Born in the mid-1980’s, I am one of approximately 80 million Millennials, or Gen-Yers, living in the United States. Does this generational subset define who I am, my wants and preferences? To a certain extent . . . Yes. There is no denying that the high levels of unemployment and student loan debt coupled with an economy slow to improve, have had an effect on how I live day-to-day. These economic factors have heightened the awareness level of one key aspect of life . . . finances.
Post undergraduate education, I found myself in the same position as many Millennials. Frustrated with the lack of employment opportunities available that would meet my financial needs, I spent a couple of years living back at home with a part-time job that would cover the cost of a graduate education. Employment levels were sure to improve over those few years, right? After a year of graduate schooling, I found myself with nothing more than a spruced up resume.
Did I have concerns for my financial future? Absolutely, but, instead of simply swaying with the economic tides, I was determined to create a stable foothold for myself and set goals for the future:
Goal 1: Evaluate my financial institution.
As a customer of a big bank, high fees began to cripple my savings.
- No longer having a “student” account, I found myself paying to save money as minimum balance requirements soared.
- The renewal rates on CDs opened as a young saver were plummeting to a fraction of a percentage.
- Technological advances started to make it easier to automate bill payments; however, if not perfectly timed, the high rate of overdraft fees was not “money well spent”.
- When taking out an auto loan from the bank to finance my first car, I found myself asking “That interest rate is how much?”
It was costing me more money to save money at a bank then it would to squirrel away money under my mattress.
When I began my first full-time job, I was introduced to the concept of a credit union; of course, I had previously taken notice of credit unions in the community, but was under the assumption that you needed to belong to an elite club to join. Was I wrong!
It was not until a local credit union visited my workplace that I decided to get a bit more information. “You are saying that by simply being employed here and living in your field of membership, I can join the credit union . . . What’s the catch?”
Turned out, there was no catch! I instantly became a member, not a customer, and the credit union covered the $10 deposit to join! Still skeptical about trusting a financial institution, I was intrigued by the benefits and my decision paid off.
- Within the first week, I transferred my direct deposit to the credit union with no minimum balance requirements.
- I added an Identity Theft Protection deduction for a very small monthly fee – protecting one’s financial identity has never been more important, and tricky, than it is today.
- I made a trip out to a local branch and was greeted with the friendly smile of a Member Service Representative and a fresh-baked chocolate chip cookie! While there, the MSR demonstrated a wealth of knowledge regarding the financial services offered by the credit union. “I think this is a place that I can really save money and gain financial knowledge.”
- I questioned the distance of branches and how that would affect my withdrawing & depositing money; turned out not to be a problem! The credit union was part of a network with surcharge free ATMs in many convenient locations near me; no more high ATM fees! The credit union also had a mobile APP for the smart phone; I would be able to deposit checks simply by taking a photo and processing through the APP!
- Now let’s revisit that auto loan I mentioned in the aforementioned list. While the interest rate offered by the bank was upwards of 5%, the credit union was able to present me with a 1.24% refinance rate!
Turns out, evaluating my financial institution was one giant leap forward in positioning myself for a stronger financial future.
Stay tuned as I continue Making My Way as a Millennial!
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Part 2 of this series is published! To view Part 2 Click Here.
Written By: Amanda Keefe