Retirement Fairs Gaining Popularity in Illinois

Over 500 CU People Participated in NCUF’s Interactive Ed Experience

UPDATE: Click here for a more in-depth story on retirement fairs in Illinois thanks to the Credit Union Times

In just a year and a half throughout Illinois, more than 560 people have participated in Retirement Fairs and 70 credit union staff and volunteers have completed the “Train-the-Trainer” program which teaches people how to host and conduct the fairs. The Illinois Credit Union Foundation introduced the National Credit Union Foundation’s (NCUF) “Route Your Retirement” Retirement Fair Program during the fall of 2012.

The interactive fair is designed to have people think more carefully about the type of lifestyle they would like to pursue in retirement and then link it to their financial plan. With support from CUNA Mutual Group, NCUF offers retirement fairs for leagues and credit unions nationwide. For example, credit unions in Illinois have embraced the fairs as an effective way to educate adults about the importance of saving for retirement.

“Credit unions are very excited about Retirement Fairs because it is a new, fresh approach to an important subject,” said Melanie Murphy, Manager of the Illinois Credit Union Foundation. “The fairs are a great way for credit unions to interact with members and potential members that provides educational value to the participants and also allows the credit unions to showcase how they can help people throughout their lives.”

Financial Plus CU in Ottawa, Ill. was the first credit union in Illinois to conduct a retirement fair for all of its staff members in January, 2013. Becky Coons, Director of Training at Financial Plus CU, led the session and was impressed with the positive reactions from the group.

“Route Your Retirement is a fun, interactive program that really gets people to think about their future and makes it easier to start saving for retirement,” said Coons. “One of the best things that happened was hearing from several staff members who increased their 401(k) contributions or who opened new IRAs.”

During the remainder of 2013, Coons conducted a series of lunch and learn sessions that were designed as follow-ups to the retirement fair. During the first lunch and learn, staff members used CUNA Mutual Group’s online assessment tool, Road to Retirement, which is briefly covered during the fair, to determine if their current savings plan is adequate for the retirement lifestyle they envision. The second lunch and learn focused on debt reduction and budgeting tools. The final lunch and learn included setting up emergency savings funds and establishing financial goals for the next year.

CBI FCU in Plainfield, Ill. was the first in Illinois to conduct a retirement fair for its members when it hosted one during May, 2013. Two staff members coordinated the fair: Fran Parkison, Member Services Representative, and Linda Atkinson, Loan Officer.

“We were looking for an educational program that would be attractive to our membership which is comprised of primarily working professionals,” said Coons. “As a single sponsor credit union, we also wanted it to be a program that would resonate with the sponsor company and Route Your Retirement seemed perfect.”

The retirement fair was the first educational event conducted by the credit union. With only four staff members to draw upon, credit union board and committee members stepped up to assist at the retirement fair by working at the booths. Also, the sponsor company’s human resources department staff members were on hand to answer specific questions about their retirement plans, and a representative from the investment company the sponsor company uses for its 401(k)s attended to field questions about their investment options.

“We felt the Retirement Fair was a huge success,” said Parkison. “The feedback from the event was great and people asked us to do it again. The HR staff also had good things to say about the fair.”

For more information about retirement fairs and the Route Your Retirement program, contact NCUF Field Coach Mark Lynch at or 906-440-3804. Illinois credit unions can contact Melanie Murphy at or 800-942-7124.

The Retirement Fair is applicable to people of all ages, not just those nearing retirement. It works like this: participants visit seven lifestyle booths during the fair. At each booth they ponder a series of questions and then make an assessments about how much they will most likely spend on that aspect of their retirement lifestyle. After visiting each booth they then hear how to link their lifestyle choices to their retirement savings. They are strongly encouraged to get detailed advice from a retirement planner who will help them assess whether they are on track to be able to finance the lifestyle options they chose. A participant takes between 45 and 60 minutes to complete the process.

Click here to watch the Route Your Retirement Promotional Video on YouTube.

About the National Credit Union Foundation (
The National Credit Union Foundation (NCUF) is the charitable arm of the US credit union movement and works as a catalyst to improve people’s financial lives through credit unions. Through NCUF grants and programs, credit unions provide widespread financial education, create greater access to affordable financial services, and empower more consumers to save, build assets, and own homes. Donations to the Foundation enable credit unions to help their members reach life-changing goals and achieve financial freedom.

Description: Better Business Bureau Accredited Charity sealThe National Credit Union Foundation is a 501(c)(3) tax-exempt charitable organization. NCUF continues to earn the Better Business Bureau seal of approval as an “Accredited Charity” for meeting all 20 BBB Wise Giving Alliance Standards for national charities.