But at Michigan First Credit union, an effort is underway to make
financial literacy more palatable to young people, whom by many accounts
are a technologically-connected generation that is painfully
disconnected from the tenants of financial literacy.
Enter Vicky Goldwater, who earlier this year was hired by the credit
union to blog, meet with young people and represent Generation Y as its
official Young & Free Michigan “spokester.”
The Young & Free Michigan program is a web-based marketing effort
that targets young people from the ages of 17 to 25 years old. The
cornerstone of the initiative is its use of social media, online videos
and the internet to help young people take control of their financial
future using the tools they’re the most comfortable with -- laptops,
hand-held devices and cell phones.
To Goldwater, a 20-year-old Clinton Township resident who attends Macomb
Community College, the opportunity to represent her age group is one
that’s been a learning experience.
“I like working with people, and I feel like a spokester that is young
is relatable to other young people,” said Goldwater. “I’m working at the
branch locations, I’m traveling to events to talk about credit unions,
and writing blogs to help other young people understand their finances.”
Linda Douglas, the vice president of marketing for Michigan First, said
the Young & Free program fill a niche that has been challenging for
financial institutions – how to reach the under-25 set.
“The program is designed to use technology and social media to get young
people more interested in their finances,” she said. “Young people are
very committed to social media, and peer interaction is extremely
important to them. That’s why having a spokesperson is important.”
A year-long endeavor
The Young & Free Program is a nationwide
program that is sponsored locally by Michigan First. To win the
year-long spokester assignment, Goldwater made a short video explaining
why she would be the right person for the position. Michigan First
members voted on the candidate videos to identify finalists, who then
participated in interviews with senior personnel at the credit union.
As part of the full-time position, Goldwater is featured prominently on
the Young & Free Michigan website. She also stars in promotional
videos that are used at all Michigan First branches. For travel to and
from colleges, branch offices and events, Goldwater has the use of the
cool Spokester car for the entire year.
On a daily basis Goldwater blogs about various topics. Recent entries
include how to avoid ATM fees, how to avoid making impulse purchases,
and retirement planning.
Douglas said young people are more likely to receive the message about financial management from someone like them.
“I hope that young people are able to learn about the financial process,
and that the program gives them personal growth,” she said.
If ever young people needed a leg up in terms of financial know-how, it’s now.
A 2008 report compiled by the New York-based think tank Demos called
“The Economic State of Young America” indicated that debt young people
now leave college with an unprecedented level of debt: the average
amount was $19,200. The report indicated that Americans under the age of
24 were more likely to resort to using credit cards to make ends meet
than previous generations, and more young people pay more than 30
percent of their pre-tax income towards rent or a mortgage.
As for Vicky Goldwater, she hopes that young people learn as much about
finances from Young & Free as she has learned working as a
spokester. After her tenure ends in May, she plans on transferring to
Oakland University to study communications.
“I hope they learn what a credit union can offer,” she said. “I’ve
learned a lot simply by doing research about money and loans; I try to
help as many people as possible.”
+ Original article