Financial well-being is not A thing credit unions do, but THE thing credit unions do. The Foundation is on a mission to catalyze credit unions into putting financial well-being at the heart of their strategy by providing ideas from organizations who are putting in the work to make that happen. Here are their stories.
Credit Union: Allegacy Federal Credit Union in North Carolina.
What was the financial well-being problem?
To frame the conversation, it is important to share some statistics on the state of financial health in their community:
- The poverty rate in Winston-Salem is higher than that of some comparable cities, and poverty and many of its risk factors and outcomes disproportionately affect women, children, and minorities. (2016 Winston-Salem Poverty Thought Force)
- Winston-Salem is the hardest city in the United States in which to escape child poverty. (2015 Harvard study by economist Dr. Raj Chetty)
- Compared to northern states, economic mobility is far lower in the South, and North Carolina suffers from some of the worst economic mobility in the nation. Winston-Salem is one of the communities that has seen strong economic growth despite continued poverty. (Winston-Salem State University Center for the Study of Economic Mobility)
- Winston-Salem has experienced both considerable financial hardship over the past decade as well as physical well-being deficiencies. (Gallup Health ways 2015 Community Well-Being Rankings and Access to Care)
Their community and their members face a range of financial challenges from not having enough emergency savings to being inadequately prepared for retirement. Many face debt from health emergencies, student loans, or chronic unemployment. Their local economy has changed dramatically over the past two decades, shifting from a manufacturing focus to a hub of research, innovation, and entrepreneurship today. While this economic renaissance has brought new residents into their community, it has displaced those who lack the technical and soft skills necessary to thrive in this new economy.
Allegacy FCU fully understands the interplay between financial and physical health and strives to position their financial education initiatives as a part of an overall wellness strategy. Their brand promise of “we will do the right thing for your well-being” only reinforces their commitment at an organizational level to holistic wellness. Financial well-being is one of the five pillars of their wellness philosophy (along with physical, emotional, social, and a sense of purpose).
What did they do about it?
Allegacy’s AllHealth Employee Wellness Program™ started in 2009 when the CEO felt “an indebtedness to help improve the overall quality of life of our employees.” Built as a holistic, health promotion program, it was simply the right thing to do for both employee well-being and for the credit union’s long-term viability. Allegacy has been so committed to creating a culture of health that it made a strategic business decision to extend its passion for wellness beyond its own four walls by living out the brand promise in very tangible ways.
This led to the creation in 2016 of the AllHealth Wellness Savings Account™ that rewards members with a higher dividend when they remain physically active as a member of the YMCA of Northwest North Carolina. In 2018, Allegacy partnered with Wake Forest Baptist Health to launch WellQ™–a wellness center that promotes both physical and financial health–which provided additional opportunities to engage with members on a very personalized basis to address their unique financial health needs.
Another unique offering is Allegacy’s Healthcare Financial Advising™ developed by our investment group. The complimentary service uses predictive data from a member’s Health Risk Assessment to determine, with a high level of accuracy, the impact that future health issues will have on his/her finances. We hired a full-time Financial Education Manager to develop and drive our financial education initiatives. She has recruited a volunteer team of employees who serve on our Financial Education Committee to support idea generation, awareness raising among staff, and service delivery. In 2019, Allegacy delivered over 13,400 hours of financial education to our employees, members, and the broacher community at every life stage and across all affinity groups.
What was the result?
- We have experienced as high as 94% annual employee participation in our wellness program.
- In the first 15 days of 2020, 70% of employees completed their annual health assessment.
- 83% of eligible employees have joined WellQ
We have seen outstanding member engagement with our wellness offerings as well:
- To date, there are more than 2,000 AllHealth Wellness Accounts open.
- WellQ membership has surpassed the 1,000-member mark.
- 3,000 people engaged with our digital financial education tool with an average activity completion rate of 82%.
- In 2019, Allegacy touched 5,000 people through financial education and 16,231 people through products and services from our benefits and investment groups that promote holistic well-being.
We are confident that any positive impact from all of these interventions would have had a ripple effect on our members’ families and communities. Their assessment of that impact is more anecdotal, as the following success stories will attest:
- “When we first met Allison, she was heavily in debt with lots of big plans and dreams that she could not afford. Through financial coaching, she was able to set small goals to pay off her most pressing debts, establish a budget, and secure a second job in order to provide more financial stability to her family.She has learned to reframe her goals in a more realistic way, make trade-offs that make sense for her, and adjust her timeline to ensure greater success. Since she believes that modeling good money management is the best legacy that she can leave to her teenage son, Allison is intentional about involving him in the process of household budgeting and spending. One huge accomplishment for her was making the decision to cancel a planned cruise vacation and using the funds for debt repayment.”
- “Rachel was working to pay off debts and build an emergency fund when she first came to WellQ. In the course of our coaching sessions, she mentioned several times how she had put her retirement plans on hold in order to support her adult son. After further conversation, she realized that she needed to have a crucial conversation with him to establish a healthy boundary and clearly state her financial needs. Despite feeling nervous and like a bad mother, she found the strength to assert herself and was pleased to receive her son’s support. They immediately separated their joint accounts and she began working on building her retirement fund.”
- “Jose came in for coaching because he had some concerns about his ability to plan for the future. Being over 40 and with no emergency or retirement savings, he worried about the impact of aging and illness on his financial health. Despite living a very minimalist lifestyle, he did not feel that he had adequate savings to ensure a healthy retirement. He also had some uncertainty about his current career path and was interested in possibly making a professional transition that could provide greater financial security. We provided him with some information and contacts to help him on this journey. While the outcome is still unclear, we feel we filled a role in helping him tap into resources previously not available to him without the WellQ membership.”
According to program evaluations, their financial workshops really resonated with participants, garnering an average score of 4.59 out of 5. A sampling of the participant comments reveals the following insights:
- This session gave me hope!
- It was very helpful and I will be smarter with my money now.
- Thank you for making it sound so easy. It is not scary to budget.
- I liked hearing about the strategies and resources to ensure accountability to stick with it.
- This was a very insightful session and opened my eyes to a lot of financial aspects I need to pay attention to.
- Great eye opener –helped me to evaluate my finances to build for retirement
Learn more about Allegacy FCUs work and the connection between health and wealth here.