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NFCC: Prevent holiday blues by checking budget now

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WASHINGTON (8/20/14)--Don't want coal in your stocking for breaking the holiday budget? The National Foundation for Credit Counseling (NFCC) is encouraging consumers to assess their current financial status before heading into the holidays.
"Consumers may still be receiving the summer vacation and back-to-school bills, but should not lose sight of the fact that the holiday spending season is just around the corner.  This makes it vitally important for a person to understand their current financial situation before taking on new debt obligations," said Gail Cunningham, NFCC spokesperson. "Doing otherwise could result in damaging an already fragile financial situation."
The NFCC offered a financial checkup quiz as part of the assessment, where a simple true or false can give consumers an idea of where they stand.
True or false:  "Concerning my current financial situation, I ..."
  1. Know how much I currently owe on each credit card.
  2. Am receiving collection calls and notices.
  3. Have money saved to pay cash for holiday expenses.
  4. Will be adding new debt on top of old debt if holiday expenses are charged.
  5. Have reviewed my credit report and score in the past 12 months.
  6. Am near the maximum amount allowed on my lines of credit. 
  7. Am current on my vehicle payment.
  8. Have applied for a payday loan, title loan or credit card cash advance in the past 12 months.
  9. Have savings in addition to money earmarked for holiday spending.
  10. Have overdrawn my checking account more than twice in the past 12 months.
If the answers for the odd-numbered statement were true, consumers are in good shape. Answering true to the even-numbered statements means borrowers may be headed for choppy waters and should re-evaluate budgets before holiday spending begins.

La. league launches new biz development council

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HARAHAN, La. (8/20/14)--The Louisiana Credit Union League recently announced the launch of its new Louisiana Marketing and Business Development Council, an organization the league hopes will equip professionals with the tools necessary to help propel the credit union movement in Louisiana.

Introduced last week during the league's annual meeting and convention, the council will provide a space for credit union professionals to work and learn from one another in a collaborative environment, while also providing access to resources and other opportunities that will help spark creativity.

"By pulling together individual experiences and knowledge, council members can evoke change," the league said in a press release.

Membership on the council and participation in any of the council's events, including webinars, conference calls, meetings and conferences, is open to all credit union employees and trade associations affiliated with the Louisiana league. Membership is now open.

Those who participate will have access to professional networking opportunities throughout the year, including:
  • Professional development opportunities;
  • Reduced registration fees for council events;
  • Periodic teleconferences with Louisiana credit union marketing professionals;
  • Networking opportunities with other Louisiana credit union professionals; and
  • Regular e-newsletter updates from the council.
Members of the advisory committee, which provides overall direction for the council, include:
  • Emily Beatmann, Section 705 FCU, Lafayette, with $33 million in assets;
  • Heather Escott, Lafayette Schools FCU, with $174 million in assets;
  • Kelli Green, Centric FCU, West Monroe, with $113 million in assets;
  • Jill Skaggs, Bossier FCU, Bossier City, with $157 million in assets; and
  • Ashley Varnam, Louisiana FCU, La Place, with $183 million in assets.

CU System briefs (08/20/2014)

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  • ST. PAUL, Minn. (8/20/14)-- The Minnesota Credit Union Foundation is accepting grants for this fall for credit unions to launch financial education projects. Non-credit union organizations may also apply for grant funding, but they must partner with a Minnesota credit union and demonstrate how the project will affect credit unions and their members. Applications will be accepted through Oct. 1 , and grants will be evaluated by the foundation's board of directors on credit union value, community impact, collaboration, creativity and past involvement in and support of foundation activities. Recipients will be announced by mid-October ...
  • HELENA, Mont. (8/20/14)-- Montana Credit Unions for Community Development (MCUCD) launched its new website that is intended to be a one-stop consumer resource and toolbox for credit unions, partner organizations, credit union members and Montana consumers. The website keys in on four areas: free tax services, matched savings accounts, consumer resources and financial education. MCUCD is a statewide nonprofit organization working with Montana's credit unions to improve the social and economic well-being of all Montanans ...

Youth align with CUs, building 100M memberships: Fox report

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TAMPA, Fla. (8/20/14)--Stressed by economic doldrums and callous bank policies, young adults may be finding safe harbor in credit union membership, according to an Aug. 18 report by WOFL-TV , in Tampa Bay, Fla.
Chris Chmura, FOX 13 consumer reporter, recently interviewed Suncoast CU's Gary Vien, who Chmura called a "foot soldier" in the financial revolution.
"I think millennials choose credit unions because they connect to it, because they connect with the mission," said Vien, who is chief administrative officer at the $5.7 billion-asset Tampa, Fla., credit union. "We save people money."
As the credit union movement celebrates the milestone of 100 million memberships, its not-for-profit cooperative structure and better rates are attracting members like Larissa Dias-Lizarraga.
"Immediately, I felt the difference," said Dias-Lizarraga, a teacher who spent 10 years with a traditional bank paying fees for account maintenance and statements. "They were just trying to take my money, and that's not OK," she told Chmura.
"Our generation and credit unions share a lot of values," the 33-year-old added.
Though the movement has reached that membership milestone, it still is far behind the banking industry, with only 6% of U.S. deposits found in credit unions and one location for every 14 bank branches.
Chmura noted that this generation of financially and philosophically savvy adults will ask more of their financial institutions, which means, Vien said, banks will have to pick up their game.
In New York, the member-friendly missions of First Source FCU, New Hartford, N.Y., with $388 million in assets, and AmeriCU CU, Rome, with $1.2 billion in assets, also appear to have bolstered membership growth to the 100 million mark.
As a 28-year-old, Joe Leonard ditched his bank and joined First Source FCU. Now, at 43, he boasts of the "great personal service and one-on-one time" he gets from his credit union, his exclusive financial institution ( Utica Observer-Dispatch Aug. 16). "I tell people all the time how much better it is."
New York credit unions have notched a 5 million membership milestone as well this year ( News Now Aug. 13).
Judith Cowden, vice president of member relations and marketing, $1.2 billion-asset AmeriCU, Rome, credited recent success to the dissatisfaction with bank mergers and fees combined with the credit union's low loan rates and lack of fees.
"The bigger commercial banks have pulled out of this area and don't seem to be interested in us," Cowden told the Observer-Dispatch . "And the practices that have been put in place by those that remain have really alienated the average consumer. No one wants to have to pay so much to access their own money."

CU, college relationships mean higher fin. ed.

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MADISON, Wis. (8/20/14)--There may be a university logo on their debit cards, but collegiate credit unions also are integral to financial literacy efforts at their namesake institutions.
This week, the board of trustees for Seminole State College of Florida in Sanford approved a partnership with CFE FCU, Lake Mary, that will support financial education and scholarships.
The $1.4 billion-asset credit union will develop an on-campus financial literacy program, contribute to programs at the college's Career Development Center and host money management workshops. The sponsorship will provide up to $250,000 in annual support for Seminole State College over the next 10 years.
In 2015, CFE FCU will launch a special branded debit card with the college's logo. For each debit card purchase, the credit union will make a donation to the Foundation for Seminole State College. The foundation will use the proceeds of the donations to provide scholarships and support other programs.
Student members also benefit from belonging to their university credit union. Many offer free checking, access to surcharge-free ATM networks, shared branching and on-campus ATMs or branches. Universities with high populations of international students focus on free incoming wire or interbank transfers to help students get money from home.
Debit rewards programs are popular as well. Purdue FCU, West Lafayette, Ind., with $823 million in assets, offers a free student checking account that includes cash back for debit card usage. In a reward of a different kind, Harvard University Employees CU, Cambridge, Mass., with $452 million in assets, treats good students with good eats. Students who show their GPA of 3.5 or above will receive a $10 restaurant gift certificate from the credit union.
St. John's University, Collegeville, Minn., will have a student-run branch on its campus this fall, thanks to a grant from the Minnesota Credit Union Foundation. The branch of $11 million-asset Collegeville Community CU will be one of the first credit unions on a university campus in Minnesota.
The branch will be managed by a 2014 St. John's graduate and employ up to six students part time. The credit union also hopes to work with the school departments to offer real-life experiences, ranging from accounting to finance and marketing.

CU House in Mo. welcomes summer Democratic caucus

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JEFFERSON CITY, Mo. (8/20/14)--The Missouri Credit Union House in Jefferson City served as the host site for the Missouri House Democrats' summer caucus and reception last week.
Click to view larger image Rick Nichols, president/CEO, and Dana Alderman, vice president of member development, River Region CU, Jefferson City, left, talk with State Rep. Judy Morgan (D-Kansas City) and State Rep. Charlie Norr (D-Springfield) during the Missouri House Democrats' summer caucus, held in Missouri's own Credit Union House. (Missouri Credit Union Association Photo)
Credit union leaders had the opportunity to talk with a number of Democratic House members and candidates ahead of the September veto session and November general elections. House Minority Leader Jacob Hummel (D-St. Louis) and members of the House Financial Institutions Committee also attended ( Missouri Difference Aug. 15).
"Building relationships with lawmakers, sharing credit union concerns and telling our story is crucial for the future of the credit union industry," said Rick Nichols, president/CEO, River Region CU, Jefferson City, $99 million in assets. "This brought a large group of candidates and potential candidates together, which enables us to share key points about credit unions with them before the legislative session kicks in."
Also representing credit unions were Dana Alderman, vice president of member development, River Region CU; Greg Newsom, branch manager, United CU, Fulton, with $143 million in assets; and David Kent, director of state legislative affairs, Missouri Credit Union Association (MCUA).

Hummel also thanked MCUA for allowing the caucus to use the Jefferson City location. "Our members enjoyed interacting with leaders in the credit union industry and were grateful for the hospitality," he said.

More than a dozen groups and individuals have used Missouri Credit Union House for meetings this year. Upcoming events during the veto session include receptions by Paul Fitzwater (R-Potosi), who is a member of the House Financial Institutions Committee, Craig Redmon (R-Canton) and Lyndall Fraker (R-Marshfield).

Mich. league issues 4th consecutive dues rebate

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LANSING, Mich. (8/19/14)--The Michigan Credit Union League board this month approved a 50% rebate on membership dues for its member credit unions, the fourth year running it has approved returning half the cost of being a member of the league ( Michigan Monitor Aug. 18).

David Adams, league president/CEO, says the league, which has provided discounted membership dues to its members since 2009, can offer rebates for a variety of reasons.

"First, because our membership and policymakers have given us a license to build our member net assets reserves, we have a strong base of capital for investment," Adams said, adding that the better the league's investments perform, the less it must rely on dues for revenue.

Second, Adams said, the league has been able to provide rebates thanks to the success of its CU Solutions Group (CUSG), of which it owns 67% of the earnings.

"CUSG is again enjoying a very profitable year in 2014," the league said in a press release. In fact, the investments have performed well enough that the league has adopted the strategy of running its operation at a deficit.  

Credit unions will have several options for using the money, according to the league. They can keep it to help their own budgets, contribute it to help fund the league's political engagement, help fund cooperative advertising or provide funding to the Michigan Credit Union Foundation.

No matter where the money is allocated, it will go "to good use supporting the good work you do at your credit union every day," Adams said.