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The Sentinels Among Us

CUs represent fiscal guardianship, protecting members from fraud and enlightening them with financial literacy.

May 13, 2013
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I was perplexed by the plethora of rabbit fur tufts and other miscellaneous questionable remnants in my yard.

What was the universe telling me? Death seemed pervasive. The perpetual nasty display was quite depressing.

Then, last evening, I found my answer: in the tree right outside my suburban window sat a stunning barred owl.  His profile? Magnificent. His stature? Unwavering.

Suddenly, he swooped down from the branches and silently flew by; a breathtaking spectacle.

An honor to behold.

Owls in Mythology and Culture” have a mixed reputation. Their nocturnal appearance and association with Halloween brings a fearful and eerie connotation. Some superstitions label owls as harbingers of death.

Greek mythology tells another story. Athene, Goddess of Wisdom, honored owls as protectors. “If an owl flew over Greek soldiers before a battle, they took it as a sign of victory. The Little Owl also kept a watchful eye on Athenian trade and commerce from the reverse side of their coins.”

A representation of fiscal guardianship!

Your credit union, unlike my owl, brings no such mixed perceptions or reputation. You absolutely represent fiscal guardianship. You protect your members from fraud and enlighten them with financial literacy messages. You provide safe investment options. You allow for maximum utilization of funds with low loan rates. Your vigilance in assuring excellent member service is unparalleled.

You are a sentinel.

“Confidence…thrives on honesty, on honor, on the sacredness of obligations, on faithful protection and on unselfish performance. Without them it cannot live.”—FDR

Research findings this week indicate that citizens officially charged to protect us—those in the military—have need for financial protection and confidence themselves.

Financial complaints from servicemembers regarding mortgages predominate in a Consumer Finance Protection Bureau (CFPB) study, “Office of Servicemember Affairs Semi-Annual Complaint Report.” Credit card and credit reporting complaints topped the list of financial concerns.

Mortgage complaints by respondents are broken down in the following percentages:

  • 58% focused on loan modification, collection, and foreclosure.
  • 24% dealt with loan servicing, payments, and escrow accounts.
  • 10% had to do with application, originator, or mortgage broker.

Other areas of complaint are centered on credit reporting and issues with specific bank products and services, including account openings, deposits and withdrawals, and consequences of inadequate funds.

Meanwhile, learn “Financial Boot Camps Help Army Enlisted,” according to Boston College. “At a time when financial education is increasingly being criticized as an ineffective way to raise Americans’ low saving rate, an eight-hour course held on 13 Army bases is significantly boosting how much military personnel are saving for their retirement.”

The course covers one financial lesson per hour of coursework. Some of the topics covered: financial ethics, buying a car, insurance, and the essentials of credit.

“A woman’s best protection is a little money of her own.”—Clare Booth Luce

“Women on average earn 77 cents for every dollar a man earns for comparable work—a gender wage gap of 23%. Women of color suffer from an even more severe gap,” as African American women and Latinas earn 64 cents and 55 cents, respectively, for each dollar a man earns.

Long-term implications, barriers to wealth accumulation for this group, and policy suggestions and recommendations on the matter are presented in an interesting Center for American Progress study, “How Pay Inequity Hurts Women of Color.”

How do women like to spend their cash? “Moms More Likely to Use Social Media and Mobile, and to Shop Online,” says a Marketing Profs article. Moms like to shop online, and “were responsible for 32% of total online spending in the last quarter.”

Further, “78% of moms follow a brand for coupons and discounts, compared with only 55% of the general population.” This interesting article continues to outline types of online expenditures and frequency of social technology use.

Some moms choose to stay at home with their kids, a decision that can bring financial consequences. Recent news from CFPB reveals it has “made changes to a requirement in the Credit CARD Act that called for companies to verify applicants’ ability to pay before approving them for credit cards.”

Spousal or partner income is now taken into consideration for all stay-at-home parents, thus they enjoy the ability to get their own credit cards.

Do you recognize financial empowerment or lack thereof for select members of your credit union and respond accordingly?

“The real job of the credit union is to prove, in modest measure, the practicality of the brotherhood of man.”—Roy F. Bergengren

Some will take advantage of consumers with questionable lending practices or through false representation. Know what environmental circumstances are such that you are not only poised to provide alternative options, but communicate them to the masses.

Payday Loans Cost Economy $1 Billion in 2011,” says a Reuters article reporting on various aspects of payday lending.

“The burden of repaying the loans resulted in $774 million in lost consumer spending and 14,000 job losses. Bankruptcies related to payday loans numbered 56,230, taking an additional $169 million out of the economy.”

Further noted, on average, payday borrowers take advantage of eight such loans annually, with an average loan amount of $375. With this amount, borrowers will remit $520 in interest. Typical borrowers will only be able to repay about $100 monthly.

Some financial advisers bilk senior citizens with false credentials and misrepresentations, says a CFPB analysis.  Some key points:

  • There exists the need for “rigorous training standards for the approved use of senior designations” to protect older consumers.
  • Likewise, “rigorous standards of conduct” will guard consumers.
  • Enforcement of existing laws is necessary to reduce financial risk for this cohort.

Appreciate the responsibility you hold and realize the comfort you bring in the often silent, swooping flights you make daily to guard and protect membership.

Know that for members, your competition in the financial services marketplace, and despicable entities who might threaten financial security, your profile is magnificent. Your stature is unwavering.

Your credit union is an honor to behold.

LORA BRAY is a research librarian at CUNA.

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Great article! Unfortunately, most employees don’t feel valued or appreciated by their supervisors or employers. In fact, research has shown that the predominant reason team members quit their jobs is because they don’t feel valued. This is in spite of the fact that employee recognition programs have proliferated in the workplace – over 90% of all organizations in the U.S. has some form of employee recognition activities in place. But most employee recognition programs are viewed with skepticism and cynicism – because they aren’t viewed as being genuine in their communication of appreciation. Getting the “employee of the month” award, receiving a certificate of recognition, or a “Way to go, team!” email just don’t get the job done. How do you communicate authentic appreciation? We have found people have different ways that they want to be shown appreciation, and if you don’t communicate in the language of appreciation important to them, you essentially “miss the mark”. Additionally, employees need to receive recognition more than once a year at their performance review. Otherwise, they view the praise as “going through the motions”. A third component of authentic appreciation is that the communication has to be about them personally – not the department, not their group, but something they did. Finally, they have to believe that you mean what you say. How you treat them has to match the words you use. If you are not sure how your team members want to be shown appreciation, the Motivating By Appreciation Inventory (www.appreciationatwork.com/assess) will identify the language of appreciation and specific actions preferred by each employee. You then can create a group profile for your team, so everyone knows how to encourage one another. Remember, employees want to know that they are valued for what they contribute to the success of the organization. And communicating authentic appreciation in the ways they desire it can make the difference between keeping your quality team members or having a negative work environment that everyone wants to leave. Paul White, Ph.D., is the co-author of The 5 Languages of Appreciation in the Workplace with Dr. Gary Chapman.

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