Investing In Kentucky’s Financial And Physical Wellness

Fort Knox FCU is now Abound, and it has a holistic plan to help improve health and wellness among the people it serves.

Top-Level Takeaways

  • Abound Credit Union is engaging the people of Kentucky through a financial and physical wellness plan that reaches beyond its original military SEG and banking background.
  • The credit union is addressing the connection between financial and physical/mental wellness through investment, education, and research.


Abound Credit Union
Data as of 12.31.19

HQ: Radcliff, KY
MEMBERS: 111,278
ROA: 1.03%

Two-thirds of Kentuckians can’t handle a $1,000 emergency. That’s according to Ray Springsteen, president and CEO of Abound Credit Union ($1.6B, Radcliff, KY), formerly Fort Knox FCU.

Our state tends to rank among the lowest in metrics around financial understanding and health care, Springsteen says. Part of our role as a credit union is to do something about it.

And opportunities abound to do something about it. The largest credit union in the Bluegrass State is executing on a 10-year strategic plan that has a multi-prong focus on financial education, entrepreneurship, and physical and mental health. The end goal is to improve the quality of life in every community in central Kentucky where members from its 600 SEGS live and work.

Our biggest employers are in education and health care, Springsteen says. Our investments in health and financial education connect us to the two biggest SEGS in every community we serve. It also perfectly aligns with who we are.

Partnerships with schools and other community service providers also are part of the plan, and much of the effort still revolves around its original partner, the U.S. Army.

Better Business Building

Abound’s Operation Veteran 2 Entrepreneur program helps veterans with a business bent begin their post-military careers. Created for soldiers transitioning to civilian life in the Fort Knox area, the program includes an annual half-day session that typically attracts 30 to 40 participants who learn about financial strategies and resources available from area small-business centers.

Networking is part of the program, and business leaders and politicians, including the local congressman, participate and offer their connections and insight. Springsteen holds up one particular success story of a veteran who established a successful running store after 28 years of military service.

We worked with him on his original loans, including a small one to get his inventory started, Springsteen says. From there, he bought a building as part of a downtown revitalization in Elizabethtown. Now, he not only has a successful business himself, he comes back and helps us with our training for others.

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Abound regional manager Katie McDowell, left, gives the answer while Becky Ates, executive vice president, explains the question during a high school presentation in Nelson County, KY.

Group presentations and personal networking are part of the Veterans to Entrepreneurs program from Abound Credit Union. Here, an active duty soldier from Fort Knox planning to transition out of the military speaks with a local military veteran about his experience in starting a business.

Leitchfield branch manager Heidi Baldwin, left, and executive vice president Becky Ates present financial literacy lessons to a class in Grayson County, KY. They also present pizza by the box.

Checking Cholesterol And Credit

This past November, Abound committed to a 10-year, $1.5 million investment that will help expand a clinic located near the main gate at Fort Knox.

This first-of-its-kind clinic will offer high-touch, comprehensive, multi-disciplinary care that addresses not only physical health but also mental, social, and spiritual health, said medical director Dr. Tom Hustead in an announcement about the investment. We will even have community space inside the clinic for educational organizations and others to use.

That’s where Abound comes in. Along with getting its name on the facility, the credit union will provide financial health classes there, as it does in its branches that also host visits from health-care providers.

We’ve found ways we can link physical health to financial understanding and wellness, Springsteen says. You can check your cholesterol and your credit at the same time. We see a need for that in our communities. We also see how a lack of financial understanding results in an incredible amount of missed opportunity for creating wealth.

No Sophomore Left Behind

That’s where financial education comes in. Abound is working closely with the Kentucky Credit Union League and fellow cooperatives on an ambitious plan to provide classes to every 10th-grade student in every public high school in the next three years.

Ray Springsteen, President and CEO, Abound Credit Union

The credit unions agreed to foot the bill for resources approximately $300,000 divided among the cooperatives based on size. The curriculum is provided by the state education department and delivered by teachers already working in the schools.

That’s 150,000 students in 250 high schools, Springsteen says. Can you imagine banks doing that?

Fifth-graders also get some attention. Abound’s own staff lead basic financial education classes for that younger crowd, including more than 800 students in Hardin County and on Fort Knox in the first half of 2019.

We test before and after the class, Springsteen says. Last year, the average score increased about 30 percentage points, so we can see the kids are learning.

The benefits of that learning are pervasive.

People who grow up with a better understanding of how to manage money are going to help themselves and their community and all of Kentucky, Springsteen says. That’s a positive impact by credit unions.

Learn more about community impact making it and measuring it at cooperatives across the country in this Callahan Collection.

An Interest In Impact

Although before-and-after scores show students are learning during financial wellness classes, the overall impact of Abound’s financial wellness and other efforts is not so easy to quantitate.

Springsteen points to the real-life example of a working, pregnant member who came in with a 21% auto loan and walked out with a 5% loan that will save her $7,000 over the life of the note.

The credit union can extract some concrete measures from its entrepreneurship program, but it’s looking for more. That’s why Abound is working with researchers and interns from the business school at Western Kentucky University to refine measurements that can help the credit union better understand the connection between physical and financial wellness and to do something about both.

We know we can’t change things in a year, Springsteen says. We recognize this is a long-term investment. But we also know it’s the right thing to do for the areas of Kentucky that we serve, and we hope we can make a difference.


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February 24, 2020

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