Financial literacy and education tend to be an overlooked area of expertise for students coming out of high school. Without the proper guidance and knowhow, it’s easy to become overwhelmed by the complexities and intricacies of the American financial system, often leading many into the kind of debt that is very difficult to crawl out of.

This is why folks at the TwinStar Credit Union have teamed up with local school districts to discuss financial literacy. Their mission is to provide a dedicated, no-nonsense approach to understanding the ins and outs of budgeting, establishing good credit and introducing healthy spending habits that will help students far into the future.

Amanda Stevens TwinStar
Amanda Stevens. Photo credit: Austin Lang

Amanda Stevens, Community Development Manager at TwinStar Credit Union, believes that financial education is a form of financial fitness. “Financial fitness is being confident you’re making the best decisions for yourself financially and will put yourself in the best-possible position to succeed,” she says. “When we’re unaware of the consequences of spending habits we form, chances are we spend more of our hard-earned money on fees, time and stress. If TwinStar can help arm students with knowledge of finances, they have a better chance of making the right choices when faced with financial decisions. In the long run, they’ll help arm their families with financial knowhow as well.”

Why is this important? According to the National Endowment for Financial Education (NEFE), an estimated 38% of Americans are considered financially fragile, meaning they would be unable to come up with $2,000 within 30 days for unexpected emergencies.

“Having higher income does not necessarily translate into being financially resilient,” an NEFE report states. “People who are financially literate are significantly less likely to be financially fragile: 22 percent of those who are financially literate are financially fragile, compared to 42 percent of those who are not financially literate.”

To that end, TwinStar’s Community Development team heads to area schools to spread the word. “Most of my time is spent in classrooms teaching financial literacy,” says Stevens. “In 2017-2018, TwinStar visited over 200 classrooms and reached over 6,000 students. Our primary focus is kindergarten through college; however, I occasionally speak at community groups that are looking for additional education. One focus for 2019 is to develop our TwinStar Community Foundation. We already provide scholarships to college students and grants to elementary school teachers, but now we also have a mission of feeding hungry youth. Thus, we’ll be adding even more opportunities to assist youth in areas that we serve.”

TwinStar Amanda Stevens
“Most of my time is spent in classrooms teaching financial literacy,” says Stevens. Photo courtesy: TwinStar

One of these classrooms is at Olympia High School. Through their AVID Program, a college preparatory program offered to 9-12 graders focusing on helping students to prepare and be successful for secondary education, financial education is important aspect to its success.

Deborah Harbord-Ayers, AVID Tutor Trainer at Olympia High School, thinks TwinStar’s participation in this program is a crucial component. “Amanda and I connect each year so she can help our students understand the importance of being financially responsible as they grow into adulthood. She tailors her presentations depending on the age group and what information I gather from the students as far as what they are most interested in learning about. For instance, 10th graders are may be more interested in checking and savings whereas 12th graders may want to know more about credit use and paying bills.”

For people like Amanda Stevens, the work doesn’t feel much like work. “It’s a pleasure to volunteer in classrooms,” she reflects. “I often find teachers across districts have similar needs; and because TwinStar Credit Union was started by a teacher at Olympia High School in 1938, we always look for ways to give back to educators. We build that partnership by volunteering in classrooms, supporting educators through grants and finding strategic ways to get involved in the educational community. That program has been instrumental in making TwinStar Credit Union more than a place to keep a checking account. We love being a community partner.”

TwinStar Credit Union
Amanda Stevens, Community Development Manager at TwinStar Credit Union, believes that financial education is a form of financial fitness. Photo courtesy: TwinStar

“Amanda is a great representative,” says Harbord-Ayers. “She is knowledgeable, friendly and engaging. Our students really see the value in learning about finances, the reality of paying rent, using credit wisely and saving money for future needs.”

But financial education through local schools is just one of the many things that TwinStar does to help achieve financial success for its members and community at large.

“Not only does TwinStar Credit Union provide educational presentations, we also strive to partner with our members,” says Stevens. “We provide such tools for members as mobile banking, self-directed education through videos, podcasts and blogs online, and team members who provide relevant advice to help our members realize their financial dreams.”

For more information about TwinStar Credit Union, check out their website here.