14 February 2011

Couch to 5K and Financial Literacy Education

There are good gifts and bad gifts.

A Christmas gift I got for my wife qualifies for the latter. You see, she's a dedicated and talented runner. I am the exact opposite. Time after time after time she has asked to me run with her. Just as often, I have said no.

In a moment of weakness I saw an ad for a "Couch to 5k" training class, and decided it would be a good idea for me to join. After the 12 week program, I will supposedly be able to run a 5k race with my wife. So, instead of spending $135 on another Christmas gift she would return (and give me the stink eye over), this would be my opportunity to spend the same amount on a (albeit delayed) shared experience.

Tonight was the first class. The takeaways were powerful...and had little to do with running.

1. Free is Forgettable. During warm up walking (it's couch to 5k, OK?) two ladies behind me mentioned that even though $135 was a lot of money to pay for something like this, it was the only way they would force themselves to go through it. If they hadn't paid, it would be much easier to skip classes.

2. Accountability (Guilt) Creates Results. Each class, you are required to sign in and sign out. You perform each exercise in front of your peers. One lady I talked to said that she totally didn't want to go tonight, but she didn't want to let her friend down.

3. We're Terrible at Grading Ourselves. "Couch to 5k" clearly targets novice runners. While I saw many people who looked like they honestly pulled themselves off of the couch, Doritos crumbs and all, to go to the class, there were plenty of seasoned runners in the class as well. My take? There are people who need help and ask for it, and those who enjoy opportunities to feel like achievers. Both groups need attention.

4. Just Because It's Obvious (or Simple), Doesn't Mean Someone Else Is Offering It. Another conversation I had was with a guy named George. He was an experienced runner, but pays for and attends the classes because "no one else offers anything like this." A lady jogging next to me drove 50 miles each way to participate. Anyone could launch a program like this, but only one group did.

Forget I'm talking about running for a second and think about your credit union's financial literacy education initiatives. You have a gift to give. You just have to decide to give it.


Ron Shevlin said...

Love this post. Love it. One of the best on this site.


I have one quibble with you. This isn't analogous to financial "literacy". It's analogous to financial "management." Sorry if I'm mincing words, but I think there's a big difference.

Literacy = passive education. Management = active behavior.

Let's forget trying to teach people stuff as if the act of reading a document is the goal. Let's get people to CHANGE the way they manage their financial lives, and IF, in the process, they learn something, great.

It seems to me that the goal of your class is NOT to teach you about running, but to get you to run.

Same thing w/ CUs -- stop trying to teach people, and get them to DO.

Matt, the Credit Union Warrior said...

Thanks for the comment, Ron! I agree with your assessment of management vs. financial literacy education, but contend that the former can create the latter. A program I've been heavily involved with over the past year is an anonymous, online financial assessment tool called Debt in Focus. Its goal is to break down the barriers that prevent many people from getting the financial guidance they need: embarrassment, inconvenience, industry jargon, sales pitches, and cost.

What we've found is that we're reaching people who have never taken the time to look at their finances...a lot like this running class is doing for lazy, out of shape bums like me. It works because it gets people to "do". But in my mind, that also allows people to absorb the education.

rkbor said...

Very nice. It's great to be able to see the application of one experience to a different and broader one. And better yet to write it down and be heard. I feel like this would make an excellent introduction to a longer speech/presentation.

Anonymous said...

Great post! I'm a little disappointed they don't have something like that in my neck of the woods (Raleigh-Durham) here in NC! I love how credit unions are getting creative with financial literacy and getting into the classrooms with programs like Banzai (www.cuinschool.com) and having student-run credit unions in high schools! Again, great post!

(Amy Lawrence) @CU_Cheerleader

Piggybanc said...

In the process of leaving the couch and running everyday. It stinks but good for us just like literacy and saving. Friend told me saving money was like eating vegetables for kids. The right habits last a lifetime.

The PiggyBanc Team

Tim McApine said...

Great post Matt! I applaud your drive. Are you sneaking a water bottle full of Coke into the classes? :)

Dawn said...

Tim, I'm pretty sure it would have to be a water bottle filled with Sprite to fool anyone. :)

Matt, thanks for this. We started charging $5 for member workshops a little over a year ago for just that reason - if people don't have anything invested, it's easier to just say, "Aw, forget it." It's easier to just stay on the couch.

Incidentally, we refund the members' money once they attend the class.

Bill at FamZoo said...

Matt, enjoyed the thoughtful post. Made me feel better about charging for FamZoo in a sea of free...