VyStar President/CEO Terry R. West
One of our primary goals at VyStar is to help our members strengthen their financial wellbeing. Financial counseling is one of our longstanding traditions, and over a decade ago we began offering additional programs to build upon that history and advance our efforts to help members improve their finances. We understand the importance of giving our young members a firm financial foundation and continuing to educate our members throughout their lives.
VyStar’s age-appropriate financial literacy programs help our young members avoid the crippling financial issues many adults are struggling with today. Also, providing them with this experience gives them the power to serve as examples among their peers, carry this valuable knowledge with them into adulthood and pass it on to future generations.
So how does VyStar accomplish this? We offer a variety of programs that start the financial education process early for children, give them real-world experience in their teen years, and continue to loyally support them throughout their adulthood.
VyStar Kids Club and VyTeen
Designed for children 12 years old or younger, the VyStar Kids Club helps start our youngest members on the right financial path. It introduces financial literacy in a fun way: helping them establish their first account, teaching them good spending habits, and showing them the importance of saving. An extension of the Kids Club, VyTeen addresses the financial needs and goals for our teen members. Teenagers between the ages of 13 and 17 can receive their own savings and checking accounts. VyTeen also offers a debit card to help teens practice using the card effectively and prepare for next steps like credit cards, student loans or their first car.
VyStar’s High School Branch Program
This is our flagship financial literacy program, which has introduced financial education and the credit union difference to high school students for over 10 years in nine high school branches throughout Northeast Florida. Our 10th and 11th high school branches are scheduled to open later this year. VyStar is privileged to partner with local school districts to provide high school students with hands-on, real-world experience that cannot be taught in the classroom.
What makes this program unique is that students manage the day-to-day operations of the branches, allowing them to experience the inner workings of key financial services like credit cards and savings accounts. They learn the importance of credit, how to use it properly and how to save money. Each branch is open five days a week, 60 to 90 minutes per day. Students build marketable skills they need to enter the professional arena after high school. Many of the students are able to secure part-time and/or full-time employment after graduation and throughout college. In fact, VyStar has employed a number of participating students after they graduated from high school.
“On My Own” Reality Fairs
In partnership with the University of Florida Extension office, VyStar created the “On My Own” Reality Fair kit and introduced it to the High School Branch program. It was so popular and in-demand that VyStar has brought the Reality Fair to numerous high schools in Northeast Florida, including schools outside our High School Branch Program. To date, this program has reached more than 16,000 students in Northeast Florida.
It is amazing to watch the students go from booth to booth, realizing how much the necessities of life cost and, more importantly, understanding the sacrifices they will have to make for themselves and their families. When they finish the budgeting and spending process, most have a better understanding of why a financial plan is so important.
VyStar’s Money Makeover program was developed in 2009 to assist members in need of budgeting and financial assistance. The program was designed to help participants reduce debt, increase savings and plan for their financial futures. Our Money Makeover branch program provides members with personal Money Coaches, a comprehensive Money Makeover at Home Guide, as well as a number of online financial tools. Finishing its seventh year in December, VyStar’s Money Makeover contest has helped hundreds of members, as well as thousands of Northeast Florida residents, improve their finances. During the 2015 Money Makeover Contest, all the participating families combined increased their savings by 20 percent, lowered their debt by
9 percent, and improved their overall financial status by 11 percent in just six months. The participants also improved their credit scores by an average of 24 points. One person’s credit score increased by 101 points during the six months. All VyStar members in need of financial guidance can benefit from this service throughout the year.
Planning and saving for retirement can be difficult, even for those who followed sound financial practices throughout their youth. Many pre-retirees have not saved enough money and worry about how they will afford retirement past Social Security benefits. VyStar continues to provide educational services that help make the retirement process stress-free ... as it should be.
Our VyStar Investment Services (VIS) team is available to help members understand how much money they need to securely retire, set financial goals for their retirement savings, and give them the support they need to reach those goals. VIS was created in 2001 to help VyStar members make sound financial decisions and achieve their financial goals. Today, VIS serves over 7,600 members and manages over $480 million in assets. It was recognized by the Jacksonville Business Journal as one of the top wealth managers in Northeast Florida, earning ninth place among the largest wealth management firms in the area. I encourage you to visit the Investments section of our website to learn more about the VIS team and how they can address your financial needs.
So no matter what stage of life you are in, VyStar wants to assist you every step of the way, helping you understand and make the most out of your money. Whatever your age, we invite you to explore and take advantage of our many financial literacy programs. Hand in hand, we can help guide you through making the best financial decisions so you can spend less time worrying about money … and more time enjoying life.
Thank you for being a VyStar member and helping make VyStar a success for all our members and the communities we serve.
The content provided in this blog consists of the opinions and ideas of the author alone and should be used for informational purposes only. VyStar Credit Union disclaims any liability for decisions you make based on the information provided.