As many credit union members welcomed the New Year on January 1, they also resolved to save money and be cost-conscious in the year ahead. This is a smart goal, but can be a tough one to stick to if it’s not backed by a solid plan equipped with prudent strategies and accessible tools. Fortunately, as a credit union member, you’re already a step ahead in the saving and budgeting game. Many credit unions offer members a variety of products and services dedicated to financial well-being, from basic savings and club accounts to online budgeting tools to budgetary counseling programs and financial literacy efforts.
These invaluable offerings will not only help you get started with developing a plan, but will also aid in maintaining good financial habits throughout 2013 and beyond.
At Leaders Credit Union (Jackson, TN), they try to keep things as simple as possible in terms of savings tools, offering the standard fare regular savings and club accounts, in addition to several higher yield products that require higher minimum deposits to earn. The function is similar to a term-certificate with regard to yield, but the funds are still liquid for the member. The credit union works hard to lower the barriers to saving. In fact, Josh McAfee, Marketing Manager, said that one of the most important (and easiest) aspects of saving, and one that ensures success, is payroll deduction. “If a member does not have to intentionally contribute the funds to their savings account, they are much more successful in saving -- we recommend it to every member regardless of life stage and lifestyle.”
Additionally, Leaders is currently offering a 1.25% APY 13 month term-certificate in one market they serve. “Our loan-to-share ratio is very strong, so we’re in the process of transitioning back to a more balanced sales scorecard that rewards both loans and deposits to protect liquidity,” added McAfee.
Utilizing relationship pricing, the credit union is also providing deposit markups for members that have more than one account with them featuring strong incentives to deposit and borrow. McAfee said they hope this will encourage members to bring more of their savings, transaction, and loan accounts to Leaders so they can serve all of their financial needs. “Our vision is to be the leader in financial services for the markets we serve -- savings is at the core of who we are as a credit union, and it should be a shared value among all Americans who want to prosper.”
To help members save, Meriwest Credit Union (San Jose, CA) offers automatic transfers from checking to savings that can be set up online, over the phone or in person. Meriwest also offers the “You Name It” savings account in which you can set up accounts for any purpose (i.e. a vacation, a car, etc.) as well as calculators that allow members to view how their savings can grow at constant interest rates and with periodic deposits.
Gregory B. Meyer, Community Relations Manager, advises members to create a budget first and work in all their expenses to determine the amount of disposable income that can go into savings. “Deposit an amount that is meaningful to you -- if it is too small you won’t save enough to matter and if it is too big and it could negatively affect your budget.” Meyer added that people often ask about the proper amount to consider, and his rule of thumb is 10% of the take home/net pay check. “If someone can save 10% of their pay each month, they are going to be well off when an emergency comes their way.”
Likewise, United Federal Credit Union (St. Joseph, MI) offers a variety of savings products to help its Members meet their financial needs, including special youth oriented savings and certificate products.
According to Sandie Lieberg, Public Relations Coordinator, through the CFS financial advisors of United Investment Planning, members have access to a large number of investment opportunities and services, including the eVision online electronic investment tool. In addition, United periodically offers various savings oriented seminars which range from saving for college to basic investing as well as certificate specials (during the first half of the year) to encourage putting away performance bonuses or tax refunds.
When it comes to helping members budget and gain control over their spending in order to save more, Leaders offers Greenpath Financial Education, and Intuit FinanceWorks integrated into their online banking. “FinanceWorks is very similar to Mint, yet it’s already built-into online banking and allows the member to track spending, set goals, and categorize their finances,” explained McAfee.
Besides their traditional Savings Accounts, Savings Clubs, and Money Markets, Coors Credit Union (Golden, CO) features many savings and budgeting calculators on their website. “These calculators help members figure out everything from budgeting, debt consolidation, retirement savings, college savings, savings goals, checkbook balancing, and more -- they are amazing ‘do it yourself’ tools online,” said Carrie Oltmanns, Member Service Team Leader.
Likewise, Meriwest provides budget worksheets on their website and links to a number of sites that provide practical advice and services in regard to savings. They also offer workshops on personal budgeting for teen and adult members. “Budgeting is a skill everyone should master -- we spend a lot of time reaching out to high schools teaching students our Real World Budgeting curriculum and the teachers see our training as a life skill,” added Meyer.
Free, confidential budgetary counseling from a trusted resource like your credit union could be the perfect tool.
Coors offers “Red Side Solution” appointments. “Trained Financial Service Representatives will help you review your financials, analyze your budget (or maybe help set up a budget), research alternative options that might work for your situation — whatever it is that you need, financial assistance with we will sit down with you to discuss and try to find the right solution,” explained Oltmanns.
Likewise, United offers Member’s Assistance Program services at no cost to members. This service is designed to help individuals work through existing debt problems and to prevent personal financial problems in the future. Experienced counselors work with members who are experiencing difficulty with personal financial management and will help the member implement a workable budget, and when appropriate, they may recommend special lending options to provide an alternative to bankruptcy.
United also teams up with three regional baseball leagues to offer the Extra Credit Challenge. Lieberg explained how this youth program employs the twin subjects of baseball and banking to teach math and reading at an early age. “Kids improve their skills while learning financial literacy, having fun, and earning rewards.”
If you’re on the hunt for a solid solution when it comes to the challenge of saving, budgeting, and smart spending, find a credit union and jumpstart your new and improved financial plan today!By Cyndi Cohen