on Financial Education Strengthening Communities
Every April, National Financial Literacy Month highlights the importance of financial education in communities across the country. Closer to home, Financial Beginnings Oregon (FinBegOR) brings free personal finance education to Oregonians all year long. SELCO Community Credit Union is a dedicated partner in this important work, and we got the chance to sit down with one of its star volunteers, Sarah Means.
Sarah, SELCO’s Loan Center manager, has been a FinBegOR volunteer since March 2017. SELCO as a whole has been a major partner as FinBegOR has worked to expand its programming. So far in 2018, FinBegOR workshops have reached over 2,800 students in Lane, Marion, and Polk counties. That growth wouldn’t be possible without the financial support and dedicated volunteers from SELCO.
“Being involved in these financial literacy endeavors is a real perk to my career,” Sarah says. “I’m better because I get to teach in the community, and I would encourage everyone to step out and be a part of the community in this tangible way.”
We couldn’t agree more. Below are other highlights from our interview.
Kate Benedict, Executive Director of Financial Beginnings Oregon: What does SELCO see as the impact financial education can have within communities?
Sarah: SELCO sees the impact of financial education in some pretty straightforward ways—communities are better when they’re socially sound and economically strong. We strive to remove barriers to financial education and partner with schools and other civic groups to provide avenues for learning and growth in the community.
Kate: What inspires SELCO volunteers to give back to the community? What inspires you?
Sarah: SELCO volunteers love our community. We care about the position of each member, socially and economically. I love to give back because it feels good. Giving back is a value-added chance to make a difference. I never leave a volunteer opportunity feeling like I wasted my time. I know I can add value to others and want to do it as often as possible.
Kate: What do you hear from members about the financial education needs in their community?
Sarah: Most often, I hear there is greater need for financial education in schools. For example, financial education is not readily available for many high school students. When I teach juniors and seniors, they’re hungry to learn ways to prevent mistakes and get their financial “report card” (credit report) off to a strong start.
We also see a need for adult financial literacy. Many adults aren’t aware of what can help or hinder their credit scores or how to best establish credit. It’s so important that we get this information out into the community.
Kate: Is there a specific topic that you love teaching most?
Sarah: I love teaching about building a strong credit score and being able to pass along experiences I’ve had at SELCO and previously at Pentagon Federal Credit Union. I enjoy seeing the light bulb go on about what it means to save for the future and have a plan in place for hard times. I also love to show what not to do—from my own experiences. Hard times can happen to anyone, and I’d like to think I can help people see the light at the end of the tunnel.
Sarah is genuinely amazed at how quickly younger students absorb financial education tips.
“It’s fun to watch them learn about the difference between a ‘need’ and a ‘want’ and to see them get excited to share that they’ve saved even $5 throughout a month of classes,” she says.
When talking about financial education, Sarah often quotes Warren Buffett: “Money is terribly useful.” She believes that to be true, making the management of money that much more important.
“Money comes and money goes,” Sarah says. “It’s all about how we handle it and what we do to use it wisely.”
Thank you, SELCO, for giving back to your communities to help Oregonians use their money wisely!