Members Turn to Credit Unions for Financial Education and Advice

“The help is there if you just ask for it.”Kendra Hogue, Oregonians Credit Union member

Kendra Hogue says she had been meaning to sit down with a financial adviser for awhile, but life for the single mom often got in the way and making an appointment never seemed to rise to the top of her priority list.

And then she lost her job.

“I’ve been a member of Oregonians Credit Union for more than 20 years and was aware of the services they offered,” says Hogue, a longtime newspaper editor and writer who lives in Portland. “Some of the questions I’d had for tellers over the years were complicated, and they always said, ‘Make an appointment with DeLynn. It’s free.’”

“After I was laid off, making that appointment became imperative.”

DeLynn Otis, a financial adviser with CUNA Brokerage Services, works with Oregonians members through a partnership with the credit union and Members Financial Services. The arrangement is similar to one most credit unions use to connect their members to one-on-one financial advice.

Hogue says she met with Otis four or five times and, “to my surprise, we actually had fun talking about short- and long-term goals and how to get there. We talked about my financial situation after the layoff and what it might be like six months from now. She talked to me quite a bit about managing money and how to make it easier on myself by handling more of it online.”

Discussions like that are not unique, of course. Unemployment rates in Oregon and Washington may be on the decline, but the need for sound financial planning in an ever-changing economy is as important as ever. And with financial literacy so engrained in the credit union movement’s DNA, it’s probably no surprise that members are turning to their credit unions for help and advice.

“Most of the members who seek out our financial-planning services have a life transition point on the horizon,” says Sam Launius, Oregonians’ executive vice president. “It can range from imminent retirement to a job change. Some need help rolling their retirement accounts into a diversified portfolio; others require extensive estate planning to protect the assets they’ve accrued throughout their lives.”

And some just need advice that’s more basic than that.

Tiffany Clark, a financial advisor with CUSO Financial Services L.P.*, works with members at SELCO Community Credit Union in Eugene. “There are two main conversations we have with members,” she says. “’How much should I be saving?’ and ‘I have money saved; now what?’”

Clark frequently meets with members on the verge of retirement who need help understanding their investment options. Many have felt powerless when reviewing their finances and planning for their future, but Clark says a face-to-face meeting in a branch with a financial adviser is a great place to start.

“SELCO’s greatest strength is its people,” she says. “It’s a highly competent staff that enjoys working with our members. And our members love it, as satisfaction surveys demonstrate.”

Part of that satisfaction may come from learning that credit unions are able to provide services and investment options usually associated with larger investment firms and big banks, Clark says. But the real clincher?

“The difference you will find is the credit-union focus on sitting with members and talking through their questions and concerns,” Clarks says. “It is what we do every day for clients who want that one-on-one experience.”

Members who aren’t intimidated by financial planning often turn to credit unions’ online resources, which range from customizable budgeting tools to credit counseling and more.

At www.selco.org, you’ll find financial calculators, credit counseling from Money Management International and links to an online course called “Understanding Credit.” On the Oregonians Credit Union website, a library of articles and videos covers everything from “What You Need to Know About Credit Scores” to “Five Ways That Your House is Making You Broke.”

“Some members prefer the anonymity of a trusted website,” Launius says. “Others prefer our budgeting and debt-counseling seminars, where they can ask what might otherwise be uncomfortable questions in a non-judgmental environment.”

The point, Launius says, is that credit unions’ commitment to their members’ financial well-being is so strong that those options are also available — and for free.

“Our goal is for our members to have an action plan to follow that will allow them to work their way to a better economic future,” Launius says. The better educated and more informed members are, he says, the greater the chance for their financial success.

Kendra Hogue would certainly agree with that. In addition to rolling over her 401k, Otis helped Hogue set aside money so that she could work toward her educational goals. “And I still intend to take a money-management course for free through the credit union, as she advised me to do,” Hogue says.

“The help is there if you just ask for it.”

 

For more information about Oregonians Credit Union’s financial-planning services, contact Sam Launius at SamL@ofcu.com or DeLynn Otis at DeLynn.Otis@CUNAMutual.com. For information about the CFS* offerings at SELCO Community Credit Union, contact Tiffany Clark at tclark@selco.org.

Questions? Contact Gary Stein: 503.350.2216, gstein@nwcua.org.

*Non-deposit investment products and services are offered through CUSO Financial Services, L.P. (“CFS”), a registered broker-dealer (Member FINRA/SIPC) and SEC Registered Investment Advisor. Products offered through CFS: are not NCUA/NCUSIF or otherwise federally insured, are not guarantees of obligations of the credit union, and may involve investment risk including possible loss of principal. Investment Representatives are registered through CFS. SELCO Community Credit Union has contracted with CFS to make non-deposit investment products and services available to credit union members.

Posted in Economy.