iQ Credit Union doing its part to teach students good money habits

Kristi Spurgeon, left, and Marie Willis of iQ Credit Union say they love teaching young people financial literacy. The credit union sends representatives to schools to give presentations to students, and there are seven iQ Credit Union branches on high school campuses in Clark County. Photo by Paul Valencia
Kristi Spurgeon, left, and Marie Willis of iQ Credit Union say they love teaching young people financial literacy. The credit union sends representatives to schools to give presentations to students, and there are seven iQ Credit Union branches on high school campuses in Clark County. Photo by Paul Valencia

From presentations in classrooms, to branches in local high schools, iQ Credit Union is proud to be part of the community

Paul Valencia

A credit union founded in the community is looking out for the community through a series of educational programs designed to help young people learn valuable lessons regarding money and money management.

As April comes to an end — this month is Financial Literacy Month — representatives from iQ Credit Union discussed some of the ways they teach the younger generation to start positive money habits early in life.

Marie Willis, a branch manager, said she enjoys going to schools to provide presentations. iQ Credit Union has come up with a series of workbooks to be handed out, based on grade level.

Kristi Spurgeon, Vice President of Marketing and Communications, and Willis also noted CashCamp, a tool specifically designed for children and their parents. CashCamp is on the iQ Credit Union’s online banking platform. It turns learning about money into a video game, if you will. It is kid-friendly, Spurgeon said.

One of Spurgeon’s favorite parts of the job is going to schools to present Financial Reality Fairs.

Students are given a fictional job, with a salary, and they go around to various booths set up at the fair. Groceries. Utilities. Car payment. Mortgage. Household products. They get to see the cost of living.

“It’s amazing how many kids say, ‘I just use what’s in my house. I didn’t think about what if I had to go out and buy shampoo or toothpaste,’” Spurgeon said.

That gets their attention real quick.

“So you talk to them. ‘Do you like these types of products? Do you like to eat out? What kind of car do you want to drive? What about the insurance you’ll need?’ Then they budget for those things as they go around the various booths,” Spurgeon said.

Students find out if their tastes are more expensive than what they can afford. 

Students also spin a wheel, which throws a curveball into the monthly budget. Maybe a job loss. Or an illness takes you away from work for an extended time. It is an event to show the importance of savings.

Parents are big influences on financial education, too, the experts said.

Willis hopes that whatever iQ is doing to help, parents will bring the message home.

“What do you know about savings? What is important about saving money? Do you know about credit cards? When you graduate from high school, what’s the plan? Do you want a new car? Start saving now. Start saving for the future,” Willis said, noting some of the talking points.

She recalled when she first got a credit card, she had no idea how to even make a payment. A credit card can lead to some serious financial consequences for a young person not prepared, for a person who does not understand the responsibility.

Willis has told her children her own history with that first credit card. 

She also teaches them about coupons. One of her daughters asked her one day why she was looking for coupons when she could afford the item.

“Because I want to buy it for less than what it is,” was the answer. Her daughter’s eyes lit up.

Financial literacy takes time. Spurgeon said it helps to provide example after example, making everyday decisions and explaining the decisions to your children.

“You don’t just have a conversation with your kids about money,” Spurgeon said.

“It’s an ongoing conversation,” Willis added. “It’s never ending.”

Credit unions and other banking institutions going into classrooms play an important role, as well. Not all schools require personal finance studies.

“I think it’s very important,” Willis said of making an effort to give a presentation in the schools. “Some schools don’t teach that much in financing and what to expect in the real world once you graduate. I think it’s important for students to know what to expect, and how to manage their money.”

Spurgeon noted that teachers do a great job. But there are times when a guest speaker provides a little more emphasis to a subject. 

The goal, Spurgeon said, is for financial tools taught in the schools to make their way home that night.

“It helps spark other conversations with families,” Spurgeon said.

iQ Credit Union does more than just talk. Its actions in several Clark County high schools speak even louder. 

There are seven campus branches in Clark County high schools. Yes, operational branches of iQ Credit Union, and those branches are run by students. They can help with basic transactions. They can open new accounts. They can cash checks, or make a deposit. The students working in those branches get customer service skills, business skills, and marketing skills. 

There are more than 20 full-time iQ Credit Union employees today who used to work, as students, at the campus branches.

That fits with the credit union’s roots, as well. It was founded in Clark County by a group of school teachers for teachers. Now, it serves thousands of members in many walks of life throughout Southwest Washington and Oregon.

“All credit unions are here to serve the community, but iQ, it’s just different. It’s in the culture. It’s baked in,” Spurgeon said. “It’s why we exist.”

Willis, in fact, has been in finance for years but joined iQ just 10 months ago. It was always a goal to work for iQ. Teaching young people good financial habits is just one of the things that led Willis to iQ.

“It is its own unique way of being part of the community and showing that we care and we’re there for them for financial literacy,” Willis said. “iQ really does show that it cares about the community. That’s what I first noticed about iQ. It was about community. I wanted to be a part of it.”

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