Credit unions are in a unique position to help their members with some of their biggest financial struggles. As community-centric institutions, it's important that credit unions do all they can to ensure their members' finances are well-taken-care-of. Additionally, making helpful advice available to the community at large by offering classes, talks and online tools helps build a positive image of the credit union.
Before creating or adjusting programs or resources to help members with their financial challenges, it's best to know what is plaguing them most. According to a GOBankingRates survey, some of America's top financial struggles include:
- Keeping a budget
Setting and keeping a budget was voted the top financial challenge, with 20.1 percent of GOBankingRates' survey respondents indicating this was their biggest concern. Credit unions should employ financial advisors that will be able to meet one-on-one with your members to help them evaluate their spending habits and begin forming new ones. Also, show them how your online banking tools can help them keep track of everyday purchases as well as savings progress.
- Planning for retirement
Retirement planning nearly tied with sticking to a budget for the biggest money-related challenge, with 19.8 percent of respondents naming this is as their No. 1 problem.
Planning for retirement can be complicated. It's hard to know how much you'll need in the future, and it's difficult to determine how much money should be set aside each month. The different retirement account options can also bring additional confusion.
To help your members plan for their futures, credit unions can employ financial advisors, Credit Union Times pointed out. These advisors can sit down and discuss members' various options for saving for retirement, pointing out best practices, products that your credit union offers and strategies that are tailored to each individual.
- Paying for higher education
Coming in third are college costs, according to GOBankingRates' survey; 15.4 percent of respondents said this was their top financial concern. It's no secret that the price of a degree has crept up over the years. As such, many prospective and current students seek out loans to pay for classes. Be sure that your members, and the general community, know about your options to help pay for school, including:
- Student loans.
- Scholarship opportunities.
- Student credit cards.
- Creating a rainy day account
Anyone faced with a sudden major expense will tell you the same thing - emergencies can happen at any time. Because of this, it's crucial to always be prepared. One of the best things people can do in advance to help weather any expensive emergency, like an illness or injury, serious car trouble or a job loss, is to put money aside. Unfortunately, many Americans struggle with this. Another GOBankingRates survey found that more than two-thirds of respondents had less than $1,000 in a savings account.
Help your members see the value of having an emergency savings account, and show them how they can start one right away. Your credit union's financial advisors will be able to help assess your members' financial health and should be able to identify smart savings strategies for them to follow.
- Saving for a home
Buying a home just might be the biggest financial endeavor many of your members will take on. But buying a home right now can be tricky. According to the National Association of Realtors, housing prices have been going up while the inventory of affordable homes has depleted. Meanwhile, mortgage rates are on the rise, making the prospect of closing on a home a bigger challenge for many homebuyers.
Finding a mortgage can be one of the biggest struggles of buying a home. Educate your members about your mortgage process so they know exactly what to expect and what documents they will need. Your credit union can even offer educational sessions to teach groups of people about the home-buying process.
In addition to the mortgage process, simply saving for the down payment has proven to be a challenge among many hopeful homebuyers. Teaching your members sound savings strategies can help them reach their down payment savings goals.
- Paying down credit cards
Lastly, paying off credit cards was listed as No. 6 for biggest money challenges, though it's certainly one not overlooked. For many consumers, credit card debt can quickly get out of control. Teaching your members budgeting best practices is a good start to help them take hold of their debt this year.
Additionally, ensure that they know about the various resources your credit union offers. Explain the pros and cons of consolidation loans and show them how to use your online banking tools to get an overview of their spending and saving progress.
Chances are there are some financial matters that cause stress for your members. Make sure they know they can turn to their credit union to help them work things out and plan for the future.