On Oct. 15, credit unions around the world will celebrate International Credit Union Day. This year's celebration marks the credit union movement's 150th anniversary.

Credit unions remain healthy and strong because they live by the cooperative principles on which they were founded: Credit unions belong to the people who use them and operate solely for their members' benefit.

According to the World Council of Credit Unions, apex organization of the international credit union system in Madison, Wis., here's when and where the movement started and how it has grown in its 150-year history:

  • Mid 1800s: Credit union movement begins in Germany.
  • Late 1800s: The movement spreads to other parts of Europe.
  • Early 1930s: Credit unions appear in North America--first to Canada and then to Northeast U.S.
  • The 1950s and '60s: The movement returns to Ireland and then moves to other regions in Latin America, Asia, the South Pacific, the Caribbean, and Africa.
  • 1989: While the Berlin Wall is falling, credit unions are reintroduced in Poland, Russia, Latvia, Lithuania, and Ukraine.
  • Mid 1990s: After apartheid, there's more growth in the movement in South Africa.
  • Today: The credit union idea is sweeping Central and Eastern Europe, Macedonia, Albania, China, and Central Asia.
  • Today: There are more than 36,000 credit unions in 86 countries around the world.
  • Today: More than 90 million members worldwide have economic opportunities and financial security because they have access to credit union products and services.

©1998 Credit Union National Association, Inc.