more financially fit because of the program that, in addition to offering $400,000 in free training value to Wisconsin firms, may offer improved bottom-line results for participating companies, said the league. “When employees are financially fit, that can help the companies they work for,” said Brett Thompson, league president /CEO. “Studies have proven that financially savvy employees are less stressed, happier and more productive. And companies that help their staff achieve peace of mind with their pocketbooks often see fewer workplace distractions, improved employee morale, reduced absenteeism and decreased turnover.” More than 3,500 employees from 80 credit unions completed 30,000 hours of investment education in 2009--the year the program was developed and piloted in the U.S. Twenty-two received advanced training in 2010 to become Certified Financial Educators (CFEds)--a nationally recognized designation by the Heartland Institute. This year, they will offer the same basic online program to employers across the state. The CFEds will help recruit participating companies, coordinate the training for firms in their area and coach participants. They do not promote specific financial products, partners or services, making them a valuable third party and objective “coach” to help employees and employers alike. The coursework focuses on investing concepts including goal setting, planning for educational needs and financial emergencies, distinguishing among investment vehicles, managing risk, diversifying a portfolio, maximizing tax advantages, understanding mutual funds and working with investment professionals. Credit union employees who completed the program earned an average passing grade of 87.69% on coursework and an average 23.31% improvement in knowledge. The number of participants who created a family budget, set goals and contribute to retirement savings programs increased 5% to 50%. “The goal is to debunk a common fallacy that has prevented most Americans from doing the basic investing they’ll need to secure their futures,” Thompson explained. “Workers often mistakenly believe that they can never get ahead financially because they have too few dollars to invest and that common expenses will derail those efforts. But that’s not true. Every person with income, no matter how modest, can turn small contributions to investment accounts into significant assets while at the same time planning for life’s inevitable financial emergencies.” Wisconsin credit unions called their pilot program Real Progress & Pathways to Prosperity (or RP3). Credit unions in Pennsylvania and North Carolina also have enrolled in hopes of replicating Wisconsin credit unions’ success. Credit unions are participating in the project as part of a REAL Solutions initiative, which helps people of all incomes build wealth.