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Credit Unions Are Smashing America's Debt

Credit Unions Are Smashing America's Debt By Gina Ragusa
Published December 4, 2013
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The Kansas Credit Union Association recently posed a challenge to its market footprint credit unions--destroy members’ debt using a comprehensive, story-swapping-type of approach.

Through the Association’s Innovation and Implementation Lab, “Money Possible: Destroy Debt” was born. “This is the first project to come out of the Kansas Credit Union Association's (KCUA) Innovation & Implementation Lab that launched earlier this year,” explains Melissa M. Baptista, research & development director for the Kansas Credit Union Association. “One of the issues identified was the need for member and consumer financial education. Credit Unions play an important role in our members financial lives and we wanted to find a creative way to showcase this value.”

In a press release, the Association cited that as of August 2013 Americans are approximately $11 trillion in debt. Broken down, the average household credit card debt equates to $15,112, the average household mortgage debt stands at $146,215 and the average household student loan debt rests at $31,240. Brutally honest statistics to hopefully wake up most consumers.

On the Association’s “Money Possible” blog-site, other statistics gleaned from The Wall Street Journal imply that Millennials may have already gotten the message on debt reduction. Compared to the national average, Millennials average $2,700 in debt whereas the national average stands at $4,500. However, the article contradicts these figures, saying that Millennials tend to have the worst credit habits and struggle to pay their bills.

Destroying Debt--One Member at a Time

Baptista says that from reading recent survey reviews, Americans are screaming for help. "By telling our members’ stories in a public venue, others can benefit from the financial tips, as well as learn from the members’ challenges and successes.”

The initiative is based on the popular television show, “The Biggest Loser” where participating Kansas credit unions will be followed throughout the campaign in their journey to destroy their members’ debt.

“Any Wichita area credit union member is eligible to apply,” Baptista says. “The Association will choose the participants, and once chosen, their stories will be told through the MoneyPossible.org blog, on social media and local media outlets. The goal is have our participating members destroy their debt, while those following along at home will pick up tips they can implement to destroy their own debt.”

The program is still in the early phases and will end up running 16 weeks, beginning in February through June. “Participating members will meet weekly with the Wichita area Consumer Credit Counseling Service. Their progress will be tracked through blog updates, social media and a partnership with a local television station.”

To prepare participating credit unions, the Association will provide materials and training.

“Credit unions in the Wichita area have been briefed on the campaign and asked to submit members for consideration in the program,” Baptista says. “Additionally, they will be provided materials that any consumer visiting the credit union can request to follow along at home. Although credit unions will have these materials at their branches, participants of the program will receive the financial counseling through a local credit counseling service we have partnered with. The goal is to get consumers familiar with how credit unions can help them manage their finances and provide them with valuable tips along the way. While this program is a pilot, we are hopeful it has the potential to be expanded.”

If mounting debt has you concerned, visit the Money Possible website or find a nearby credit union and ask about educational programs and resources that addresses debt reduction.

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