BOISE, ID. – Saving and knowing how to handle your money is the theme for April. This month is Youth Savings Month, Financial Literacy Month and Credit Union Month.

A recent Bankrate study highlighted how unprepared most Americans are for a financial emergency, finding that only 40 percent of respondents could pay an unexpected bill of $1,000 from their savings. Lynn Heider, vice president of public relations with the Northwest Credit Union Association, said that reinforces the importance of having a savings account.

“Investing in your workplace’s 401(k) is smart and it’s very important,” Heider said. “But also having some savings that you can gain access to if you need it, or that you can use to reach a goal – such as college or even vacation, and other short-term goals – is also really important.”

Other Bankrate survey respondents said they would have to pay off the bill over time, spend less on other things or borrow from family or friends. It also found financial surprises are relatively common – 38 percent of people said either they or an immediate family member have experienced at least one unexpected major expense in the past year.

Heider said credit unions aren’t always recognized for the interest rates they’re able to offer on savings accounts, but noted many Northwest credit unions can offer competitive rates. She credited their not-for-profit structure, meaning credit unions’ earnings aren’t invested in stockholders.

“Credit unions are more likely than for-profit financial institutions to be able to offer you an attractive interest rate on your savings,” she said. “And some of them even pay interest on your checking account.”

More than 1 million Oregonians are members of a credit union. Heider said folks can find a credit union near them at

Eric Tegethoff, Public News Service