National Financial Literacy Month is a Chance to Start Good Habits

Originally posted on CUInsight.com.

This article references a study done by Discover, the NAFCU Services Preferred Partner for Debit Card Programs and Debit Networks.

It’s no coincidence that National Financial Literacy Month falls in April, the height of tax season. It seems like there are some teachable moments to be found while scrutinizing every financial decision of the past year. Tax preparation reminds me of holiday get-togethers where the family examines every bad idea everyone has ever had. But doing your taxes shouldn’t be like judgment day at the Santos dinner table. By developing good financial habits, especially at a younger age, managing your money can be a breeze.

National Financial Literacy Month is recognized as an opportunity to promote good financial habits through savings, smart purchases, and long-term personal financial planning to meet one’s life goals. Sound familiar? This is what credit unions do every day, of every month. Credit unions have a long history of helping their members make effective financial choices by offering better service, low fees, and financial education. Tools such as CULookup.com, NAFCU Services’ credit union locator website, offer personal finance calculators covering topics such as home buying, saving, borrowing, retirement and auto financing (also available free of charge for NAFCU Members to use on their websites). The site also includes links to personal financial education resources.

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It’s the End of the World as We Know It, and I Feel…Fine?

Originally published on CUinsight.com.

No, I’m not talking about the fiscal cliff, although some here in Washington, DC are calling it the end. Worse. The Mayan calendar ends on December 21, 2012 and if you’re into certain doomsday theories, that day marks the end of the world. Which means I need to quit my job today, right now, and enjoy my remaining time on earth (T-minus 30 days) lounging on a faraway tropical island.

For the most part I’m joking, but fantasizing about cashing out to live on an island makes me wonder—will I be ready to retire when I want to?

Although retirement seems like a lifetime away (at least twenty years), and I have a background in financial services, I’m not so sure that I’ll be ready when the time comes. I have a 401(k)—several actually—as well as IRAs, brokerage accounts, and a rainy day fund. I even participate in direct stock purchase plans. It would seem like with my knowledge of financial planning (and a predisposition towards frugal living, thank you Mom) that I would be well on my way to a secure retirement. The uncertainty of the market over the past few years has left me questioning my ability to ever retire. Unfortunately, quite a number of people feel the same way.

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Payment Technologies: Gaps and Opportunities Awaiting the Next Big Thing

As an Android user, I love the TV commercial poking fun at iPhone fanatics waiting hours in line to buy the new iPhone, hopelessly waiting for the next big thing. With Apple’s recent move to acquire a security technology company, the blogosphere is full of predictions of what this could mean—will the next iPhone have Near Field Communication contactless payment technology? While Android phones have already embraced NFC technology, deploying NFC on iDevices could speed up the adoption of mobile payments. Or not.

Financial executives and merchants face different challenges with emerging payment technologies, including mobile payments, mobile wallets, mobile banking, NFC, EMV, prepaids, and more. Add in the consumers’ perspective—we want faster and convenient transactions, good economics, plus a little bit of the coolness factor—and you’ve got a grand mix of disconnects and opportunities.

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Survey Shows Credit Union Members More Confident in Economy, Personal Finances

Originally published on CUinsight.com.

It is nice when a survey confirms something you’ve always suspected is true—on the whole, credit union members feel better about the economy when compared to bank customers. It’s also nice to know that all of our efforts with regard to financial literacy are paying off—credit union members are managing their finances better too. Both are especially heartening given all the mixed signals we’ve been getting on the economic recovery.

Our Preferred Partner Discover (www.nafcu.org/discover) does a survey every month, and the results for the second quarter of 2012 are now available. The Discover U.S. Spending Monitor offers a revealing look into the consumption patterns of consumers. It’s a monthly index of consumer spending and intentions, based on a random sample of 8,200 U.S. adults, of whom 25–40% are credit union members. The findings of the credit union member segment are released quarterly. The latest report provides good news for credit unions: credit union members are more optimistic and have a better handle on their finances than non-members.

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Be the one-in-a-million (or 663,000,000) to your members

After weeks of error messages and crashes, I decided to buy a new laptop before my current one finally succumbs to the blue screen of death. For a technophobe like me, buying a new laptop is my worst nightmare. Go to Amazon.com and search for “laptop.” 6,720,212 results. Gulp. Maybe I’ll just go off the electronic grid for a bit.

So think about how daunting/paralyzing/maddening homeownership—the largest purchase most Americans will make—can be. With first-timers representing 39% of home purchasers, a large segment of your members are new to the process. Ninety-eight percent of those first-timers will get a mortgage. Just for fun, Google “mortgage.” Yep, that’s right—663,000,000 results. Yikes.

With so many choices available, why should anyone do business with you or your credit union? It’s not enough to say you have great service or the best rates. You know your competitors are saying the same thing. Well, you should know what your competitors are doing and saying. But we’ll save that for another day. Here’s how you can be that one-in-a-million:

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