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NEW: CUNA Study: Women's Top Priority Is Saving For Retirement

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MADISON, Wis. (8/6/13 UPDATED 11:55 a.m. ET)--The Credit Union National Association's Women's Financial Survey finds the most important financial concern for women isn't buying a house or paying off debt, but saving for retirement

"The fact that women are thinking about retirement planning is a good sign that the message is getting out there that time is one of the most important aspects of  retirement savings, and the sooner they start the better," said CUNA Executive Vice President of Strategic Communications and Engagement Paul Gentile.

The survey also indicated that although women aren't confident in their financial knowledge, they might know more than they think.

It revealed that saving for retirement is the No. 1 financial concern for women. Findings showed that women use 401(k)s (45.3%) and pension plans (35.8%) the most to save for retirement, while 40% of women reported owning multiple retirement plans.

The survey also found that 51.2% of women were not confident in their financial ability, despite the fact that 38% of the married female respondents manage their household finances exclusively and 46% co-manage their household finances. This was particularly true with the youngest demographic, those born from 1980-1993, where 59.1% lacked financial confidence.

Most women reported balancing their checkbooks, maintaining six-month rainy day funds, paying their credit card balances in full every month and prioritizing long-term goals like retirement, home ownership and education ahead of transactional goals such as vacations and cars.

"It's surprising that although most women manage their household finances, they lack confidence that they are doing it correctly," said Gentile. "Our findings indicated that women take all the appropriate measures to be confident in their financial literacy but lack the reassuring knowledge to have confidence in how they manage their finances."

Another key finding was that fewer than half of the respondents across all demographics reported following a monthly budget, which is critical to efficiently manage any finances.

The Women's Financial Survey polled 1,042 via the Internet from a population of women nationally, with an even distribution of respondents born in each decade from 1920 to 1980. The survey was conducted on behalf of CUNA.

Special Report: Minnesota CUs Earn High Grade For Student-Run Branches

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MADISON, Wis. (8/6/13)--In a recent initiative to grade all 50 states on their efforts to teach the ABCs of financial literacy to high school students, 21 states earned D and F grades from the Center for Financial Literacy at Champlain College. However, some credit unions are trying to fight these dismal results.

For instance, three credit unions in Minnesota are using student branches to increase financial literacy levels among their high school age students within their communities. HomeTown CU in Owatonna, St. Paul (Minn.) FCU and Postal CU in Woodbury have opened student branches in the past three years.
HomeTown CU opened the first student-run branch in the fall of 2011 after working for five years with teachers, the school board and school administrators of Owatonna High School.
The credit union had established a previous presence at the high school--and a rapport with the school's business department by providing financial literacy presentations. "The student branch really brings us to the forefront," said Kim Westphal, Hometown CU president/CEO. "Being there every day, being able to promote financial literacy among the students, and talking to them about how important it is to establish savings, makes such a difference. In the long run that benefits the credit union to have financially literate youth and adults in the community."
The Hometown CU student branch is open from 11 a.m. to 1 p.m. every school day over the lunch hour. Two students operate the branch every day. The students are also credit union employees.
St. Paul FCU opened its student branch at Como Park Senior High School in St. Paul in October 2012. The credit union also plans to open additional student-run branch at another high school in the near future, St. Paul FCU President/CEO Theresa Malone told News Now.
The decision to open a student branch was a reflection of the St. Paul FCU's board of directors' commitment to financial literacy and the credit unions commitment to the people helping people philosophy, Malone said.
"We all benefit: The school, the students, the community, the credit union and the credit union movement as a whole," Malone said. Society benefits from having financially educated youth who have the opportunity to make better financial decisions as they grow into adults. It is a win-win for all."
The student branch is open from 10:00 am to 12:30 p.m. each school day. St. Paul CU also participates in shared branching so the student branch can also assist with transactions from other credit unions. The branch also includes an ATM.
In its first year school year, the student branch opened 33 accounts. Malone expects to double that total this year. "At first, a lot of it was about educating the students about who we are," she said. "That's another benefit of student run branches: Educating people about credit unions."
Postal CU opened its student branch in Tartan High School in January.
The credit union had a long-term relationship with the high school through marketing and on-the-job training programs.
Community involvement is among the credit union's goals and financial literacy was a community identified by the credit union.
"This is not going to drive a hard return on investment," Brian Sherrick, Postal CU president/CEO, told News Now. "It's a long-term commitment to our community.
The student branch fulfills two of the seven core cooperative principles and values: education and concern for the community, Sherrick noted.
"It's really a big part of what makes us a credit union," he said.
The student credit union is open ten hours a week. The three students who work in the student branch also work at Postal CU's brick-and-mortar braches. The students started working at the credit union in May 2012 to gain a full understanding of Postal CU's products, services and operations before the student branch opened. 
Alisha Johnson, Postal CU senior vice president of marketing sales and service, believes that among the chief benefits of the branches is the opportunity for high school students to learn about financial literacy from their peers.
"It's one thing for an adult to tell you the benefits of saving money, but when it comes from someone you from soccer or the National Honor Society, the message is so much more believable," Johnson said. "It makes their decisions much more conscious, and that's what we're trying to do."
This article is part of a News Now series of exclusive, special reports on credit unions' outreach efforts and innovative ideas. Fostering service excellence and raising awareness about the value credit unions provide their members and communities are two prongs in credit unions' Unite For Good campaign toward a vision in which Americans choose credit unions as their best financial provider.

California CU Creates 'Baseball' Competition To Increase Loans

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REDONDO BEACH, Calif. (8/6/13)--A California credit union has come up with a new way to boost consumer lending its members.
Click to view larger image Fifteen employees were divided into a red and blue team, as South Bay CU, based in Redondo Beach, Calif., found an innovative way to rally its employees. They worked out a game plan for a second quarter "baseball season" of in-house competition to increase consumer loans. (Photo provided by South Bay CU)
While many companies talk about employees as team players, South Bay CU, based in Redondo Beach, Calif., found an innovative way to rally its employees. Maricela Jauregui, vice president of member services at the $79.1 million asset credit union with branches in Torrance and Redondo Beach, Calif., had an idea on a Friday night, when, coincidentally, South Bay CEO Jennifer Oliver was at a baseball game.
They worked out a game plan for a second quarter "baseball season" of in-house competition to increase consumer loans. The 15 employees were divided into a red and blue team, with Oliver acting as "umpire." The Brick House and Loan Ranger teams were captained by experienced loan closers, with the front line and support staff working to gain points to get on base--Oliver and Maricela devised a system in which any staff member could earn singles, doubles, triple, home runs and even grand slams to earn "runs" for their teams by promoting loan activity.
Front line staff learned new tasks--from taking loan applications, opening new accounts to serving as notaries--to give the loan closers more time to close loans.
"There was a real synergy," Oliver said. "People were thinking outside the box, learning new parts of their jobs. They were totally charged because they realized what we were trying to make happen. Where before people might have said 'it's not my job,' they learned how and why their support is necessary."
Oliver noted that during the competition, South Bay's monthly average funding for consumer loans increased by 350% from the previous four-year monthly average. April, May and June were million dollar months, for a total of $3.4 million in consumer loans, which equaled 91% of all consumer loans business in the previous year.
Buoyed by hitting it out of the park in the second quarter, South Bay challenged other credit unions in the network to see who could fund the most consumer loans. They are vying with United Advantage CU in Portland, Ore., and plans are underway to find a competitor for the fourth quarter. If no credit union steps up, Oliver said, she plans another in-house competition with a football theme.
Oliver's message is that "success happens with focus and fun." It's important that team members know why it's important to make loans and how each employee can make a difference, she added.
"It's part of a larger cultural change, encouraging staff members to think of themselves as business partners," Oliver said. "Finances are boring, but the baseball game gave us a tangible way to show the same goals and numbers in a fun way."

VSECU Uses Student LIFT Program To Defray College Costs

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MONTPELIER, Vt. (8/6/13)--Vermont State Employees CU (VSECU) in Montpelier has a program called Loan Independence for Today (LIFT) that provides some lucky Vermont residents with relief from student-loan debt.
The Student LIFT program this year added a new category to recognize individuals who are the first in their family to attend college. So this year, there are three categories with one award provided in each: Financial Literacy, Service To Vermonters and First Generation (The Times Argus Aug. 3). 
Each of the three categories has different qualification requirements and offer $5,000 annual awards to applicants with diverse interests and talents, VSCU told the paper.
The award program is open to any VSECU member who is Vermont resident and is paying off a student loan debt.
Graduates can be financially challenged by making student loan payments, along with paying for other expenses and providing for dependents, while going through the often-difficult process of finding a job, Steve Post, VSECU CEO, told the paper.
The Credit Union National Association has formed a student loan working group to explore current issues related to credit unions' offering private student loans to members, CUNA's Regulatory Advocacy Report informed readers last month (News Now July 16).

The group's focus will be to develop best practices for credit union student loans and to monitor related regulatory activity at the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB) and the National Credit Union Administration.

Financial Center CU Helps Launch Design Competition To Assist League PAC

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STOCKTON, Calif. (8/6/13)--Stockton, Calif. -based Financial Center CU, in partnership with I.C. Ink, is calling for entries in their first annual CU T's Design Competition to help raise awareness of the credit union difference and funds for the California Credit Union League Political Action Committee.
Launched last fall, CU T's is a line of hipster t-shirts created to assist the league PAC. Design submissions are being accepted through Aug. 21. Public voting will help determine which design will be used for the 2013 CU T.
In its inaugural year, CU T's featured three designs created by Financial Center CU. However Michael P. Duffy, Financial Center CU president/CEO, wanted to open the design process this year to help increase participation in the project.
"Everyone appreciates a clever and whimsical shirt," said Duffy. "But those shirts become exponentially more cool when you know you had a hand in the design and selection process. Our goal is to get the buzz started about International Credit Union Day. Getting the message out has to be fun, so people don't feel like they're simply being lectured on the merits of a cooperative structure," Duffy said.
Credit union executives, staff, volunteers and members can submit their designs on the contest website where they can also see other submissions and vote for their favorite. Voting ends on Aug. 22 at 8 p.m. ET when the top design will be submitted to I.C. Ink to start the production process.

10 Ways to Bridge Generation Gap On The Job

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While half of American workers say that they would like to retire before the age of 65, a nationwide poll conducted by J.P. Morgan Asset Management finds that only 20% believe they will be able to do so. One way workers face this issue is by working longer.

With consumers working longer, consultant Sherri Elliott-Yeary, a featured presenter at the Cornerstone Credit Union League's upcoming Young Credit Union Professionals Conference, says today's working environment is hosting a "clash of the titans" (Leaguer July 31). Four generations are attempting to co-exist and cooperate in the workplace, she said.
Elliott-Yeary offers 10 best practices for bridging generational gaps:
  • Initiate conversations concerning the generation gap at all levels of the organization;
  • Educate managers and employees on the different generations in the workplace;
  • Match different generations represented in your credit union with your member base;
  • Reward employees based on productivity and performance, not seniority;
  • Educate and train employees to know how to best approach and communicate with employees from different generations;
  • Offer appealing benefits that apply to employees of all ages;
  • Train managers and leaders how to lead teams and departments with men and women from different generations;
  • Present various forms of training and tuition reimbursement for employees of all ages;
  • Establish a mentorship program where older employees teach younger employees; and
  • Encourage and establish multigenerational teams.

Some Ohio CUs Add Value Through Mergers

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AKRON, Ohio (8/6/13)--Some credit unions are merging to gain financial strength and provide value for members, according a July 29 Akron Beacon Journal article.
The number of Ohio credit unions has decreased 12.5% during the past five years, falling to 356 this year. The numbers mirror a nationwide decline, and are the result of widespread industry consolidation and not credit unions simply shutting their doors, the article said.
Nationwide, the number of active credit unions peaked at 12,977 in 1970. Last year, there were less than 4,300.
The industry consolidation has helped and not harmed consumers, experts say, with more members having access to ATMs, online banking, business loans and even phone apps than ever.
In nearly all cases mergers are to the benefit of members, said Patrick Harris, the Ohio Credit Union League's director of media and public relations, told the Beacon Journal.
Credit union membership and assets are growing, as the remaining credit unions are becoming stronger.
Membership rose from to 2.7 million from 2.6 million and assets climbed to $24.4 billion from $19.3 billion over the same time.
Credit unions are merging to survive and add value, Rose Bartolomucci, president of Towpath CU in Fairlawn, Ohio, told the Beacon Journal. Towpath CU merged with TeleCommunity CU in 2011.
Some smaller credit unions, overburdened by regulations, struggle to keep pace with technology aid Michael Wettrich, deputy superintendent for the Ohio Department of Commerce Division of Financial Institutions.

Ill. League Expects Full House At Small-Asset-Size CU Conference

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NAPERVILLE, Ill. (8/6/13)--Another capacity crowd is expected for the Illinois Credit Union League's annual Small Asset Size (SAS) Credit Union Conference. The two-day conference, which has been expanded this year to include credit unions up to $30 million in assets, will be held at ICUL's offices in Naperville starting today.
"We strive to be a focal point to help our small credit unions succeed and it seems this conference helps to address their concerns and needs year after year," said Dan Plauda, ICUL president/CEO. "That's what we're all about."
The conference will provide an educational event to address challenges and concerns of credit unions in this particular asset group. Many topics will center on helping small credit unions compete in today's marketplace. There also will be time built into the schedule for attendees to network and share best practices with one another.
A highlight from the first day of sessions will include keynote speaker Martha Ninichuk, deputy director, Office of Small Credit Union Initiatives for the National Credit Union Administration.
A panel of speakers from the NCUA and the Illinois Division of Financial Institutions (DFI)  also will dialogue with the group. They will include Ron Jones, NCUA economic development specialist; Malia Peel, NCUA economic development specialist; and David Anderson, DFI senior problem case officer.
The first day will continue with presentations by Jim McParlan, attorney, on "HR Compliance for Small CUs"; and "Mobile Apps" by Patty Smith, LSC vice president of sales and business development.
The second day of the conference will include another round of presentations on pertinent topics, including, "Affordable Care Act/Healthcare Reform", "Marketing for Small CUs", "Small Dollar Loans", and an executive update from CUNA Mutual Group. The conference will finish with an open forum and networking lunch, facilitated by Joni Senkpeil, ICUL director of small credit union development.
Nearly 70% of ICUL's affiliates hold less than $30 million or less in assets. After being well received by participants initially in 2002, ICUL has offered this conference every year since then. The Illinois Credit Union Foundation and CUNA Mutual Group will sponsor this year's event.