Money Management and the Voices of Gen Z

Each year the Credit Union Foundation of Maryland and DC sponsors a contest to distribute $12,000 in scholarships for college and trade school bound students.

There are three categories of awards:  ten $1,000 essay-based scholarships, one $1,000 video-based scholarship, and/or one $1,000 photo-based scholarship.

The topics for each category this year are:

This year’s essay topic: In life, things can happen fast.  “More than two-thirds of people in America are not financially healthy. How would you define financial health? Describe how your credit union has helped you understand how to manage your money.”

This year’s video topic: “To be financially literate, or financially healthy, is to know how to manage your money. Show one lesson you’ve learned from your credit union about managing your money.”

Photographers are asked to capture an original photograph that represents the credit union core value of “Cooperation”

The contest is marketed through the League’s member credit unions.   The Foundation provides lobby posters, newsletter articles and access to all applications.   The result:  hundreds of submissions in all three categories received by April 15.

The Judging Begins

Now the fun begins. The foundation seeks over a hundred volunteers to review the submissions.  I signed up.  I was sent 19 one-minute videos and 10 essays to review and score.   The foundation provides a scoring model for the evaluations.  The progress is tracked automatically in a spread sheet for each volunteer reviewer.

A Generation’s View of Financial Health

I started with the 19 one-minute videos and reviewed all in a single sitting.   Some were applicants sharing their personal stories.  Others were more elaborate creations with one offering a “film” on the topic.  Some acted out short skits.  Several used animations to create their message.

What all had communicated was common sense money management suggestions or experiences.  The submissions showed clear financial maturity.  Following are three different approaches to the topic.

The first uses animation to communicate the lessons from a first-year college student.


A second video took a different tack and discussed just one topic: should a young person buy crypto or not?


Another example by a high school student demonstrates the benefits of financial courses helping younger people understand the basics of money management.  The word she uses for the result is empowerment.


The Power of  Gen Z’s Financial Minute

While my sample of videos is a small portion of the hundreds submitted, these brief summaries show an awareness of financial skills that are well grounded.  These minute videos are literate, smart and often creative messages on the basics of financial life.

The Foundation’s contest is much more impactful than just the $12,000 distributed to the winners.   It provides hundred of personal snapshots of this generation’s awareness of financial responsibility.

These submissions rarely mentioned credit unions, but all of the applicants would have learned about the opportunity via a credit union.

For the hundreds of students continuing their post high school education, the volunteers reading the applications and the credit unions promoting the contest, this is a special cooperative effort.   It highlights the Foundation’s mission of financial self-sufficiency.

The student, volunteer and institutional contributions meld into a financial quilt of financial learnings from the upcoming generation of credit union members.

My only thought: Can more credit unions individually or collectively create this learning opportunity.  Perhaps the MD/DC Foundation might  share their software and infrastructure that makes this seem so effortless.

I certainly learned much.  It  creates confidence in this new generation’s understanding of financial responsibility.




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