Banking & Finance, Economic Development, and Education

Financial literacy program expands to Grand Rapids

Michigan First Credit Union will begin offering free Money Mentor classes to area youths.

August 9, 2019
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(As seen on WZZM TV 13) Local teens and young adults who haven’t received enough financial guidance soon will have a new educational option on the table.

Lathrup Village-based Michigan First Credit Union — which has six Grand Rapids-area locations — will begin offering its free Money Mentor program in West Michigan. A target demographic of 17- to 25-year-olds will be able to learn how to better manage their money and build credit via in-person group presentations, blog posts, videos and social media content.

“Money management can be an overwhelming topic for young adults, especially if they haven’t received any financial guidance from family or through their education,” said Michael Poulos, president and CEO of Michigan First Credit Union. 

“Michigan First created Money Mentor to fill this gap and encourage young people to take control of their finances now to lay a solid foundation for their future.”

Money Mentor initially was launched last October in the metro Detroit market as an extension of the credit union’s longtime commitment to financial literacy education in the communities it serves, according to Mark Guimond, assistant vice president of western division branch operations for MFCU.

Guimond said MFCU’s other youth education initiatives include a young bankers program for high school and elementary students that started on the state’s east side and, so far, is offered in one Grand Rapids school: Martin Luther King Jr. Leadership Academy. He said the credit union is working with Grand Rapids Public Schools to spread it to other classrooms.

Regarding Money Mentor, Guimond said it utilizes bankers’ financial presentation experience while also harnessing the skills of MCFU’s marketing department in developing and presenting content to be used in person and online.

Vanessa Carr, marketing program coordinator for MFCU, is program coordinator for Money Mentor across the credit union’s footprint, presenting to students and young adults about saving, spending and budgeting responsibly; managing credit scores; and more.

“Our goal is to educate members of the community who are just starting their financial journey,” she said.

“We’ve learned that financial literacy is not typically covered in high school, college and sometimes even at home, and Money Mentor helps fill that gap for young adults.”

In addition to Carr’s presentations, other MFCU employees, such as Guimond, will lend a hand, especially in West Michigan. He is based at the East Grand Rapids branch at 1815 Breton Road SE.

Guimond said while there is stable content developed for Money Mentor that has been tested in Detroit, the program is fully customizable and will be available “on-demand” with no set roll-out date in West Michigan.

He said MFCU will accept requests from various groups and structure the presentations to fit their needs. 

“If a group wants to talk about how to get ready for a job interview, careers — whatever the topic might be for that group — that’s how we would work to develop that presentation,” he said.

Guimond said he has seen interest in a couple of repeat topics at his past presentations, which were financial in nature but not related to Money Mentor.

“The biggest one that I have gotten in the past when I’ve done presentations to the young adults has been the budgeting side of things,” he said.

“A lot of times, the young adults were living at home, and now all of a sudden, they’re at college or they’re living with friends and paying rent, and that really does play a part in how you’re spending your money and how you’re saving for certain things — or are you just going out every Friday and Saturday and spending?”

The second theme that people most want to discuss is credit because they haven’t had a mentor to help them build and maintain good credit, he said.

Carr said since the launch of Money Mentor in the Detroit area, the program has reached more than 1,000 young adults through the presentations and social media.

“Money Mentor is frequently asked by teachers to return to their classrooms to present for new groups of students,” she said. “Our goal is to increase financial education throughout Michigan, and this result alone illustrates our program is helping to do that.”

She said the program has converted some attendees to becoming MFCU members, as well.

Individuals do not need to be MFCU members or become members to participate in Money Mentor.

The Breton branch in East Grand Rapids has capacity for up to 40 people for classes held on-site. Guimond said MFCU can work with bigger groups to secure use of an auditorium, if necessary. He noted ideal group sizes are 10 or more people.

Those interested in participating in Money Mentor can submit a request online at michiganfirstmoneymentor.com.

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