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Fed Launches Three-Year Study Of Consumer Finances
WASHINGTON (3/29/13)--The Federal Reserve Board is about to launch its triennial investigation into consumer finances, an exercise that yields important information that credit unions and other financial services providers can plumb to identify consumers' needs.

The survey has been undertaken every three years since 1983 and results of this current effort will not be available until 2015.  It is being conducted for the Fed by NORC, a social science research organization at the University of Chicago, through December of this year.

The survey results unveiled in 2012, for instance, were a harbinger of student debt issues.

The 2007-2010 "Survey of Consumer Finances" revealed that nearly one in five U.S. households had college debt in 2010, double the debt in 1989 and up 15% from 2007.  Recently, the National Credit Union Administration, in its "NCUA Monthly Report," noted that most credit unions that offer private student loans have done so for "less than five years," thereby tracking the trend of consumers' need. On the other hand, some banks have taken a different track. For instance, it has been reported thatJPMorgan Chase stopped extending student loans to non-customers in July 2012 and that US Bank stopped almost a year ago.

The last Fed consumer report also exposed that in 2010 the typical middle-class family had financial assets of $27,300--including retirement savings but not pensions--which was 28% less than the $37,800 held in 2007.

Two-thirds of middle-class Americans acknowledged having made financial mistakes--often at a steep price.

Because they are not-for-profit financial cooperatives owned by their members, credit unions help consumers in many ways: with better savings rates, lower interest rates on loans, short-term loan alternatives to payday lending, special programs such as savings lotteries, contests, affordable mortgages, and providing business loans to new entrepreneurs, to name a few.  They also stand out in member-centric financial education.

For the new study, the Fed will choose participants at random from 127 areas, including metropolitan areas and rural counties across the U.S.  A representative of NORC will contacts each of the 13,000 potential participants personally to explain the study and request time for an interview.


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