As we enter into the third quarter of 2020, we are all making decisions based on “What Ifs.” Members are attempting to arrange childcare amid their education options, pay bills with reduced income, and find employment in the midst of less job opportunities—all while trying to keep food on the table and gas in the car. We know hard truth that, if nothing else, we have to keep moving forward.
“These uncertain times” has been the phrase repeated over and over since March, and despite our ever-changing future, credit unions are uniquely poised to assist members during these times. Adaptation and flexibility are necessary to survive for our members and for our credit unions. How do we do that and still be the financial first responders that our members need right now? Opportunity and education.
Members are facing more uncertainty every day. Will supplemental benefits be extended? Will there be rental and foreclosure protection? How long can loan payments be deferred? How do we combat loans that are slowly going delinquent as members struggle to meet their obligations? Simple, we lend. We lend to members with stable incomes. We bring in loans that will endure and are not likely to default. We find ways to help members who really need it, when they need it.
Giving members options is what we do. Offering members a chance when others have turned them down is the credit union way. We know creating innovative low-cost products and services designed to meet our members’ needs will ensure lifelong relationships. Products like credit rebuilder loans, COVID assistance loans, and year round skip a payment allow more flexibility for members and creates loyalty to our credit union. When members know we will finance them, even if they’ve suffered personal hardships, they will make their loan payments and keep coming back. As we create opportunity, we also educate.
We offer financial education and counseling to help members prioritize their spending and connect with services that can supplement their income. By offering phone and video one-on-one counseling sessions to members, we meet them where they are and help them build a stronger financial future through prioritizing use of income and other resources. Credit unions can also offer virtual workshops covering basic topics like credit or budgeting on Facebook Live, Zoom, or other virtual communication platforms.
We can also offer a little relief as we work to create opportunity and offer education. If members are unable to pay credit unions, we defer payments where we can. We mark their accounts “affected by a disaster” to help protect their precious credit scores. Conditions will improve, and members will make better, more informed decisions. We know that every storm will pass, and so shall this one.
Other than lending, educating is the most important way credit unions and their members will survive this economic crisis. Our members will come out the other side more loyal to us, better educated for long term financial success, and ready to save, spend, and borrow again. By preserving our members’ credit score, helping them manage their finances, and retaining their dignity, credit unions and our members will come out on top! We will continue to create qualified borrowers from our own members who would have previously been denied.
If your credit union doesn’t know where to begin, don’t worry, we all start somewhere! All of us can take a few extra minutes to explain why a loan was denied or teach a member how to balance their account. We can direct members to online resources for free financial education in our areas even if we don’t have a robust in-house program of our own. Most of all, we can be a life line to our members. With a credit union by our side, we all have an extra life raft ready to help us to safety!
If you’re looking for resources on financial wellness and education, there are many out there to help you get started! Contact your local credit union leagues, other credit unions in the education space, the National Credit Union Foundation, or the Jump$tart Coalition. There are countless resources out there with many offering free materials and support. The most important thing to do is take that first step! Start making a difference in the lives of your members through opportunity and education.