Why a Character Like ‘Credit Squirrel’ Works for Millennials’ Financial Education
By Right About Money Staff Report
February 9, 2017
Millennials generally post dismal financial literacy scores. Yet the stakes are especially high for this generation, having come of age without the security of a traditional pension.
Only 24% of Millennials demonstrate basic financial knowledge, according to a study by the George Washington Global Financial Literacy Excellence Center. More than half worry they will not be able to repay their student debt, and 30% are overdrawn on their checking account.
The effort to bring this next generation—larger than the boomers in number—along, financially speaking, is disjointed at best. But New Hampshire, where Millennials have the highest average level of student debt ($36,101 in 2015) of any state, is taking aim.
Bellwether Community Credit Union recently launched a series of videos, handouts and infographics aimed at the 18-to-30 crowd. The online material is available to members and nonmembers. Citizen’s Bank, New Hampshire’s largest bank, launched a website to help young people better understand their college loans.
Citizens, with 72 branches in the state, also has programs to help Millennials consolidate student debt and lower their interest rate. Four in five young adults in New Hampshire worry about their ability to repay student loans, a Citizens Bank study found.
Marketing for the programs is at times offbeat. But that’s by design. Spots are designed for younger eyes and distribution via text, Instagram or other social media. In one spot, an animated squirrel donning a green visor and with a British accent gives credit score advice to a woman snacking under a tree.
“A credit score is a three-digit number that’s calculated by credit bureaus and gives banks, credit unions and landlords an idea of how likely you are to pay your loan or rent on time,” the “Credit Squirrel” says. “Most scores are between 350 and 800. Anything above 720 is considered prime.”
If the approach seems simple-minded, remember that Millennials have experienced a different set of economic realities than earlier generations. They frequently change jobs. They don’t write checks or even have checkbooks. They tackle most financial needs online and in real time. They have shorter attention spans. They have more student debt.
And the vast majority need to start at the beginning and learn the basics, including how credit scores work. Thank you, Credit Squirrel.