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There is no season that inspires financial literacy, health, and wellness more than spring; the opportunity to renew and reevaluate our financial priorities and give ourselves and our families the best chance to consistently strengthen our financial standing in both the short- and long-term.

As we celebrate April’s Financial Literacy Month, we will explore the steps of how your credit union members can begin their financial journey and how they can best manage that journey with consistent habits and tactics. Below, we provide practical tips your credit union can share with members to create a budget, grow savings, track expenses, build an emergency fund, and more. 

Establishing both short- and long-term financial goals

Putting together a master list of all their financial goals is your members’ best first step. Encourage your members to get clear on what they want to achieve. Challenge them to ask themselves: Financially-speaking, what would make me feel my best? At its core, the best financial goals are those that help members feel financially secure, however that may look to each member, so they can focus on living rather than stressing.

Creating and managing a budget

Not one of the more stimulating financial topics, but necessary all the same: budgeting. In fact, setting and managing a budget is fundamental to achieving any other financial goal. 

Budgeting, the consistent accounting of all income and expenses, is seemingly straightforward but deceptively tricky. Tracking what comes in and what goes out is often simpler in principle than in practice. Nonetheless, it’s crucial for  members to see where their assets currently are and where they are going. There are various budgeting apps and programs, like Quicken, where members can link their bank account so transactions can be tracked in real time, but creating a budget can be as simple as using an Excel or Google spreadsheet. If members are not meeting their declared goals, the explanation becomes apparent in the budget. This visibility allows them to make the necessary adjustments to their spending or saving habits. 

Photo: Gary Barnes | Pexels

Investing in an emergency fund

According to a 2024 Bankrate emergency savings report, 56 percent of U.S. adults lack the savings to pay for an emergency expense of more than $1,000 from their savings account. 

Building an emergency fund begins with setting a consistent target for how much your members want to save. While six months is ideal, members should strive to have three months’ worth of living expenses available at minimum. 

There are times, however, when your member may experience a life event that they simply cannot afford, no matter how hard they’ve been working to build up their rainy day fund.  Credit unions have built their enduring legacy on loans, providing a cushion for consumers and workers to cover costs while deliberately building for the future. Today, financial technology, like the small-dollar loan platform offered by QCash, enables credit unions to offer members the ability to apply for a loan and receive actual funds in their account, with no credit check, within 60 seconds. Having that product capability builds trust and loyalty for the credit union while helping members improve their credit and overall financial standing over the long-term.

Investing for retirement

No matter their age, it’s always a good time for members to start planning for retirement. It’s not just about saving for retirement, but also how  funds are invested

Whether your member is self-employed, the owner of a small business, or works for an employer who offers a retirement plan as part of their benefits package, there are a variety investment options to help them save for retirement, including traditional Roth 401(k), traditional or Roth IRA, and a SIMPLE IRA or SEP IRA. For more detail on each of these options, click here

There is no better time of year than April’s Financial Literacy Month to guide members towards improved financial literacy awareness through the areas of personal finance mentioned above. With those improved habits, they will be able to weather the life events and emergencies we will be covering in next week’s blog on emergency expenses and unexpected costs.