Money Quest Challenge: “I’m Excited to Get This Savings Thing Started”

“I just completed the debt-to-income exercise. It was a little scary,” wrote one participant in Unitus Community Credit Union’s Money Quest Financial Challenge.

Empowering people to make healthier financial choices is a core part of the credit union mission in Oregon and across the country. In 2013, Unitus sought to engage not only its members but anyone in the community willing to participate in an intensive six-week program combining web-based educational tools, personalized coaching and, yes, a chance to win $1,000 cash or an iPad Mini.

The response was surprisingly strong. Nearly 900 people signed up for the Money Quest Financial Challenge in 2013 and nearly 1,200 were eager to try it in 2014, said Unitus Marketing Manager Lori Fink.

Participants ranged from people looking for help managing debt to some who simply wanted feedback on their financial choices.

“People were just starving for information,” Fink said, “and people weren’t sure how to go about getting it for themselves.”

The first challenge was simple but something too few do: Pay yourself first.

“I just set up my recurring transfer of $20 from my checking to my savings every pay period,” one participant wrote. “I’m excited to get this savings thing started!”

Subsequent challenges included budgeting, finding and tracking credit scores, and an insurance check-up.

“This tool is fantastic,” another wrote. “It not only makes me face my debt but gives me a positive perspective that makes me not feel so overwhelmed with paying off my credit cards.”

Everyone who enrolled in Money Quest was automatically entered for the grand prize. They were also assigned a financial coach, and as they completed each step they would email their coach who would then enter them into the drawing. The more steps people completed the more chances they had to win.

Human nature and best intentions being what they are, not everyone finished all six challenges. However, in 2013, 256 people completed at least one challenge and 40 finished all six. In 2014, 302 completed at least one challenge and 59 made it through all six. In total, over two years, 1,626 challenges were completed.

Money Quest has received both regional and national awards. Still, Fink said, the most gratifying praise has come from the participants.

“Some of the emails were so heartfelt,” she said. “They were asking for advice or a follow-up appointment. We are actually making connections with people.”

Connections that have potentially lasting impact.

“I’m excited to find that there is a way to pay off all of my college debt in six years,” one person wrote. “I thought it would be much longer than that. I forwarded it to a few friends, who I knew could also really benefit from going through it. Thanks!”

The credit unions of Oregon and Washington not only improve their members’ lives, they are foundational to the entire Northwest economy. Learn more here.

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