United Way Montcalm-Ionia Counties launches Financial Literacy Video Contest for students

United Way Montcalm-Ionia Counties launches Financial Literacy Video Contest for students

By Cory Smith | on May 08, 2021

Looking to break down barriers that have left many Michiganders stuck in a zone on the cusp of poverty, one local organization is working toward educating the youth to help guide them toward a better financial future.

United Way Montcalm-Ionia Counties has partnered with area banks in creating a Financial Literacy Video Contest for area students grades 6-12 to compete in with a goal to promote better financial habits. — Submitted illustration

United Way Montcalm-Ionia Counties, which fights for the health, education and financial stability of all members of the two counties, has announced a Financial Literacy Video Contest targeted toward high school teenagers. 

Hosted in partnership with title sponsor Preferred Credit Union, along with platinum sponsors Mercantile Bank of Michigan, Michigan, One Community Credit Union, Isabella Bank and Independent Bank, the contest, which asks students to create a 90 second video on a financial topic of their choice, will be open to teenagers from the Belding, Carson City-Crystal, Central Montcalm, Greenville, Ionia, Lakeview, Lakewood, Montabella, Pewamo-Westphalia, Portland, Saranac, Tri County and Vestaburg school districts. 

Topics could range from explaining a credit score, saving to buy a car, how to fund college and budget for a semester and more. 

According to United Way Montcalm-Ionia Counties Executive Director Terri Legg, the partnership and contest comes about following the results of the recent Asset Limited, Income Constrained, Employed (ALICE) report showcasing economic trends from 2019. 

The ALICE Report showed prior to the COVID-19 pandemic in 2019 there was a near-record-low number of people reported to be unemployed.

By December 2020 the Unemployment Insurance Agency (UIA) confirmed nearly 700,000 Michigan residents were receiving unemployment benefits. 

Michigan was one of the leading states in the country with significant job loss, and in addition, low-wage jobs continue to dominate the state’s economy, making it more challenging for workers to find jobs with wages that can support a basic household budget.

Due to growth in the number of low-wage jobs, minimal increases in wages and more fluctuations in job hours, schedules, and benefits that make it harder to budget and plan, over a million Michiganders remained stuck in the ALICE threshold — living between the levels of poverty and the middle class. 

According to the report, In Montcalm County, 43% of households are considered to fall within ALICE, and in Ionia County, 37% are also in this category. These are households that earn more than the Federal Poverty Level but less than the basic cost of living for the state. 

Additionally in 2019, a record number of Michigan workers, 58%, were paid by the hour and more than half of the state’s jobs paid less than $20 per hour. 

“With these economic trends in mind, the United Way of Montcalm and Ionia counties wants to get ahead of the curve with our communities’ youths,” Legg said. “We know that when teens understand financial literacy, they can manage their money more successfully and be better prepared to budget for real life situations. 

In creating short videos for the contest, United Way Montcalm-Ionia Counties Community Impact Associate Jeffrey Puehler said students will show their creativity while teaching others about financial literacy. 

“By hosting the Teen Financial Literacy Video Contest, we hope to help and inspire the youth in our community by letting them research a topic about financial literacy,” he said. “Understanding Financial literacy is the stepping stone for financial success and understanding how to earn above the threshold.” 

In representing the title sponsor of the contest, Preferred Credit Union Vice President of Member Experience Chris Pratt said she’s hopeful the contest will help set area youths on the right path toward financial stability later in life. 

“Sponsoring the Teen Financial Literacy Contest is a way to help educate youth on the importance of financial literacy and all the areas it will impact their life,” she said. “Learning more about finances and budgets, especially at a young age, will help set these kids up to make sound financial choices down the road. Youth are our future leaders, and we want to be a part setting them up to succeed. Teaching kids about money will have a great impact on their future.

“What is financial literacy?” she continued. “To me, financial literacy is having the knowledge to make sound financial choices and be confident in not only day-to-day finances and budgets, but also planning for the future. Financial literacy is understanding how finances, using credit, investing and debt management play a part in your daily lives. Financial Literacy will help kids reach life goals, whether that be buying a new vehicle, purchasing a house, starting a business, pursuing higher education, saving for retirement or just being prepared for the unexpected.”

For more information on the contest visit www.liveunitedm-i.org/teen-financial-literacy-video-contest for rules and the sign-up form or email Puehler at jeffrey.puehler@liveunitedm-i.org.

The contest is open to all students in grades 6-12. The deadline to submit is 11:59 p.m. May 31 with winners to be announced June 11.