Financial Beginnings is very excited to have Point West Credit Union as a sponsor for the 2014-2015 school year. We would like to give Steve Pagenstecher, Marketing & Member Experience Manager, a big thank you for taking the time to answer a couple of questions about Point West and their dedication to Financial Literacy.
(1) Why does Point West Credit Union support Financial Beginnings? Why is financial education important to your company?
As a not-for-profit, member-owned financial institution, empowering our members and our community with the knowledge and tools they need to take control of their financial lives is the foundation of everything we do.
Personal finance is not considered core curriculum in most schools, yet it is a core value of the credit union cooperative. That’s where Financial Beginnings comes in. They make financial literacy outreach possible for Point West and many other organizations who champion financial education as a key component for secondary and post-secondary learning. Financial Beginnings manages the whole process: volunteer opportunities within the classrooms, our volunteer portal, and reporting results back to us, to show the impact of financial literacy volunteerism to our members and the community at-large.
(2) In addition to supporting Financial Beginnings, does Point West Credit Union have any current or planned programs, initiatives, or resources to increase financial literacy?
In addition to Financial Beginnings, we offer and are pursuing several other opportunities for financial literacy to empower our communities.
Point West partners with BALANCE to leverage their financial planning tools and materials for our members, including free and confidential financial counseling services. In addition, we collaborate with IRCO (Immigrant & Refugee Community Organization) here in Portland to assist immigrants struggling to establish citizenship and healthy financial habits.
We are currently working with several other partners to develop and provide increased access to financial literacy for individuals of all ages, as well as small businesses. These include Portland State University’s Business Outreach Program, Innovative Changes, Bank On Oregon, the Benson High School Alumni Foundation, and Operation HOPE.
This is just the beginning – we will continue to seek out and partner with like-minded organizations to financially empower our local community.
(3) In your opinion, what is currently the most critical finance-related topic that needs to be addressed through education?
The recent economic recession had a huge impact on a majority of Americans, including our members. Between lost jobs and lost wealth, it will be years, if ever, before many recover. Yet a tough situation is made worse by a lack of long-term “rainy day” savings to help weather these ups and downs. We need to show that saving not only is worth the long-term investment, but is frankly not as daunting as many think it is. If we can create an informed base of educated savers that balance savings and purchases – and give them the tools to continue managing their budget – we’ll create a much more stable and robust foundation for everyone’s future.
(4) What is Point West’s niche market? What make you stand out in this market?
Point West’s membership is as diverse as Portland itself; we’re proud to serve everyone, from white collar employees and their families, to low-income, underserved families and businesses. As a credit union dedicated to community development, serving the needs of the entire community, not just high earners, is at the core of our mission. We’re focused on two critical demographics in our community – small businesses and the underserved.
Small businesses are the engine of our community. And when we’re talking about small businesses, that’s exactly what we mean – businesses that may only have one or two employees but have a solid mission and need the tools to grow sustainably. Not all small businesses are looking for $500,000 loans – some simply need $5,000-10,000 to repair equipment or purchase supplies. We believe there’s significant opportunity to help these businesses during these burgeoning years so they can be the engines for success our communities need.
Likewise, there are many individuals and families that struggle to make ends meet despite their resolve and determination to live a more financially-stable life. Whether its barriers like lack of work or transportation, or unexpected hardships like medical bills or an economic downturn, someone can move from a good financial position to a bad one just like that. Ensuring access to affordable accounts and loans, while providing sound financial advice and support is crucial to recovering their finances; it also keeps them away from predatory lenders and services, which only further destabilize their financial standing. Whether it’s our ITIN lending program, our Fresh Start Checking or VISA Credit Card, a share-secured loan or many other options we have at our disposal, we’re here to help everyone improve their financial well-being.
Is your organization interested in becoming a sponsor too? Contact Melody Bell for more details.