Credit unions have grown in popularity in recent years for a number of reasons, the most obvious being the decaying appeal of large banks and financial institutions. However, a new study suggests credit unions are benefiting their customers in another important way as well: education. According to a report released this week by the National Credit Union Foundation, 576 of the participating credit unions provided financial education and counseling to more than 1.6 million combined consumers in 2010. What's more, the study found credit unions invested some $140 million in 2010 toward improving the financial knowledge of consumers. As the cross-section of credit unions represent roughly 8 percent of all such institutions nationwide, analysts estimate some 20 million U.S. consumers received financial education in 2010 - be it financial literacy, consumer credit risk management
or debt consolidation. "Credit unions invest millions of dollars to provide financial education and counseling programs that touch millions of lives," said NCUF director Wendell Sebastian. "Against a fragmented landscape where each credit provider is seeking maximum gain, not-for-profit credit unions continue to be true to their mission of serving as trusted advisors to their members and communities."