Thursday, August 28, 2008

CU educators' reach 'unprecedented' in 2007-08

COLUMBIA, S.C. (8/28/08)--Credit unions had unprecedented impact in the classroom in 2007-08, reaching 374,099 students in 11,245 total presentations, according to statistics collected by the National Youth Involvement Board (NYIB).

Those totals are gains of 29.4% in number of students and 14.6% in number of presentations over 2006-07 statistics (289,072 students in 9,812 classes). Increases over five years average 9% annually.

In logging the data, NYIB's network of credit union professionals far exceeded what the NYIB Executive Committee considered a stretch goal of 300,000 students reached.

"What we saw this year appears to be the result of larger class sizes," suggested NYIB Chairman Brandon Pugh, "particularly since just three more presenters than last year reported activity. "Optimistically, it's showing that credit union volunteers are progressing, having more classes and more students in each."

It is also the reason the NYIB Executive Committee will consider another lofty goal for the coming year, Pugh said.

"Chairman (John) Faries encouraged us to set the 'stretch' goal last year, believing there is plenty of activity going unreported. This year's numbers represent an outstanding impact by credit union people, but they still suggest there's more room for even bigger numbers," Pugh added.

For the second consecutive year, Marsha Lunden of Desert Schools CU, Phoenix, conducted the most classroom presentations--416. Erin Hodson of Kern Schools FCU, Bakersfield, Calif., reached the most students--22,619--in the 2007-08 reporting year.

The NYIB "Top Classroom Presenter"--the person with the greatest percentage increase in classroom presentations over the previous year--was Juli Lewis of Suncoast Schools FCU, Tampa, Fla. During the 2007-08 reporting year, Lewis made 325% more presentations than in 2006-07.

Likewise, "Most Students Reached" went to Jeff Williams of Educational Employees CU, Fresno, Calif., who reached 796.9% more students in 2007-08 than in 2006-07.

NYIB is a volunteer organization of credit union professionals devoted to financial education and youth-oriented services. It is the only organization collecting classroom presentation data.

Visitors to NYIB's website can create a "MyNYIB" profile for access to the classroom reporting feature, a searchable document sharing feature, and the ability to upload their own news stories. Membership in NYIB is voluntary and site features are at no cost to the network.

NYIB's Executive Committee is accessible at

The Credit Union National Association is tracking credit unions' adult financial education efforts. To record your adult educational sessions, go to and click on "Report what you're doing."

courtesy of

'For better banking, check out a CU'--Wall Street Journal

NEW YORK (8/28/08)--A columnist for the The Wall Street Journal is urging consumers to move their account to a local credit union.

Noting that "many Americans are pretty unimpressed with the banking industry right now," Brett Arends writes, "Maybe it's a good time to look at an alternative--like moving your account to a local credit union instead" (The Wall Street Journal Aug. 26).

That's just the first two paragraphs. Arends discusses credit unions' "sleepy, backwater image. They're often seen as the local libraries of banking. But that's too bad. The chances are they didn't pay their chief executive $10 million while writing off billions in subprime loans. And they can offer you some surprisingly good deals." economist Greg McBride says in the article that credit unions often beat banking counterparts in rates on loans and deposits and that shoppers looking around for the best deal "has to include looking at credit unions."

The lengthy article also uses statistics and historical information provided by the Credit Union National Association (CUNA) and urges readers to go to to find credit unions near them.

courtesy of

Check payments by online users at lowest point in six years

BROOKFIELD, Wis. (8/28/08)--With more Americans paying their bills online rather than writing checks, credit unions will need to offer even more online banking services to members.

An estimated 63.1 million households--75% of all U.S. households--are paying bills online, according to a survey by CheckFree, part of Fiserv, Inc., a provider of information technology services to the financial industry (BusinessWire Aug. 27).

Among survey respondents who use the Internet, check payments dropped to their lowest level in six years--accounting for 31% of the total volume of household bill payments, compared with 34% in 2007.

The survey also indicates that consumers have more confidence in online security because Americans are becoming more experienced in using Internet services, and therefore security concerns are not a much of a barrier to online bill payment adoption as they were in the past, said CheckFree.

Other survey findings include:

Households using the Internet pay about 11 bills per month. Consumers use an average of three different ways to pay bills with online, check, automatic debit and in-person at the heading the list of bill-payment methods. Online bill payments at bank and biller websites account for 42% of total monthly payments, compared with 31% of bills paid by check.

The environment was cited by 51% of survey respondents as a reason for choosing to view and pay bills online. Of these, 72% identified the lack of paper and clutter as main benefits, followed by tree conservation (19%) and reduction in gas consumption (16%).

Saving time and obtaining control over finances were major online bill-payment benefits cited by 44% of respondents. Those surveyed also cited other main reasons for paying bills online, including eliminating the hassle of writing checks; enabling them to pay all bills in one step; and saving on the cost of stamps.

courtesy of

Thrifts lose ground in economy, CUs well-positioned

MADISON, Wis. (8/28/08)--The U.S. thrift industry posted its second-largest quarterly loss on record, announced regulators Wednesday. Meanwhile, the credit union model is well-positioned for the struggling economy, says Steve Rick, senior economist at the Credit Union National Association (CUNA).

Thrifts, reeling from the housing crisis, lost $5.4 billion during second quarter, said the Office of Thrift Supervision (OTS). Only fourth-quarter 2007, when thrifts lost $8.8 billion, is higher in losses. They also set aside $14 billion--the most ever posted--to cover second-quarter loan losses, the agency said.

"Problem" thrifts grew--to 17 from 12 at the end of March, OTS said. The thrifts are among the 117 problem banks reported Tuesday by the Federal Deposit Insurance Corp.

"The credit union model--not-for-profit, member-owned, cooperative--is well-suited to ride out the current storm of falling home prices and a struggling economy, said Rick.

"Credit unions have seven key advantages over other financial institutions in today's turbulent financial marketplace," Rick said:

Most credit unions are very well-capitalized with the movement's average capital-to-asset ratio over 11%.

Most are reporting strong deposit growth, signaling that members have confidence in their credit union as a financial institution.

Credit unions are not hoarding liquidity as many banks that fund their balance sheet with short-term repos, commercial paper and interbanks lending are doing.

The typical credit union lending model of originating loans to hold them in portfolio is back in vogue, as compared with the alternative model of originating loans to sell them off into the secondary market is facing significant market turmoil, he said.

Banks are tightening their lending standards in the face of rising loan loss provisions. "Most credit unions retained sound underwriting policies over the last few years and therefore find it unnecessary to modify lending standards today. This is creating lending opportunities and faster loan growth at credit unions," Rick added.

Credit unions have much less credit risk exposure than other lenders, and hence lower loan loss provisions and higher return on assets.

As not-for-profit, member owned, cooperative financial institutions, credit unions do not face short-term earnings pressure that banks with stockholders who demand dividends may be facing.

"In the credit union world, we maximize service to members, not profits to stockholders. This allows credit unions to keep loan interest rates low, deposit interest rates high, and minimal fees to compete effectively in today's financial market environment," Rick said.

Credit unions are gaining market share and reporting positive earnings as banks and thrifts struggle, he said.

"Around 80% of credit unions reported positive earnings in the first half of the year, with an average return on assets of 0.52% compared to banks' 0.37%," he said. "Credit unions are not having to make the same kind of loan-loss provisioning as the banks and thrifts, and hence are reporting higher earnings."

Rick noted that credit union first-mortgage delinquency rates rose to 0.78% at the end of June, from 0.64% in December and the highest since 1993. "While the delinquency rate increase is not welcomed, it is still relatively low and quite manageable for most credit unions," he said.

Credit unions picked up market share in the second quarter as banks tightened their lending standards and households worried about the safety and soundness of their banking institution.

Credit union deposit balances rose 1.33% in the second quarter versus 0.08% for banks. Credit union lending also outpaced banks, with loan balances increasing 2.52% at credit unions and 0.06% at banks, Rick added.

courtesy of

Wednesday, August 27, 2008

Advice for car shoppers in slumping economy

SANTA MONICA, Calif. (8/27/08)--Responding to $4 per gallon gasoline prices, consumers are revved up about hybrids. But their craving to drive these eco- and gas-friendly vehicles may not be the best panacea for the problems at the pump ( Aug. 19).

While most hybrids boast excellent fuel efficiency, the prices are higher than for other vehicles, which can create a lengthy period for your gas savings to "pay back" that initial price. In fact, when long-term ownership costs—such as financing, insurance, fuel, taxes, maintenance, and repairs—are considered, the popular Prius hybrid model ranked No. 34 in Edmunds' True Cost to Own ranking system.

When buying a vehicle, step back and consider the big picture. While a hybrid may be the best vehicle for some, don't overlook a traditional compact car or even a used SUV.

Consider these tips in the current car-buying market:

Shop for fuel economy and low price. Check out Then visit for current auto prices from Kelley Blue Book's "New Car Blue Book Value." Choose a few that get at least 30 mpg and cost less than sticker price. Ask local dealers to beat that quote, and you may end up with a lower price than the Blue Book Value.

Avoid used vehicles that are in higher demand. Expect to pay a premium for the popular models. A Ford Focus, for example, sells for less than 60% of the manufacturer's price, while a higher demand compact Honda Civic goes for 70% to 90% of manufacturer's price. Instead search for cars with high reliability ratings from J.D. Power & Associates at

Search for reduced sticker prices on SUVs or crossovers. If you're a low-mileage driver, this may be a good option. While these aren't gas-sippers, you may be able to get as much as 15% off the manufacturer's suggested retail price (MSRP) and also land great financing or rebates. Check with the credit union first to compare financing options.

If a hybrid is definitely what you're after, be prepared for a waiting list and a hefty refundable deposit as down payment, especially for the two most popular brands—the Prius and the Civic Hybrid ( Aug. 8). Be flexible about special options and features. Consider a lesser-known hybrid with slightly fewer miles per gallon, such as the Chevy Malibu or Nissan Altima, which may be a lot easier to get your hands on.

For more information, read "Going Greener With Your Next Car," and "Will a Hybrid Car Save You Money?" in Home & Family Resource Center.

courtesy of

How do CUs collect members' e-mail addresses?

PORTSMOUTH, N.H. (8/27/08)--Credit unions collect members' e-mail addresses primarily through teller incentives, according to a recent survey.

About 17% of respondents said they used teller incentives to collect e-mail addresses, compared with account opening practices at 13% and through the credit union's website at 13%.

"The optimal time to gather the e-mail address is right at the beginning of the relationship," said Rick Blaisdell, co-founder of MailMethods, the company that conducted the survey. "A best practice is to capture the e-mail address as early as possible in the relationship, even if the credit union does not have any current plans to use it."

Credit unions also obtain the addresses through signage in the credit union, direct mail and telemarketing, the survey said.

MailMethods, based in Portsmouth, N.H., develops e-mail appliances for financial and retail markets.

courtesy of

CUs mark new milestones at in-school-branches

MADISON, Wis. (8/27/08)--The credit union movement broke two barriers in August, with 200 credit unions reporting that they are operating student-run branches in more than 700 K-12 schools nationwide.

The 27% increase in schools represents the year-to-date growth spurt in reported in-school credit union branches since the Credit Union National Association (CUNA) began tracking the phenomenon in 2001.

CUNA's new Model Youth Program Guide reveals that--depending on setup and hours--a single in-school branch can cost between $700 and $25,000 per year to operate. In most cases, then, the primary motive for setting up a student-run branch is educational.

"There are many ways to teach children about smart money management," said Jim Hanson, vice president of CUNA's center for personal finance, "but making it as easy as possible for them to save is one of the best."

Hanson noted that the No. 1 factor influencing how adults choose a financial institution is convenience "Why would youth be any different?" he said. "Kids and teenagers spend a fourth of their lives in school. Having a credit union as close as the cafeteria makes money management as convenient as choosing pizza versus mac and cheese."

But financial education is not the only reason to open a branch in a local school. The branch also represents a potential competitive edge.

"As far as we can tell, the credit union movement has a much greater presence in schools that the banking industry. We expect that to change, however, once banks calculate the lifelong advantage that comes from being a third-grader's primary financial institution," Hanson said.

According to CUNA's online directory, credit unions have set up shop in elementary, middle, and high schools in 32 states and the District of Columbia. Credit unions can report their in-school branches or update their record on CUNA's website. Use the resource links for more information.

courtesy of

Immediate online convention coverage from CUNA

WASHINGTON (8/27/08)--Credit unions are encouraged to check in on Twitter, a microblogging service, to get the latest credit union take on happenings at the Democratic National Convention this week in Denver and at the Republican National Convention next week in Minneapolis and St. Paul, Minn.

Staff and volunteers from the Credit Union National Association (CUNA), state leagues and corporates are at the conventions and aim to raise the profile of credit unions during the national conventions.

CUNA Editorial Communication Vice President David Klavitter will provide frequent convention updates using Twitter. The service allows instant, extremely short online postings--limited to no more than 140 characters each.

Use the resource link below to stay up-to-date: Follow Klavitter on Twitter.

courtesy of

Tuesday, August 26, 2008

Washington Post on advance-fee loans: Join a CU

WASHINGTON (8/26/08)--A Kiplinger's Personal Finance columnist writing in the Washington Post Sunday about advance-fee loans cites credit unions as a way to avoid those fees.

Military personnel, often susceptible to exorbitant fees from payday lenders, are now being targeted with so-called advance-fee loans.

Because military personnel are often young and transient, when they apply for a loan, they are told they are credit risks. The lender asks them to pay $900 to $1,800 or more upfront before getting the loan. Then the money disappears.

The article cited advice from the Better Business Bureau Military Line, which noted two things a borrower can do to avoid advance-fee loans.

One of them was "Join a credit union. Credit unions on base often offer short-term loans at competitive interest rates."

The other was to get a zero-interest loan through a military emergency relief fund.

courtesy of

L.A. Times offers tips to manage cost of living on radio

WASHINGTON (8/22/08)--L.A Times senior writer Kathy Kristof, one of the four guests on this Sunday's H&FF Radio show, shares timely techniques for anyone struggling with today's rising food and gas prices.

Home & Family Finance airs Sundays at 3 p.m. EDT on the Radio America Network. The one-hour program devoted to consumer finance issues is brought to you by America's credit unions and their 90 million members, and is presented by CO-OP Network.

The Credit Union National Association (CUNA) and Radio America are podcasting Home & Family Finance through iTunes, Podcast Alley, Odeo, and other popular podcast library sites, as well as on Radio America and CUNA's websites.

Sunday's show, which you also can hear later via the Internet, features Paul Berry, Washington, D.C., journalist and broadcaster, discussing these topics with special guests:

"Five Tips if You Are Falling Behind on Car Payments," with Eric Hoffman, spokesman, Americans Well-informed on Automobile Retailing Economics (AWARE), Washington, D.C.;

"Intergenerational Wealth Planning: New Ways to Handle an Age-old Process," with Eric Aanes, founder/president, Titus Wealth Management, San Mateo and Larkspur, Calif.;

"Financial Fitness: More Than a Good Credit Score," with Brad Stroh, co-founder/CEO,, San Mateo, Calif.;

"Ten Techniques to Manage Your Personal Cost of Living," with Kathy Kristof, senior writer, Los Angeles Times; and

Your Questions Answered by Host Paul Berry: Summer travel and identity theft; filing for bankruptcy--other choices.

Home & Family Finance is a resource center for personal finance information at CUNA. The radio show is sponsored by CO-OP Network, the national credit union ATM network; Cabot Creamery Cooperative, maker of award-winning cheddar; Visa; and Western Corporate FCU and its member credit unions.

For more information, read "Tough Times Series: Gouged by Groceries" in Home & Family Resource Center.

courtesy of

CUs take measures to ease gas prices' impact

MADISON, Wis. (8/22/08)--Credit unions continue to help members struggling with high gas prices with special deals.

Aside from what News Now has already reported about high gas prices:

Truliant FCU, Winston-Salem, N.C., is offering a fuel-efficient auto loan for any new or used vehicle that receives 29 miles a gallon or more on the highway ( Aug. 18). The loan offers a 0.5% rate discount to help individuals save on financing. Members also can finance up to 135% of the vehicle's total value, said Joseph Whitaker, executive vice president/CEO;

Cabrillo CU, San Diego, is allowing members to skip their auto, computer or personal loan payments next month. "We recognize that high gas prices are affecting our members' budgets," said Robin Lentz, Cabrillo CEO. Cabrillo members will be notified of the program through online banking next week;

Service CU, Portsmouth, N.H., will match $--up to $25,000--for every $2 contributed by members to the New Hampshire Fuel Assistance Community Action Agencies ( Aug. 12). The agencies help residents who can't afford to heat their homes in winter. The credit union, which recently gave an additional $25,000, expects its contribution could total $100,000. Donations can be made through Sept. 30 ...

NationsHeritage CU, Attleboro, Mass., introduced a "free gas" campaign that brought new members into its lobby (Deposit Growth Strategies Aug. 1). The campaign offers $25 gas cards, discounted car insurance and low-fixed rates on auto loans;

Fitchburg (Mass.) FCU announced that it is offering 0% annual percentage rate loans up to $10,000 for members who install qualified energy efficiency projects. The loans, called HEAT loans, can be used for air and duct sealing; insulation; domestic hot water systems; high-efficiency heating systems; and Energy Star windows. Do-it-yourself installations are ineligible, and borrowers must occupy owners of one- to four-family homes and have an electric account with a local electrical company; and

Credit Union Service Network (CUSN) reminded its credit unions that shared branching can help cut down on the amount of gas members use to travel to credit union branch locations. CUSN offers shared branching for more than 87 credit unions at 244 locations nationwide.

courtesy of

What should CUs do when members are phished?

MADISON, Wis. (8/21/08)--A rash of recent phishing and vishing attacks against financial institutions has many credit unions looking for procedures for reporting and squelching the attacks.

"Credit unions should have a contingency plan for these types of situations, similar to other business continuity plans," said Dorothy Steffens, vice president of web services at the Credit Union National Association (CUNA).

"The important piece is communication, to members and to staff." she said.

"Also, get the phishing site shut down and get the phone numbers disabled if it is a vishing scam, Steffens said. Credit unions can start by reporting the scam to its regulator and insurer.

But to shut down a scam attempt, the credit union will need help.

"IC3 (Internet Crime Complaint Center) has a website to report scams and it is very helpful in getting vishing phone numbers shut down," said Steffens. "I also always send every phish or vish to the Anti-Phishing WorkingGroup e-mail address." (See the resource links). How does a credit union get a phishing site shut down? "Credit unions with websites should have a procedure in place to check their Web logs for traffic that is indicative of phishes," Steffens said.

"There are a number of companies (such as CUNA Strategic Services partner, Perimeter) that will monitor the website for phishing activity. You can trace the URL address of the phishing site using, which is the Internet Registrar," she said.

"Most phishing collection sites have been hacked into, and the owners of those servers usually are not aware that their systems have been compromised," she said.

"The Internet Registrar will provide an e-mail address of the technical contact and owner of the site, but in many cases these are in foreign countries, so having a relationship with a vendor will expedite the process for you," she explained.

How should a credit union alert its members about a phish? "As soon as a phishing scam is discovered, the credit union should put a notice on its website, possibly add a statement to its after hours mailbox, and let the tellers and call center staff know that the credit union is aware of the scam. Communication is critical," Steffens said. "At the time of a phish, the message should always be: the credit union would never ask for personal identification information via an e-mail or a website. Never, ever," Steffens emphasized.

"And if it is a vishing scam, where the recipients are asked to call an unknown number, the credit union again needs to remind its members that they should never call a number that they receive via an e-mail."

CUNA Mutual Group also has addressed the issue of phishing in a risk alert it sent Aug. 1 to policyholders, according to Vince Wagner, risk manager in credit union protection.

If a member is a victim of phishing/smishing/vishing, take the appropriate steps, he said:

Block and reissue the compromised credit/debit cards or the account that is at risk;
If not blocking the at-risk card number or account, use an authorization strategy to prevent fraud exposure;
Have the member report the incident to the credit bureau; and
Encourage the member to order a credit report.

CUNA Mutual's risk alert has an extensive checklist of steps to take to shut down a site and suggests using protective monitoring tools to ensure the credit union isn't susceptible to spoofing.

courtesy of

Monday, August 25, 2008

Ease the pain of medical debt

WASHINGTON (8/25/08)--A whopping 79 million Americans are struggling to pay off hospital and doctor bills, with adults in more income groups than ever before affected by excessive health-care costs, according to a report released last week (Reuters Aug. 20).

The 2007 Biennial Health Insurance Survey, released by the Commonwealth Fund, a New York-based foundation that tracks trends in health coverage and quality, revealed that 41% of working-age Americans--72 million people--have medical bill problems or are paying off medical debt, compared with 34% in 2005. Another seven million adults older than age 65 also struggle with medical debt.

Surprisingly, more than half of those struggling to pay medical bills carry some form of insurance. If you are in this category and don't make arrangements to pay the bill, it may be sent to collections, which could affect your credit rating.

Take steps to ease the financial burden:

Check for duplicate charges. According to Medical Billing Advocates of America, Salem, Va., the majority of hospital bills contain costly mistakes. For example, an operating room charge already includes the cost of routine services, equipment and supplies, but some facilities double-bill for the services (The Wall Street Journal Aug. 12).

Question a rejection. If your claim was denied, or the insurer informs you it's only covering a portion of the cost, speak up. Sometimes it's a simple fix, such as a wrong billing code. Follow the plan's internal appeals process, or contact your state health department or attorney general's office (U.S. News & World Report Aug. 21). Find contact information for resources in your state in the Consumer Resource Handbook at

Pay now, save big. Some providers give hefty discounts if you can pay the discounted amount in full at the time the service is provided. Don't use a credit card, though, or interest charges might eat up all the savings.

Negotiate with the health-care provider and hospital. Ask about repayment plans and discounts, because medical care is negotiable--particularly if you don't have insurance or if you have a high-deductible plan. Ask for the rate that Medicare pays, which often is half the full price. You're more likely to cut a deal if you're facing bills for expensive treatment. Work with the hospital's financial counselor if possible, and remember that hospitals typically don't charge interest.

Negotiate with collections. If your bill is sent to a collection agency, stay calm. Contact the agency immediately and negotiate; it may settle for 25 cents to 50 cents on the dollar just to get your debt off its books. Don't assume you must pay the entire amount. And know your rights; visit for more information.

Use government programs. Check if you qualify for Medicaid or whether your children qualify for your state's Children's Health Insurance Program. Some states cover children if the family has income up to 300% of the poverty level--that can be more than $63,000 for a family of four.

For more information, read "Medical Bills: Don't Overpay" in Plan It: Retire Ready Toolkit.

courtesy of

Ireland's CUs help fight poverty in Ghana

DUBLIN, Ireland (8/25/08)--Northern Ireland credit unions are participating in the Irish League of Credit Unions' (ILCU) campaign to fight poverty, malnutrition, HIV and AIDS in Ghana--a country in Africa.

ILCU is providing nearly US$89,000 plus technical assistance to support the development of credit unions in Ghana (Belfast Telegraph July 28).

Some of the funding will be used to help credit unions in Ghana become self-sustaining units that support poor local communities, according to Kevin Helferty, chairman of the ILCU Foundation, which provides assistance in developing credit unions in Third World countries.

ICLU contributes more than $740,000 annually to the foundation's efforts worldwide.

courtesy of

Two CU leaders in Texas tout CU difference

FARMERS BRANCH, Texas (8/25/08)--Two credit union leaders were featured in a Texas newspaper about the credit union difference.

Kay Rankin, president, Ward County Teachers CU, Monahans, Texas, and Carolyn Jones, manager, Complex Community CU's Monahan branch, were featured in the Aug. 13 issue of The Mudville News, says the Texas Credit Union League (LoneStar Leaguer Aug. 22).

"From the outside, a credit union and a bank appear similar, with both offering basic financial services, but it is within our corporate structure that we differ," Rankin told the newspaper.

Rankin and Jones explained credit unions' non-profit status, and their mission to help people. They also assured the paper that members' money is safe at a credit union and is backed by the National Credit Union Administration Share Insurance Fund.

Credit unions avoided the subprime mortgage mess and have operated responsibly, Rankin said.

courtesy of

Homes for Our Troops contributions surpass goal

DENVER (8/25/08)--America's credit unions exceeded the $300,000 goal to help present two disabled veterans with new homes during the upcoming national presidential conventions.

The Credit Union National Association (CUNA), the Credit Union Association of Colorado and Wyoming, and Minnesota Credit Union Network, along with the National Journal Group and the Republican and Democratic National Conventions, are jointly sponsoring homes for two disabled U.S. servicemen wounded in the line of duty.

Credit unions are building the homes for Army Sgt. Marcus Kuboy in St. Paul, Minn., site of the Republican convention, and Staff Sgt. Travis Strong in Golden, Colo., near the Denver site of the Democratic convention.

At each national convention, America's Credit Unions look for opportunities to give back to the host cities, noted CUNA Political Affairs Senior Vice President Richard Gose.

Co-Op Financial Services, the Corporate Credit Union Network, and state credit union leagues across the country were instrumental in the fundraising effort, which so far totals more than $350,000, he added.

Homes for Our Troops is a nonprofit organization that builds specially adapted homes for severely injured service members.

courtesy of

CUs converge on national convention

DENVER (8/25/08)--Staff and volunteers from the Credit Union National Association (CUNA), state leagues and corporates aim to raise the profile of credit unions during this week's Democratic National Convention (DNC) in Denver.

The four-day convention happens Monday through Thursday. Credit unions also will participate in the Republican National Convention happening next week in Minneapolis and St. Paul, Minn.

CUNA and credit unions have been involved in these national events since 1988, according to CUNA Senior Vice President of Political Affairs Richard Gose.

Among each day's plethora of events, CUNA is sponsoring the National Journal's Convention Daily Briefings, which feature party newsmakers. A convention version of the CUNA-sponsored Power Breakfast, the on-site events are moderated by Atlantic Media political director Ron Brownstein, The Hotline's Amy Walter, Charlie Cook and Chris Matthews.

On Wednesday, U.S. Rep. Ed Perlmutter (D-Colo.) and other elected officials will join CUNA and the leagues, the Democratic National Convention Committee, National Journal Group and Homes for Our Troops in a ceremony to turn over a new home to wounded Iraq war veteran Staff Sergeant Travis Strong and his family.

Meanwhile, CUNA Editorial Communication Vice President David Klavitter will provide frequent convention updates using Twitter. The service allows instant, extremely short online postings--limited to no more than 140 characters each.

CUNA News Now will provide complete coverage of credit union participation in the convention. Use the resource link below for more information about Homes for Our Troops.

courtesy of

Wednesday, August 20, 2008

Some states speed up seizure of abandoned property

McLEAN, Va. (8/20/08)--Consumers aren't the only ones struggling with tight budgets. Now some cash-strapped states are changing laws to speed up the process of seizing property you've abandoned--which makes it more important than ever to quickly claim what's rightfully yours (USA Today Aug. 13).

In 2006, states collected more than $5 billion in unclaimed property, up 33% from 2003, after adjusting for inflation. Faced with bigger budget deficits, Washington, Alabama, and Oregon recently passed laws allowing them to seize most abandoned property in three years--not five. Delaware, South Carolina, and Louisiana targeted stocks and dividends, seizing them in three years instead of five. And Kentucky now seizes abandoned travelers' checks in 15 years, rather than seven.

Examples of unclaimed property include bank accounts, uncashed payroll checks, uncashed travelers checks, insurance proceeds, safe deposit box contents, utility deposits, stocks, bonds, mutual funds, and dividends.

In today's mobile society, it's not surprising that so much money is left behind. You may have left a job and forgotten to pick up your last paycheck. You may have moved and forgotten to leave a forwarding address. You may have neglected to collect a utility deposit refund after you ended service and started with another company.

How can you keep property from going unclaimed in the first place?

Get--and stay--organized. Keep good records of all bank and savings accounts, safe deposit contents, and life insurance policies.

Don't keep it a total secret. Tell at least one family member or trusted adviser where your financial records are located.

Record all utility deposits. Even if your memory is good, it's easy to forget how much you paid several years ago for rent, utility and telephone deposits.

Cash checks immediately. If you don't, they may get buried under piles of paper and accidentally tossed out with the trash.

Make contact. Correspond with all financial institutions that hold your share draft, share savings, share certificate, and retirement accounts--at least once every three years.

Notify "the world" of a name change. If you change your name due to marriage, divorce, or other legal action, notify your credit union, broker, investment and insurance contacts, credit card issuers, accountant, attorney, employer, physician, 401(k) administrator, mortgage lender and others.

Leave your address behind. If you move, notify all concerned parties of your forwarding address.

To search for unclaimed property, visit Searches are free and data are refreshed monthly. On the website, go to Site Features and click "Related Links." Once there, you have access to a wealth of resources. For example, you can:

Go on a "Treasury hunt" to see if you have savings bonds that no longer are earning interest;
Search for unclaimed tax refunds;
Get information on Veterans Affairs education benefits; and
Look for long-lost retirement accounts.

One final note: Even if your state has seized your abandoned property, you still can file with the state to reclaim it.

courtesy of

Monday, August 18, 2008

Shop smart to tackle high textbook prices

NEW YORK (8/18/08)--As college students head back to campus, many are struggling to afford pricey textbooks, although there are bargains to be had if you know where to look. For financially strapped families, those bargains could mean the difference between a student staying in school and dropping out ( Aug. 4).

On average, students spend $900 a year on textbooks--almost 20% of in-state tuition and fees at a four-year public university, according to a February 2007 report from the U.S. Public Interest Research Group (PIRG). A single science book could cost $200 or more.

To add to the high prices, publishers continually roll out new editions of textbooks--typically 12% more expensive than the previous edition--even though 71% of professors in the U.S. PIRG study said these editions are only "sometimes" or "rarely" justified.

Some federal help may be on the way. Although not yet signed into law, Congress recently passed a modified version of the Higher Education Opportunity Act that includes a section addressing textbook prices and policies. Among other provisions, the act demands that publishers provide college faculty with accurate textbook pricing information as well as offer unbundled packages so students aren't forced to purchase workbooks and other materials they don't need.

Even with the government's help, high textbook prices still can involve a big chunk of change. Do this first: Obtain a list of required course textbook titles from your university bookstore (you can search its website) or ask your individual professors. Then, use these resources to shop smart and avoid overpaying:

Go green, go electronic. Environmentalists, rejoice. Six of the largest textbook publishers recently began selling digital copies of textbooks on as much as 50% off the hardcover book price. If you can't find the book you're looking for, ask individual publishers or university bookstores if they offer electronic options.

Compare prices, buy online. This might be your best option. So many resources exist in the online textbook market, you are bound to uncover a bargain. To compare prices, try sites like,,, or Use your search engine to uncover more websites and resources.

Download books—for free. And yes, downloadable books are legal. Sites like and have books available, but you may have to search other resources as well because selections are limited.

Share with a friend. Even though this can cut the price in half, you may end up fighting for study rights with the book come exam time. This option may work best for solutions manuals or other necessary supplements.

Beware of bundles. Many students never glance at the CD-ROM or workbook bundled to the front of the textbook; yet they pay extra for the materials. If this sounds like you, search for the unbundled versions.

Consider older editions. Often, the latest edition of a text may not vary that much from the previous one--and it likely costs considerably less.

For more information, read "Timing Rules Student Loan Consolidation" in Home & Family Resource Center.

courtesy of

CEO: In tough economy, CU marketers must learn numbers

TEMPE, Ariz. (8/18/08)--"The challenge for any credit union CEO today is trying to maintain balance and aggressiveness, while watching out for potential land mines."

So says Michael Poulos, CEO, Michigan First CU, Lathrop Village, Mich., referring to why credit union marketing professionals should learn the credit unions numbers. By learning the numbers that contribute to the bottom line, they can better drive marketing efforts to get results that the CEO and senior management team want.

"Without any question, any marketing professional should understand the financial condition of the credit union and all the numbers that go along with it.

"Understanding the financial condition of your credit union and being in sync with the financial goals is the foundation for being successful with the senior management team," he said.

He noted that the marketing professional also needs to be aware of the issues facing the CEO and senior managers. "My biggest concern is that we might miss out on business opportunities because of what it going on in the economy," Poulos said. "Any business can make money in good times, but only good ones make money in bad times. Being reticent and overcautious are the major concerns I have."

He teaches a session on financial ratios and assists students with the financial aspects of a group project during Credit Union Marketing University, which meets in Scottsdale, Ariz., Sept. 22-26.

courtesy of

CU in Fast Company on savings account strategy

NEW YORK (8/18/08)--A credit union's savings promotion is featured in Fast Company's September issue as part of an article on innovative new programs that make saving fun.

The article, "Break the Bank," reports that banks have drawn consumers' ire with their high-interest lending, rising fees and penalties, and that "a range of financial institutions now are trying a new business model: being good." They're nudging and even paying consumers to save money.

In breaks down its discussion of savings programs by type of financial institution: banks, online startups, and credit unions.

"As community-based nonprofits, credit unions have always promoted saving as part of their mission," the article says. "But with an aging membership, they're going further to attract new customers."

The article features Matt Davis, director of public relations at Members CU, Winston-Salem, N.C., and a Filene Research Institute '30 under 30' member. The credit union's What Are You Saving For? program offers "a paltry" 1.8% interest rate, but it includes monthly drawings for additional cash prizes.

He got the idea from Peter Tufano, a Harvard Business School professor who has spent a decade studying and testing new policies to promote savings. Tufano was a speaker at a recent 30 Under 30 meeting in Chicago.

The article concludes that the something-for-nothing strategy is "where the future of American savings may lie."

courtesy of

Louisiana league op-ed: CUs strong in tough times

HARAHAN, La. (8/18/08)--The Louisiana Credit Union League has responded to news reports about the economy with an op-ed newspaper article noting that "one positive remains steady--Louisiana's credit unions."

The article, written by league President/CEO Anne Cochran, appeared in (Aug. 15).

It points out that 72% of all credit unions in Louisiana were rated in the highest two categories based on safety and soundness in 2007.

The CAMEL (capital adequacy, asset quality, management, earnings and liquidity) ratings indicate that credit unions' management is "experienced, capable and operated under adverse conditions following hurricanes Katrina and Rita in 2005," wrote Cochran.

She explained that all Louisiana credit unions are covered by the National Credit Union Share Insurance Fund and backed by "the full faith and credit of the U.S. government."

Cochran referred to other financial institutions pushing through the up and down economy while credit unions "remain strong, offering good rates on savings accounts and low rates on loans.

"In these uncertain economic times, individual and businesses are looking for a safe place to put their hard-earned money. The credit union is that place," the letter concluded.

courtesy of

Workers on strike at CU over insurance premiums

LOCKPORT, N.Y. (8/18/08)--Cornerstone Community FCU, based in Lockport, N.Y., has confirmed that more than 70 union employees went on strike Friday, shutting down two branches. At issue is the cost of the health insurance premiums the credit union provides for staff.

The union, Office and Professional Employees International Union Local 212, represents 73 of the credit union's 94 employees, Ann M. Brittin, Cornerstone president/CEO, said. It includes all tellers, loan personnel, member service representatives and clerks.

In a press release, the $234 million asset credit union said negotiations had been underway since October 2007 to reach a new labor agreement to replace a four-year contract that expired in November.

"Cornerstone and Union negotiators reached a tentative agreement, later rejected by Union membership, that would continue to provide employees with a more-than-competitive benefit package, including single and family health insurance coverage for full-time employees and a 401(k) retirement plan," said Brittin.

Brittin told News Now that the rejected agreement asked employees to contribute 5% of the monthly health insurance premium, starting in November 2009. The plan also had slightly higher co-pays on physicians' visits and prescriptions, she added. Health insurance costs had risen 53% between 2004 and 2008.

The credit union's press release noted New York State Department of Labor statistics indicate the credit union's current average wage rate for its union employees falls above the 90th percentile when compared with wages of employees at other regional and statewide financial institutions.

"As a member-owned credit union, we must also maintain a fiscal responsibility to our members as stewards of their assets," she said.

The credit union stated that its historical roots and ties to the union concept means it supports the position of a union as representative of its members' best interests. Six of the nine members of Cornerstone's board are affiliated with unions.

Until the matter is resolved, the main office in Lockport will continue all functions and regular hours, the credit union said. ATMs are open at its Stevens Street and Middleport branches. Members also were directed to several local shared-service centers the credit union participates in with three other local credit unions for full services.

No new negotiations have been scheduled, Brittin told News Now.

courtesy of

Filene examines financial behaviors of young adults

MADISON, Wis. (8/18/08)--Young adult households frequent credit unions at roughly the same levels as do all U.S. households. However, credit unions lag behind commercial banks, three to one, according to a new Filene Research Institute report.

As credit unions seek to better serve the next generation of consumers, it becomes essential to understand how young adults are creating their financial lives, said the institute. Its report, Attracting Young Adults: What Do We Know About Their Use of Financial Institutions and Payment Behaviors?, looks at the financial behaviors of young adults and compares these behaviors to all households.

Author Jinkook Lee, a professor of consumer sciences at Ohio State University (OSU) and a Filene Research Fellow, used the Consumer Finance Monthly, a nationally representative sample of U.S. households from a monthly survey conducted by OSU, to conduct the research.

The study found that young adults rank convenience, product features, and service as the top three reasons, respectively, for choosing their primary financial institution. Young adults use a variety of payment instruments to manage their funds, the study found. Which type of instrument an individual uses depends upon the type of transaction and the socio-demographic characteristics of the payer.

"Today's 18- to 34-year-old population represents the next generation of credit union borrowers and savers," says George Hofheimer, Filene chief research officer.

"The Credit Union National Association reports that since the mid-1980s credit unions have struggled to convert this demographic into full-service members. Careful study of how this new generation is different from past generations could help reverse this long-term trend," Hofheimer said.

"More important than careful study, though, is action," he said. "Every day that credit unions delay a young-adult strategy is another day their competitors gain in cementing a relationship with this demographic."

Hofheimer proposes three activities credit unions can perform to effectively reach out to the 18-34 year-old market:

When describing your value proposition to a young adult market, study the top reasons this segment chooses their primary financial institution;

Understand what elements of convenience matter most to young adults; and

Use data on specific payment choices to understand how young consumers are creating their financial relationship.

Copies of Attracting Young Adults: What Do We Know About Their Use of Financial Institutions and Payment Behaviors? are available free to institute members; $125 to non-members. For more information call 608-231-8550 or use the resource link.

courtesy of

Mobile banking on a growth spurt in CUs, banks

NEEDHAM, Mass. (8/15/08)--Mobile banking overall is emerging fast as an indispensable business asset to financial institutions to retain member/customers and reach new segments, says new research.

Every month until the beginning of 2009, between 150 and 300 U.S. credit unions and banks will sign contracts for mobile banking solutions, according to TowerGroup, a Needham, Mass.-based research firm.

Mobile banking will reach nearly six million users by the end of 2008, says TowerGroup's report, "Transforming Customer Interaction: Mobile Banking Delivers Adoption as Wheels of the Market Align."

The firm forecasts that 42 million U.S. active users of mobile banking will exist by 2012.

"We believe the rise of next-generation mobile banking and payment solutions will forever change banks and payments companies," said Virginia Garcia, co-author of the research and senior research director in TowerGroup's Cross-Industry practice.

"Mobility has the potential to enable timely, relevant and actionable outreach that will ignite customer engagement unlike any other channel," she said.

"Ultimately, TowerGroup expects mobile phones will do for financial services what Apple iPods did for music--spur a sea change in the way consumers access services and suppliers deliver them," said Garcia.

courtesy of

Will mobile banking change remittances?

NEEDHAM, Mass. (8/15/08)--Mobile remittances are moving in on the global remittances market and the accelerating investments in mobile payment platforms will be a disruptive industry force, says a new TowerGroup study. However, the World Council of Credit Unions (WOCCU) doesn't see that happening anytime soon.

Mobile remittances are a person-to-person payment system that is cross-border in nature and involves mobile data applications at either end of the transaction, according to TowerGroup, a Needham, Mass.-based research group.

TowerGroup maintains that an emerging revolution occurring for sending and receiving remittances may undercut existing fee structures and traffic volume of incumbent brick-and-mortar money transfer operators, which the firm says already appear to be under pressure in the economic climate.

However, WOCCU is hesitant to agree with the assertion that mobility will change the nature of remittances, said Tiffany Kultgen, WOCCU's program manager, technical services responsible for credit unions' international remittance program, IRnet.

"There are two major components to a remittance--the transfer of data and the transfer of funds," she told News Now. "While mobile solutions may enhance the ease of data transfer for many, they don't circumvent the need for physical locations in order to realize the transfer of funds for the market as a whole.

"I think more pieces must be added to the puzzle before we'll see a complete transformation of the remittance market," Kultgen added.

Kulgen noted there has been talk about mobile remittances "for quite some time, and to my awareness there hasn't been any major shifting of the market from cash-based transfers to mobile transfers--at least not in the U.S. or Latin America.

"There has been a lot of hype about mobile remittances in Kenya and the Philippines, but the demographics of those markets are quite distinct from individuals who have migrated to the U.S. from Latin America," she said, adding that she has read that M-Pesa isn't having much luck opening up remittance corridors outside of Kenya due to security and compliance concerns.

Kulgen noted that "WOCCU is continuously exploring new developments within the remittance market to assure that the credit unions are able to meet their members' need. Thus far, we haven't experienced a significant demand for mobile remittances; however, that is not to say we won't see changes in the future."

TowerGroup says its analysis indicates that the benefactors of mobile remittances may be banks, especially those that emphasize growth among unbanked customer segments. That's because remittances are "an avenue for banks to initiate relationships with unbanked consumers who are heavy users of both remittance products and mobile phones."

The relationships then can fuel deposits through later cross-sale of more traditional banking products such as share draft/checking accounts, the firm's report said.

On the receiving side, mobile remittances will spur evolution of the financial sector in developing countries and economies so recipients can direct their remittances to checking accounts, bill payments and microfinance applications, said TowerGroup.

"The inevitable convergence of remittances and mobility offers new opportunities for banks to grow this market by making payments faster, more convenient, more secure, and more accessible to a greater number of senders and recipients," said the report.

Virginia Garcia, senior research director in TowerGroup's Cross-Industry practice, and Charul Vyas, an analyst in the Emerging Technologies practice at TowerGroup, co-authored the report, titled, "Disruptive Technology Spawns Market Revolution: The Ascent of Mobile Remittances into the Mainstream."

courtesy of

Study: CUs look good, trust drives wallet shares

BOSTON (8/15/08)--Consumers' trust in their primary financial institution is directly correlated to wallet capture--and credit unions are doing well, indicates a study released this week.

Credit unions are outperforming banks in rates, fees, pricing, products, reliability and engagement, according to the study, by Mercatus LLC, a financial services consulting firm (MarketWatch Aug. 13).

The average wallet capture share for financial institutions increased by 18 percentage points on a five-point scale, from 34% at a trust score of 1, to 52% with a trust score of 5, the study said.

Trust relationship scores for credit unions and banks ranged from 64% to 84%. Credit unions and local banks scored higher in transparency than other financial institutions at 75%, compared with national banks' average score of 63%.

Factors affecting trust include transparency of costs, employees' willingness to go "above and beyond," and operational processes clarity. Trust also drives retention and cross-selling.

To build trust, the study said financial services providers should:

Disclose fees for products and services;
Explain steps to open new accounts or address service issues;
Ensure safety of members' information; and
Maintain fees at levels members expect.

courtesy of

CUNA urges party platform recognition for CUs

WASHINGTON (8/15/08)—The Credit Union National Association (CUNA) is urging both Democratic and Republican parties to include credit union priorities in their party platform documents. CUNA also called attention to credit unions' close work with Homes for Our Troops to build a home for a disabled veteran in each of the two major party convention cities.

"We are proud to make a lasting contribution to the host cities and these American heroes in this historic election year.

"It is representative of the effort credit unions make to serve their members every day," wrote CUNA President/CEO Dan Mica in separate letters to the Republican Party Platform Committee and the Democratic Party Platform Committee, as those bodies worked to hammer out their final party platforms.

The CUNA letter underscored the safety and soundness of the credit union movement and underscored that credit unions are well capitalized with an overall capital-to-asset ratio of 11.1%. About 70% of credit union home mortgage loans are held on credit union books, not sold off to the secondary mortgage market.

"Credit unions have emerged largely unscathed from the subprime mortgage lending crisis because, unlike many banks, credit unions practice sound lending practices and were not tempted into making risky loans with the promise of big profits in return...Therefore, the plague of nonperforming home loans is a bank problem, not a credit union problem," Mica pointed out to the platform builders.

The CUNA letters also urged the parties' to support the credit union tax status, an independent federal regulator for credit unions, and statutory changes needed to improve credit union service to members.

"Credit unions remain trusted institutions, owned and controlled by their members." Mica wrote, adding, "As you complete your work on the party's platform, we ask that you consider including a statement recognizing the positive and vital role of credit unions in the lives of their members and financial services industry as a whole."

courtesy of

Thursday, August 14, 2008

CUNA: CTR exemption bill promising for CUs

WASHINGTON (8/14/08)—A bill that would exempt certain customers from currency transaction report (CTR) rules, as well as streamline that exemption process, was introduced in the House just before Congress recessed for its August District Work Session.

Rep. Barney Frank (D-Mass.), who heads the House Financial Services Committee, and Reps. Bill Foster (D-Ill.) and Dennis Moore (D-Kan.), both committee members, introduced H.R. 6688, the Seasoned Customer CTR Exemption Act of 2008, on July 31. It shares the name and some provisions with legislation introduced by Rep. Spencer Bachus (R-Ala.), currently the ranking member of the committee, in 2006 and 2007.

Nichole Seabron, federal compliance counsel for the Credit Union National Association (CUNA), said the bill combines the earlier seasoned customer legislation and the Financial Crimes Enforcement Network's (FinCEN's) recent CTR revision proposal issued earlier this summer.

"It is definitely something that would impact credit unions in a favorable manner," Seabron said.

She highlighted the provisions she believes will be of most importance to credit unions.

The bill impacts CTR exemption requirements. For instance, it would do away with the Phase I filing requirement for transactions between credit unions and other depository institutions, such as other credit unions, banks or corporate credit unions.

The provisions also call for the removal of the biennial renewal requirement for Phase II exemptions--those pertaining to non-listed businesses and payroll customers.

The bill gives credit unions more flexibility in determining when to grant exemptions and would allow them to grant exemptions within 2 months versus the 12-month requirement that is currently in place.

Also, the bill provides for a "seasoned customer" exemption to CTR filing requirements, although it is not yet clear to what extent the exemption will benefit credit unions. The "seasoned customer" exemption would be applied to business account customers, such as incorporated/registered businesses, including sole proprietorships.

courtesy of

Wednesday, August 13, 2008

Know risks of paying at the pump

McLEAN, Va. (8/13/08)--The next time you fill up, think twice about using the "pay at the pump" option. Police have uncovered a skimming device on some gas station pumps, installed by thieves so they can steal your credit and debit card data (USA TODAY Aug. 5).

This hard-to-detect electronic device has been discovered at gas stations in five states--California, Delaware, Nevada, Pennsylvania, and Washington--with $1 million to $3.5 million stolen from unsuspecting customers.

Several crooks have bypassed the skimming device and intercepted data by hacking into a wireless connection used by the station. Some stations wirelessly transmit credit card data from the pump to their central computers. All a thief has to do is wait nearby, hack in, and download the data to a laptop ( Mar. 17).

Although skimming devices have been used at ATMs, they just recently have been discovered on the inside or outside of gas station pumps. Police are asking gas station owners and attendants to put seals on the pumps and check them daily, but no real precautionary measures have yet been put in place.

To protect your card data at the pump and elsewhere, take protective measures:

Pay inside. If you're using debit or credit at gas stations, consider paying inside and signing all receipts. Or, for added peace of mind, use cash. Some stations offer discounts for patrons who use paper money rather than plastic.

Monitor your accounts. Check financial statements online or as soon as they arrive, and report any problems. Also, order a credit report once a year from each of the three credit-reporting agencies--Equifax, Experian, and TransUnion. Visit

Safeguard your numbers. Memorize your personal identification number (PIN), don't carry your Social Security card with you, and don't write either of those numbers on any of your cards or in your address book.

Choose credit option. When using your debit card, the cashier may ask, "Credit or debit?" Typically, credit transactions that require a signature offer better protection against fraud than those conducted using a PIN number. Also, choosing "debit" often is treated as an ATM transaction, which could subtract from any free monthly "allowance" of debit transactions to which you may be entitled. Take this into account with all purchases, not just gas.

Get help. If you suspect fraudulent activity, tell the station attendant and contact local law enforcement immediately.

For more information, listen to "When to Use Debit vs. Credit Cards" in Home & Family Resource Center.

courtesy of

Mica tells Post 2009 a busy, busy year

WASHINGTON (8/13/08)—In an Aug. 12 article in The Washington Post, Credit Union National Association (CUNA) President/CEO Dan Mica says 2009 is going to be a "very, very busy year" for lobbyists.

The article, called "In a Harsh Climate for Lobbyists, the Forecast Calls for...More Lobbyists," notes that both the Republican and the Democratic presidential candidates have had harsh words about lobbyist during their campaigning.

"But K Street's response is not to flee in fear. Instead, it's getting ready for one of its busiest periods ever," wrote reporter Jeffrey H. Birnbaum.

CUNA's Mica concurred: "It's going to be a very, very busy year; we might as well brace ourselves for it." The article noted that Mica, a former congressman from Florida, is asking CUNA's state affiliates to boost their budgets so they can bring more people to Washington to press for their causes.

"It doesn't matter which one is president--there is going to be a tremendous need for lobbying," Mica said.

The Post article explained that increased need as a result both of the attacks from the "presidential wannabes" and the likelihood that Congress will become even more Democratic. A more Democratic Congress, the article posited, means that many corporate interests will face "increased danger next year and will have to employ more of the people whose job is to protect them--lobbyists."

CUNA merited a second, separate mention in the piece on lobbying. CUNA shined in a section that was otherwise about the receptions and late-night parties and hospitality suites that will be sponsored by some organizations during the presidential nominating conventions.

"But not every lobbying event will be frivolous. Seeking positive publicity, the Credit Union National Association will give away a house at each convention to the family of a disabled military veteran," the Post piece reports.

courtesy of

Tuesday, August 12, 2008

Ratchet up your rainy day fund

ATLANTA (8/11/08)--High gas and food prices are yet another reason to beef up your emergency fund. Without one, you are financially vulnerable if you're handed a pink slip, major repair bill, or medical crisis ( Aug. 7).

More than one-third of Americans--roughly 76 million adults--don't have any non-retirement savings at all, according to the National Foundation for Credit Counseling's 2008 Financial Literacy Survey results, released in April. And of those who do have a cash fund, 57% don't have enough in it.

Having sufficient cash on hand translates to having a special form of insurance policy against financial calamity. Take steps to protect yourself and gain peace of mind:

Track spending. Ideally, write down every expense for three months, or one month at a minimum. This gives you a fairly good estimate of average monthly expenditures for housing, utilities, gasoline, groceries, and dining out. For periodic fixed expenses such as insurance, vehicle registration, or property taxes (if not included in your mortgage payment), calculate the monthly cost and include that in your calculations.

Identify spending leaks. After tracking where your money goes, identify expenditures you could cut out--or cut back--to boost emergency savings. Some examples may include daily lattes, online shopping, or dining out. Freeing up found money can boost your savings in the short run.

Calculate desired reserve. The general rule of thumb--three to six months of living expenses--may not be right for you. Consider how stable your income is, whether you have another salary in the household to fall back on, whether you must rely heavily on bonuses or commissions, and the age of your vehicle and major appliances. If you hear rumblings of a merger or downsizing, cut back sooner rather than later to cushion a possible blow to your income.

Keep it safe--and liquid. Remember that beating inflation isn't the main objective here, so don't expect a high yield on liquid savings. Your goal is to have ready access to cash so you don't have to lean on credit to get through a financial hardship. Professionals at the credit union can help you choose an account that's right for you.

Bite the bullet to beef it up. To build a reserve quickly, cut back--or temporarily halt--your retirement savings just down to the level of getting your employer's full 401(k) match. (Remember that this will temporarily raise your income taxes.) Stop making extra payments on low-interest loans for a while, and redirect spending leaks to your emergency fund.

Resist temptation to raid it. Use the funds only for unbudgeted necessary expenses, and keep feeding the fund regularly.

For more information, listen to "Struggling Americans Use Plastic to Stay Afloat" in Home & Family Resource Center.

courtesy of

Georgia CUs donate $39,000 for CMN

DULUTH, Ga. (8/11/08)--Not-for-profit Georgia financial institutions raised more than $39,000 for Children's Miracle Network (CMN) through the Credit Unions for Kids fundraising campaign, which included sales of a specially designed cookbook.

Patients at Georgia's children's hospitals will benefit from this contribution by Georgia credit unions, said the Georgia Credit Union Affilaites.

The cookbooks included recipes submitted by credit union staff and members throughout the six-month campaign. Thirty-three credit unions across Georgia collaborated to raise funds to help sick and injured children receive quality health care. One hundred percent of the funds have been donated to CMN.

"Children's Miracle Network is such a worthy charity; how could we not participate in this fundraising effort?" said Marshall Boutwell, CEO, Gwinnett FCU, Lawrenceville, Ga.

Credit union representatives presented the check to Children's Miracle Network at a LeAnn Rimes concert held at Turner Field in July. Rimes, a long time supporter of CMN, is the face of the 2008 Georgia credit union awareness campaign. She contributed a recipe for the cookbook as an extension of her support for the Children's Miracle Network charity.

Georgia credit unions have supported the efforts of CMN since 1999. There are six Children's Hospitals in Georgia.

"The support we have received from Georgia credit unions over the years has been phenomenal," says Terilyn Walton, program coordinator at Children's Healthcare Atlanta. "The monies contributed from this cookbook fundraiser will go a long way to help treat the thousands of children who come through our doors each day."

courtesy of

Friday, August 8, 2008

Opening ceremony ushers in Beijing Olympics

The Summer Games officially open at 8:08 p.m. on 8/8/08. By the way, 8 is a lucky number in China.

By Randy Harvey, Los Angeles Times Staff Writer
5:15 AM PDT, August 8, 2008

BEIJING -- This is the moment -- 8-8-08 at 8:08 p.m. -- that China has been waiting at least seven years for and, in reality, many, many more, going back to the Cultural Revolution when Chairman Mao attempted to return the country to an isolationist past.

But the opening ceremony of the 2008 Summer Olympics (which began at 5:08 a.m. PDT on Friday) is not about China rejoining the world stage. The Chinese did that in 2001, when they were allowed into the World Trade Organization and won the right from the International Olympic Committee to organize the 2008 Summer Games.

to read the rest of this story visit:,0,5281024.story

story courtesy of the LA Times

Sound decisions helped CU 'stay the course'

PEMBROKE PINES, Fla. (8/8/08)--With financial turmoil taking place in South Florida and across the U.S., Power Financial CU is weathering the storm by following a conservative business model that is exceptionally well capitalized, says CEO Allan M. Prindle.

Power Financial is a $480 million asset, Pembroke Pines, Fla.-based credit union with 10 branches and more than 55,000 members.

Recent news has chronicled financial troubles for Fannie Mae, Freddie Mac, IndyMac and Wachovia Corp. Several other large U.S. banks posted weak second-quarter results, and losses have soared from mortgages and other debt.

"Nobody can deny there are challenges facing the financial markets, and as a financial institution, we are highly correlated to those markets," Prindle said.

"Our members are our primary focus, and we manage the credit union accordingly. We are not immune from economic downturns, but we 'stayed the course' for the first half of the year while many others made decisions which now prove to be decisions that were not sound nor prudent," he said.

"Power Financial CU will continue on that course because we think our members deserve financial peace of mind in addition to outstanding service, competitive products and unsurpassed convenience," he added.

Power Financial CU holds no securities with underlying sub-prime backed securities, no commercial mortgage-backed securities or collateralized debt obligations, Prindle said.

"This is the culprit for the majority of the stress that this sector of the financial markets is under, and we are not impacted by those announcements, thanks to our conservative investment strategies," added Prindle. "In fact, we have maintained a more than ample level of liquidity, and as of June 30, had nearly 40% of total assets in available funds that can be accessed immediately. We are certain that this level is far superior to our peers."

In terms of its loan portfolio, Power Financial CU not only has no subprime mortgages in the collection, but also avoided Option Adjustable Rate Mortgage products, no Income Verification products, Negative Amortization products and others that make up the current mortgage financing debacle, Prindle said.

"For unexpected losses, we have always relied on our strong capital, which as of June 30, 2008, is exceptionally well-capitalized with a superior capital ratio in excess of 13%," noted Prindle. "This is what gives us the ability to deal with an economic slowdown, and for our members, [provide] the comfort in our financial soundness. After all, for the last 50-plus years, we have received outstanding satisfaction ratings from our members."

courtesy of

ID theft ring leader--a fed informant--could get life

NEW YORK (8/8/08)--A key figure in data breach theft indictments earlier this week was an informant working with the U.S. Secret Service while he allegedly led an international ring that stole millions of dollars through data breaches against nine retailers, including TJX Cos.

If convicted of all charges, Albert "Segvec" Gonzalez of Miami faces a life term in prison, said U.S. Attorney General Michael B. Mukasey at a news conference in Boston ( Aug. 6 and Miami Herald Aug. 6). Gonzalez is in custody in New York.

He is accused of masterminding the series of data breaches that cost credit unions and other card issuers and their insurance companies millions of dollars.

The indictment said as an informant for the Secret Service, Gonzalez "used sensitive law enforcement warn off conspirators."

The series of breaches took place over four years, beginning in 2004 with the restaurant chain Boston Market. The largest breach, announced in January of 2007 by TJX Cos., compromised at least 45 million cards. Some estimates doubled that figure.

Two other Miami men, Christopher Scott and Damon Patrick Toey, were charged with "wardriving," or driving around commercial areas and using wireless networks to hack into computers.

Other indictments were against Maksym "Maksik" Yastremskiy of Ukraine; Aleksandr "Jonny Hell" Suvorov of Estonia; Hung-Ming Chiu and Zhi Zhi Wang, both of China; Sergey Pavlovich of Belarus; and Dzmitry Burak and Sergey Storchak of Ukraine. A final indictment is known only by an online moniker, "Delpiero." Yastremiskiy allegedly received more than $11 million from operating the ring.

The arrests were the result of a three-year undercover investigation.

courtesy of

Nearly two-thirds of Maine CUs offer fuel assistance loans

WESTBROOK, Maine (8/8/08)--Nearly two-thirds of Maine's credit unions are offering fuel assistance loans with low rates, says the Maine Credit Union League.

Some of the loans have rates as low as 0%, and the average loan rate is 4.97%, the league told Bangor Daily News (Aug. 6).

Many credit unions are offering special weatherization loans to help members make their homes more energy-efficient or to help them buy alternative energy sources, such as pellet stoves, said the league.

"Hopefully, these special rates and other initiatives to help with energy costs being offered by Maine credit unions will provide consumers some relief next winter," said John Murphy, league president.

University of Maine Prof. Habib Dagher told the U.S. Senate's Homeland Security Committee recently that "Maine will likely be the first state to experience a heating state of emergency" (The Ellsworth American Aug. 7).

Eight of every 10 families in the state rely on heating oil to fuel their furnaces. With next winter's heating oil costs predicted to be at least $5 a gallon, the average Maine family will pay $5,000 to heat their home next winter.

Ten years ago Maine families spent less than 5% of their household budgets on energy; today energy accounts for almost 25% of household budgets.

courtesy of

How will auto leasing cutbacks affect CUs?

MADISON, Wis. (8/8/08)--Credit unions should step up marketing their auto loan programs because several factors are working in their favor.

Cutbanks in the auto leasing market, home equity woes and big banks pulling back on lending are opening up more opportunities for credit unions.

Last month, Chrysler and Wells Fargo announced that they are pulling out of the leasing market. U.S. Bank announced that it would no longer accept leases for used cars.

Chrysler and Wells Fargo are leaving the market because securitization is dying, and used- car values are dropping, said Greg Gandolfo, Credit Union Leasing of America (CULA) vice president of business development, CULA is a provider of new- and used- auto leasing for credit unions.

With big lenders pulling out of the market, auto dealers are looking to smaller lenders for leasing. Leasing volume at CULA is up, Gandolfo told News Now.

CULA doesn't have a heavy portfolio concentration of any make or model, according to Gandolfo. The company's highest concentration is with Honda, Toyota and Nissan--though each one equals less than 5% of its total portfolio.

"With this kind of diversification, it is much easier for our remarketing team to sell off our lease vehicles in 15- to 25- vehicle packages directly to auto dealerships for their used-vehicle inventory, instead of sending them to auction," he said.

CU Direct Corp. (CUDL), which does indirect auto lending for credit unions, saw a spike in the number of auto loans it made last month--55,000--"the best month of the year," Tony Boutelle, CUDL president/CEO, told News Now.

The top vehicle funded by CUDL from January 2008 to June 2008 was the Nissan Altima, followed by the Chevrolet Silverado, according to CUDL data.

Besides leasing, home equity woes and banks pulling back on lending are increasing opportunities for credit unions to make auto loans, Boutelle said.

"It's an opportunity [for credit unions] to let members and dealers know they're there to make loans," Boutelle said. "Members need options."

The 72-month and 84-month auto loan programs were created to compete with leases, and now is the time to market them, he added.

About 60% of CUDL's loans are for new credit union members, while 40% are for existing members. As credit unions focus more on existing members, those numbers may shift, Boutelle said.

In general, auto leasing at credit unions is minimal--about 179 credit unions in the U.S. do auto leasing, Boutelle said, citing National Credit Union Administration data.

"Credit union leases represented less than 1% of all credit union auto originations in the first six months of 2008," Bill Meyers, CUDL communications coordinator, told News Now.

CUDL has looked into auto leasing for the past 10-12 years, holding study groups on the subject, but hasn't "gone down that path," Boutelle said. The corporation may choose to get into leasing if its credit unions want it, but will need to figure out how to mitigate the risk involved.

Leasing isn't for everyone, Michael Foti, vice president of lending, Prime Financial CU, Cudahy, Wis., told News Now. "It depends on the person's situation," he said.

Leasing can help make pricier cars, such as BMWs, more attainable. If consumers don't drive over the specified mileage, they can return the car at the end of the lease and receive a new one, he said. Leasing isn't a good option for drivers who frequently travel long distances.

Prime Financial leases through Donald Driver Motors, formerly known as CU Fleet Auto. The credit union receives about 15 to 25 new leases each month.

courtesy of

Two phish sites spoofing CSS no longer in play

MADISON, Wis. (8/8/08)--The Credit Union National Association (CUNA) has shut down two websites that purported to offer a new service through CUNA Strategic Services. The sites were promoted in a phishing e-mail that aimed to gather information for possible identity theft.

Both sites were closed Thursday morning, said Kevin Knope, director of Web Services. More than 100 recipients received the e-mail phishing message and the response rate was high, he said. CUNA has issued a fraud alert.

"This phish has a new twist in that it's the first phish to use the look of CUNA Strategic Services' website," Knope told News Now.

The phishing e-mail targeted AOL users and came from domestic internet service providers in Texas and Georgia, said Knope.

The phish noted that "Credit Union National Association is one of the largest credit union groups in America. In partnership with state credit union leagues, CUNA provides many services to credit unions, including representation, information, public relations, continuing professional education, and business development."

It claimed the newest service added at CUNA on Aug. 1 is "Your Credit Union Rewards You," for credit union members. "Daily 10 random credit union account holders are e-mailed to take the 300$ reward. Completing the application forms on our website takes only 5 minutes," the fake site says.

Neither CUNA nor CUNA Strategic Services offers such a program. CUNA warned recipients not to respond to the sites.

CUNA does not maintain any type of customer/member financial information. No financial institution would request personal identification information over the phone via an e-mail solicitation.

"If you did respond to this e-mail, you should contact your financial institution directly using the phone number provided by that institution," said CUNA.

courtesy of

More CUs report phishing, vishing scams

MADISON, Wis. (8/7/08)--Several more credit unions reported that they have been fraudulently used in phishing and vishing scams that target consumers:

E-mails were sent to Vermont residents by scammers purporting to be from Vermont State Employees CU (VSECU), a $366 million asset, Montpelier, Vt.-based credit union, informing consumers of attempts to steal their personal information by compromising their credit card accounts. The e-mail tells recipients to call a Vermont phone number and asks them for their 16-digit credit card number to reactivate their card. Exploiting the public's increasing knowledge of scams, the e-mail even uses a copyright notice from VSECU at the bottom of the e-mail (The Barre Montpelier Times Argus Aug. 5).

Fraudsters posed as officials from Chesterfield (Va.) FCU, a $52 million asset credit union. The scam began with automated phone calls and then progressed to e-mails--all claiming to come from the credit union. Respondents were given a phone number to call and asked for personal information. In some instances, the phone number was toll free; in others, the phone connection went to Iowa and Oregon. The scam targeted members and nonmembers (Richmond Times-Dispatch Aug 6).

In a scam known as spoofing, thousands of members of Langley FCU, a $1.224 billion asset, Hampton, Va.-based credit union, received telephone calls Friday afternoon, with a recording asking them to call an 877 number that appeared to be from the credit union. When members called the number, they were asked for personal information such as a personal identification number for an account. The phone number has been deactivated by the phone company, according to the credit union ( Aug. 3).

Scammers targeted members of Three Rivers FCU, a $455.5 million asset, Fort Wayne, Ind.-based credit union, with a recorded message telling them to call in because security at the credit union had been breached. Once connected, the respondents are told to press "1" and enter their account number, making the information available to identity thieves. The credit union warned members that its security has not been compromised and that they should not respond to the recording (The Journal Gazette Aug. 6).

A fraudulent e-mail that appeared to be from the National Credit Union Administration (NCUA) that was sent to various credit union members provided a link to a mock-up of the NCUA website. Recipients were asked to provide credit card information and other personal data (Targeted News Service July 29).

courtesy of

China tent-based CU: Quake had financial consequences

CHENGDU, China (8/7/08)--A credit union--now operating from a tent in the earthquake stricken Sichuan Province of China--says the May 12 earthquake has had surprising financial consequences, both for the credit union and the people there.

Xu Yongjun, an employee of the credit union, which was not identified by name, reported that its savings has gone up by $1.5 million since the May 12 earthquake struck the region and left nearly 90,000 people dead or missing (National Public Radio Aug. 6).

Xu Yongjun told NPR that savings rose because people no longer have houses in which to hide their money.

He expressed confidence that China's economy would bounce back to the way it was before May 12, but estimated it would take five years "if things are good," and 10 years, if they are bad.

The earthquake, which registered 8.0 on the Richter scale, caused economic losses of $150 billion, NPR said. Many people are living in tent cities until they move into new prefabricated buildings.

But many have a can-do attitude and already have started microbusinesses from the tents. Examples include a tent supermarket, drink shops, hot pot restaurants, lawyers' offices and accessories stores.

Since May 12, the region has felt 12,600 aftershocks, seven of them above 6.0 on the Richter scale ( Aug. 6). The latest one, registering 6.0, was Tuesday.

courtesy of

Despite arrests, don't let guard down on ID thefts

MADISON, Wis. (8/7/08)--The indictments of 11 people in the largest data breaches in history may be comforting news for consumers, but credit unions must stay on guard to protect their members' data, says CUNA Mutual Group.

"The efforts of law enforcement to bring the perpetrators of these data thefts to justice are commendable," said Jeff Post, president/CEO of CUNA Mutual Group, commenting on the Justice Department's announcement Tuesday that 11 people had been indicted on fraud charges related to thefts at nine retailers, including TJX Cos. and BJ's Wholesale Club.

"These breaches remain a crime of opportunity," Post added. "Data breaches such as TJX are enabled by retailers who continue to store personal account information against card association rules and with disregard for the safety of these very organizations' customer' credit card information. "If merchants would simply follow the card association rules, this supply of plastic card data would not be available to steal," Post said.

Continued vigilance is needed, according to Chuck Cashman, director, credit union protection product management at CUNA Mutual.

"This is just the tip of the iceberg. For every arrest of this magnitude, there are multiple other professional and amateur thieves trying to exploit the system," Cashman said. "If anything, more vigilance is needed since high profile cases inspire copy-cat crimes and challenge the fraud community to further 'beat the system.'"

He noted that the total figure of losses for all these breaches isn't known "but obviously it is in the multi-millions."

The data breaches hurt credit unions, which were among those footing the bill for costs related to reissuing compromised cards, helping members fix problems, and monitoring fraudulent transactions.

CUNA Mutual Group had sued BJ's Wholesale Club to recoup credit unions' claims for losses in that breach. On June 12, the company learned the Massachusetts State Court in Boston granted BJ's and its bank, Fifth Third Bank, their motions for summary judgment in the lawsuit. "Essentially, we lost the first round at the trial court level," said Phil Tschudy, media relations manager at CUNA Mutual. "We respectfully disagree with the Trial Court's decision and have since appealed this decision.

"CUNA Mutual will continue its efforts on behalf of the credit union system to hold merchants accountable and establish a right to fully recover for the losses caused by the failure of merchants and their acquirers to follow the rules prohibiting the storage and retention of credit and debit card data," Tschudy said.

CUNA Mutual views as a "positive development" an appellate court's recent overturning a trial court decision in favor of Pennsylvania State Employees CU in a data breach case.

The company "will also continue to support various league efforts to adopt legislation in their states that would make it clear that merchants are responsible for losses resulting from their failure to follow the rules," Tschudy said.

TJX Cos., whose massive computer data breach affected an estimated 45 million to 94 million credit and debit card numbers, said banks and credit card agencies must work closely with retailers to protect customer privacy.

"The sheer number of retailers attacked by these cyber-criminals demonstrates the much broader challenges in protecting sensitive customer data from this increasing threat," said TJX spokeswoman Sherry Lang (Orlando Sentinel Aug. 6).

The international ring allegedly gained millions of dollars from ATMs using the stolen card numbers and laundered the funds in banks in Eastern Europe (News Now Aug. 6).

courtesy of

Wednesday, August 6, 2008

Bargain shop your way back to school

CHICAGO (8/6/08)--Cash-strapped consumers are tightening their belts as they head into the back-to-school shopping season, with 90% of households planning to change their shopping strategies by searching for more sale items, purchasing only what's needed, and using more coupons ( July 24).

This year could be one of the most challenging seasons for back-to-school shoppers and retailers. To add to the blow, America's Research Group, Charleston, S.C., reports that this summer has seen the worst employment rates for high-school and college students in more than 30 years.

With budgets tight, moms, dads, and kids are seeking the best deals for those back-to-school threads. Consider these strategies to save time and stretch your budget:

Check out thrift stores. As the economy continues to struggle, more consumers are looking to resale shops--and discovering incredible deals. You may have to do some searching through disorganized stores, but go with an open mind and be on the lookout for brand-name clothing at a great price;

Take advantage of state sales-tax holidays.This annual event--in which participating states eliminate sales taxes--is intended to help curb back-to-school costs while also increasing local retailers' sales. Visit to see if your state participates. If you missed it this year, plan ahead for next year.

Ask the boss about employee discounts. Some employers arrange back-to-school employee discounts at local retailers;

Plan your trip. Maximize time and save money on gas by making a list and doing all shopping in a single trip--or consider carpooling; and

Use the Internet. Search for on-line coupons, rebates, and major deals which often appear earlier than the in-store sale and offer more variety. Also, to save trips--which translates into saved time and money--visit This website lets you search a merchandise database of more than 200 shopping malls across the country for an item before you get in the car and make the trip to the mall.

For more information, read "Stop Denying, Start Saving to Cope With Infrequent Expenses," in Home & Family Resource Center.

courtesy of

11 charged in TJX, BJ's Wholesale Club breaches

BOSTON (8/6/08)--Eleven people have been charged with stealing more than 40 million credit and debit card numbers obtained from TJX Cos., BJ's Wholesale Club Inc., and seven other retailers.

They were indicted Tuesday, in what the Justice Department calls the largest, most complex identity-theft case ever prosecuted (, and Aug. 5).

Thousands of credit unions and their members were among those impacted in the thefts. Credit unions and other financial institutions were forced to reissue compromised cards and endure costs related to fraud. Some of the breaches sparked lawsuits by credit unions and by their insurance companies.

The identity theft ring targeted nine U.S. retailers, including TJX, BJ's, DSW Shoe Warehouse, Office Max Inc., Boston Market, Barnes & Noble Inc., Sports Authority, Forever 21, and Dave & Buster's restaurants.

Participants in the ring installed "sniffer" programs on the retailers' networks, allowing them to collect credit card and password information, said Michael Sullivan, U.S. attorney for the District of Massachusetts.

Three people in Boston are charged with hacking into the retailers' wireless computer networks and installing sniffer. They allegedly concealed the data in computer servers they controlled in Eastern Europe and the U.S.

The Justice Department said the charges allege the defendants sold the data over the Internet to others who encoded the stolen information on blank cards and used those cards to withdraw tens of thousands of dollars at a time from ATM machines (The New York Times Aug. 5). They laundered their proceeds through using anonymous Internet-based currencies and channeling funds through bank accounts in Eastern Europe.

Eight people were charged in San Diego with operating an international distribution ring of stolen debit and credit cards. One defendant allegedly received $11 million in proceeds from selling stolen information.

Three of the people charged are U.S. citizens. Others are from Estonia, Ukraine, China and Belarus.

Some of the defendants will face identity theft charges in New York for hacking into the restaurant chain's computer network.

Prosecutors say the scheme was spearheaded by Albert "Segvec" Gonzalez, a Miami man who is being held in jail on the New York charges. He is charged with computer fraud, wire fraud, access device fraud, aggravated identity theft and conspiracy.

courtesy of

Hampel: Fed unlikely to change rates before December

MADISON, Wis. (8/6/08)--As expected, Federal Reserve policymakers Tuesday left the target for the fed funds rate unchanged at 2%. That means credit unions should not expect to see another rate adjustment until December and maybe into 2009, said Credit Union National Association Chief Economist Bill Hampel.

"Because economic conditions are unlikely to change much before the Fed's next meeting in mid-September, and the following meeting is the week before the election, the first time we are likely to see a change in the Fed Funds rate will be in December," Hampel told News Now.

"Even then, CUNA's economists expect that by December both economic growth and inflation will have softened enough that the next change in the fed funds rate won't occur until well into 2009," Hampel added.

Tuesday's decision to leave steady the rates, at which banks borrow from each other, was the second consecutive meeting with no change in the target. The decision leaves the rate at the lowest level since late 2004.

"Although downside risks to growth remain, the upside risks to inflation are also of significant concern to the Committee," said the Federal Open Market Committee in a statement following the meeting.

The Fed also noted that job markets have weakened further and the "financial markets remain under considerable stress. Tight credit conditions, the ongoing housing contraction, and elevated energy prices are likely to weigh on economic growth over the next few quarters."

Fed policymakers also took no action Tuesday on the discount rate, at which banks borrow from the Fed, leaving it at 2.25%. Only Dallas Fed President Richard Fisher voted against Wednesday's decision, instead preferring an increase in the target for the fed funds rate.

courtesy of

NCUA shuts tiny South Carolina CU chartered in 2006

ALEXANDRIA, Va. (8/6/08)--The National Credit Union Administration (NCUA) said yesterday it placed the Port Trust FCU of Charleston, S.C. into liquidation.

NCUA in a release said it made the decision to liquidate the credit union and discontinue its independent operations after determining that "the credit union is insolvent" and had "no prospects for restoring viable operations."

At the time of liquidation, the credit union served 260 members and had assets of approximately $460,915.

NCUA chartered Port Trust FCU in 2006 to serve persons who live, work, worship, attend school in, and businesses and other legal entities located in a community within Charleston and North Charleston, S.C.

NCUA will issue checks to individuals holding verified share accounts in the credit union within one week.

courtesy of

Tuesday, August 5, 2008

Volunteers landscape wounded vet's new Colorado home

GOLDEN, Colo. (8/5/08)--More than 100 volunteers from credit unions and interns of the Democratic National Convention Committee (DNCC) joined Homes for Our Troops and the National Journal Group in a "Volunteer Day" to landscape a home built for a wounded Iraq war veteran.

The volunteers spent Saturday laying sod and landscaping the site around the nearly finished home for Staff Sergeant Travis Strong and his family.

The home in Golden, Colo.--a joint project of Homes for Our Troops, the DNCC, America's Credit Unions, and National Journal Group--will be presented to SSG Strong, his wife Misty, and their two children in a ceremony around this month's Democratic National Convention.

"It truly warms the heart to see so many volunteers spending their Saturday giving back to someone who has given so much to us," said John Gonsalves, president and founder of Homes for Our Troops.

Ground was broken on the home site in April. In June, more than 350 volunteers and skilled labor conducted a three-day "Build Brigade" to construct much of the home's exterior. Since then, volunteers from the Colorado Building and Construction Trades Council have worked on the home's interior. Saturday's effort focused on turning the construction site into a landscaped yard.

Strong lost both legs above the knee as a result of injuries sustained in a rocket-propelled grenade attack in 2006 during his second tour of duty in Iraq for the U.S. Army. The specially adapted home is being built at no cost to his family.

"We're honored to help out in this good work to benefit the family of Staff Sergeant Strong, a true American hero who has served our country honorably at great personal sacrifice," said Leah D. Daughtry, CEO of the DNCC.

Credit unions played an integral part in the effort, through volunteer labor and fundraising to defray costs of both the house and a companion Minnesota project connected with the Republican National Convention. So far, credit unions nationally have raised over $225,000 for the two houses.

"Credit unions operate every day with a 'People Helping People' philosophy," said Daniel A. Mica, president/CEO of the Credit Union National Association (CUNA). "That's why our credit unions and their members have jumped at the opportunity to assist this very deserving soldier and his family, either through fundraising efforts across the country or by volunteering their time in person today."

John Dill, president/CEO of the Credit Union Associations of Colorado and Wyoming, added, "Credit unions here in Colorado are proud to be a part of this project. From the hundreds of volunteers who showed up in June and again here today (Saturday) to the tens of thousands of dollars our credit unions have raised, we are honored to help make real the American dream of a home to call one's own for Travis and his family."

The undertaking is part of a year-long series of service projects the DNCC has organized to give back to the community hosting the 2008 Democratic National Convention. Since last July, the organization has centered its monthly "DNCC Service Days" outings around three areas of importance to the Denver-area community: youth, environmental projects and the combined issues of homelessness and hunger.

CUNA, the Minnesota Credit Union Network, and National Journal Group also are working with Homes for Our Troops and the Republican National Committee on a similar Volunteer Day for the companion veteran's home being built in conjunction with the Republican National Convention. The Volunteer Day for that project, a home in Woodbury, Minn., is scheduled for Aug. 15th.

courtesy of