Patelco CU Puts Financial Health In-Focus

Veronica Dangerfield, Financial Educator at Patelco CU.

April is Financial Capability Month—an entire month dedicated to financial health. Credit unions play an important role in financial literacy by encouraging and empowering members and communities about their financial capabilities.

Veronica Dangerfield has been a professional in financial services since 1996 and has been teaching financial literacy for the past 15 years. As the Financial Educator at Patelco CU since 2008, she has been instrumental in the evolution of Patelco CU’s financial literacy initiatives that have reached more than 200,000 individuals since 2021. Dangerfield is known for her humor and compassionate approach to teach audiences how to increase their financial capacity and wellness.

“No other credit union has Veronica, the funniest and most thoughtful financial educator in the country,” said a co-worker of Dangerfield’s.

In 2021, Dangerfield joined the Richard Myles Johnson Foundation Board of Directors.

In this feature, she provides an inside look into Patelco CU’s financial literacy efforts, and herself.

Please tell us about Patelco CU’s focus on financial wellbeing.
Patelco CU is dedicatedly member-focused on increasing financial capacity and resilience by using Gallop to ascertain specifically who our members are and how to support them. We understand our membership and know who is thriving and who is suffering. Our approach is multi-faceted:

  • Provide trained Certified Financial Specialists (CFS)/financial coaches to support our members and community
  • Utilize Pathways in Salesforce to track and contact our counseling members
  • More than 50 Patelco CU employees are also trained CFSs and receive promotions with ongoing program involvement
  • Products like Credit Builder Loan can help members increase their credit scores
  • Offer member incentive programs, including if members make consistent loan payments, they can lower their rates
  • Patelco CU uses its website as a teaching tool
  • A weekly communication informs our employees about current economic events and how they impact our members


Describe the financial education videos you produce for your members.
During the Pandemic, we made more than 18 videos supporting financial health that were viewed 150,000 times. We followed the news and created appropriate content. For example, when people were losing jobs, we came up with the “Living on a Reduced Income” video. When people were afraid of losing money, we came up with a National Credit Union Administration video. We also have as series called ‘Small Talks for Big Changes’ that provides relevant financial education and encourages attendees to think about their thoughts, feelings, and history with money and how that influences their decisions. Some topics include “Couples and Money”, “Stimulus Check Update”, and “College Planning”.

These videos have been widely successful, growing from 30 people to hundreds consistently. I think a big reason for this is because we focus on having the right mindset: you can always improve your finances. I practice financial compassion and that financial mistakes do happen (complicated/limited financial education/consumerism/complex and emotional), however you can learn and change at any age. I also use energy and fun to build trust. I am a comedian, and I am a teacher. My name is a joke and a lesson (reference to Rodney Dangerfield and the danger in your financial field). Corny is my teaching tool.

"I did not want to hear about money because I felt broken and shackled by the stressors of navigating domestic violence. Within five minutes of her speaking, she (Ms. Dangerfield) made me laugh. Within minutes, I felt she had my best interest at heart and by the end of the first presentation, I felt empowered. I learned how to apply information in my life and be in the presence of her spirit. She is relatable, pleasant, impactful, and beautiful.  Ms. Dangerfield plants the seeds of financial comprehension and prosperity.” – Testimony from a participant at the Alameda Justice Center

Tell us about Bite of Reality® and other youth financial education programs you deliver in your community.
I have been involved with Bite of Reality for more than 10 years now and I am honored to sit on their board. It is the most impactful budgeting and financial experience in the industry. You give a young person a career, income, dependents, and a credit score. Afterwards they must balance a budget in an atmosphere of consumerism. The “bite” from the realities of making these choices is both amusing and revelatory.  And because of this experience, they have a newfound respect from their parents and trepidatious about the future. It is a visit from their future selves that delivers the message that skill and strategy is necessary for financial success. 

What is your role at the credit union, and how does financial education fit into that?
I call myself the Financial Cheerleader because I bring enthusiasm, fun, and energy to personal finance, which can be a shame-filled and emotional topic. Being human and making mistakes is okay, but let’s seek to look at behaviors and change them for your future self.

My role at the credit union coincides with the reason I am on this planet: to teach, reach, and make people laugh. I am here to teach about money and behaviors, reach my audience with non-judgement and acceptance, and use my comedy to connect immediately, build trust, and make learning fun. Increasing financial capacity begins and ends in love. Most people make financial health sober and dry, but I love people, money, and having a good time. 

What does the future of financial wellbeing look like and what role do you expect credit unions to play?
Credit unions have always been a very inclusive place for folks to grow and can make huge strides in communities that have not been included; black, brown, women, and the LGBTQ suffering when policies do not support those outside the mainstream. There is a huge opportunity to support the un- and underbanked population. For example, a financial net for single parents working with products that help them endure and overcome paycheck-to-paycheck living. We also need to offer viable alternatives to the “paycheck lenders” where millions get stuck in a rabbit hole of high fees that are almost impossible to comprehend, much less pay. Credit unions embrace these diversities, but also ensure equity throughout our leadership.

Describe a typical (or your favorite kind of) day in your work life.
My favorite days are when I teach at the Alameda Justice Center, a place where women who are escaping domestic violence and trafficking are given hope and encouragement through financial skills. I also teach at One Treasure Island where new citizens (formally incarcerated) and unhoused citizens are reinvigorated with hope through education that is relevant and immediately actionable. Volunteering and working with foster kids preparing for emancipation, kids in continuation schools is also very important to me. These kids are amazed at the energy I pour into them. Without guidance, their financial futures are critically at risk

I also engage with our members via Zoom and use tactics that will liberate them from their past and into a progressively better future.

Pre-pandemic, I have taught in every junior college and university in the Bay Area. Increasing financial capacity of our members is allowing me to give and live the life of my dreams.

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