Operations / Products & Services / Young Adults / Nov 18 '16

It’s Time to Put the Dragon to the Test

Marnie Gerkhardt
Marnie Gerkhardt
Innovation Manager

One of our core missions at Filene is to invite our members to “come play with us.” We stand on the edge of what there is and ask credit unions to help us see what’s next, what could be. Right now, one of the new concepts created by a team of credit union innovators through our i3 program is ready to come out and play in the marketplace.

Marnie Gerkhardt
Marnie Gerkhardt
Innovation Manager

We’re excited to see the results--to see if this idea can take us from where we are today, to where we need to be tomorrow. As our namesake Ed Filene famously said, “Progress is the constant replacing of the best there is with something better still.”  To do that, we’re going to need you. Are you in? Will you test this with us? Will you help lead progress in our industry?

To help you answer that, I’ve asked the i3 team that came up with the Debt Dragon concept to explain more about it and why you might want to offer it to your members. Warning: It gets real.

What is Debt Dragon?

Debt Dragon helps students understand how choices made during and after college will impact their ability to pay back the expenses they are racking up along the way. Often when we incur debt, we focus less on the long-term cost and more on the shininess or immediacy of the item we’re purchasing (in this case, a college education). Debt Dragon is a simple tool, an online interface that encourages users to think about the true cost, making them reflect on the reality of tens of thousands of dollars in debt and what they can do to offset the expense before, during and after college.

Lamar Heyward, Local Government Federal Credit Union, i3 concept innovator

Why would a CU want to offer Debt Dragon to their members?

Millennials are now the largest generation in this country, and they are struggling with an insurmountable amount of student loan debt. Debt Dragon can help your credit union build trust with young millennials before they head off to college and even connect them with credit unions on their campus that can help them get their first car loan or credit card. Debt Dragon helps engage millennials and educate them without being preachy.

Rebekah Monroe, Christian Financial Credit Union, i3 concept innovator

Why did this team of passionate CU professionals choose to focus on student debt struggles?

When we were developing Debt Dragon, outstanding student loans were creeping up for college students. We developed this product with students who have experienced that burden of debt, and with younger kids in mind so they and their parents could get resources in one place to help them better plan their college education in a holistic way considering savings, loans, employment, scholarship opportunities and more.

I personally was thinking of my own teenagers when helping with this project by incorporating all the aspects that would be nice to have in one tool versus going to different sites, with the goal to show them how they can minimize potential college debt based on things they can do today and what school they chose to pursue.

Evelyn Royer, Purdue Federal Credit Union, i3 concept innovator

Are you trying to make me cry?

In some ways, student loans set up college students to fail. We are asking 18 year olds to make financial decisions with serious financial consequences when they’ve only just learned how to drive a car. Many may not have even opened their first checking account yet.

For me, Debt Dragon is very personal. Student loan debt prevented my husband and me from purchasing a home for many years and it still keeps us from saving enough for retirement.

We have close friends that both the husband and wife had significant student loan debt and decided not to pay it because of financial struggles, taking a common but destructive “ignore it and it will go away” approach. Their wages and tax returns are being garnished and they struggle to meet ends meet with a one year old because of it. I know if something like this had existed, it would have helped us all put a little more thought into what kind of financial life we want for ourselves when the four years of college is over.

Rebekah Monroe, Christian Financial Credit Union, i3 concept innovator

So, that’s a yes. How about more on the lifelong benefits of a tool like this?

This product is good for the member to help them go into their college experience with eyes wide open. It’s also an opportunity for the credit union to be one of their most trusted resources to be there for them not only through college but life. Credit unions offer so many products and services that can work hand-in-hand with Debt Dragon that will make them the trusted financial partner students need to carry them through college and beyond.

Evelyn Royer, Purdue Federal Credit Union, i3 concept innovator 

Can I hear more from these crazy smart folks that came up with and are developing this concept?

Certainly. Listen to them on the Filene Fill-In Podcast

What’s one thing you’d like to see different about this concept?

Bigger horns, and more fire on the logo.

Christopher Danvers, American Airlines Federal Credit Union, i3 concept innovator

Fair enough. How do I sign up?