The Greatest Financial Decision I’ve Made? Joining a Credit Union!
When I was young, my parents taught me to make smart choices about money. As a child, I collected coins I found, saved my babysitting money and stretched my birthday money to make sure I got the most out of every dollar. These lessons helped me to make one of the greatest financial decisions I ever made: joining a credit union.
When I turned 15, I got my first job. I remember proudly clutching my first paycheck – that magical piece of paper that told the world I was on my way to adulthood. That day, my mom took me to the bank to set up a checking and savings account. While we waited in the lobby, I alternated between being nervous and excited. When we were finally called into the tiny cubicle, the account manager began to explain the terms of each account with a cool detachment. After a few minutes, I felt like a bobble head – nodding without really understanding what she was saying. Ten minutes later I had my brand new checkbook in my hand and a new set of worries and responsibilities on my mind.
Over the years I slowly watched my interest rate drop until I was making cents in interest each year. I called the bank and asked about options to get a better interest rate. The woman I spoke with and told me all I had to do to get a better rate was to “simply” deposit $20,000 more in my account. I was sure she was joking, so I laughed, responding, “Oh is that all?” She said, completely seriously, “Yes, it’s that simple!” That was the moment I knew I needed to look elsewhere for my banking needs.
I had heard about credit unions, but didn’t know much about them. I always assumed they were just like a bank: filled with fees, low interest rates and detached employees. I went online to my local credit union’s website and was surprised to find local discounts, contests and workshops about finances, loans and retirement, in addition to the usual banking offerings. I decided to stop into a branch to get some more information.
The first thing I noticed in the lobby of the credit union was a pot of coffee and a plate of cookies. I wondered if they were having some sort of promotion, but didn’t see any signs. I was greeted by a friendly woman named Pam and was invited to sit with her to talk. I asked her about the coffee and cookies and she said they always had them for members to enjoy. When she asked how she could help me, I told her about my disappointment with my current bank and explained I was looking for something that suited me better. I expected her to launch into an explanation of benefits of each of the accounts available, but instead, she asked me questions about myself: details about my family, my job and what I was looking for in a financial institution. She explained that they had a few different options and wanted to determine which would be the best fit for me. She gave me information and answered my questions without making me feel rushed or pressured. I felt as though I was talking to a friend instead of an account manager. After 45 minutes, I was confident I had made the right choice.
I’ve been with my credit union for 6 months and I have never been happier. Not only do I have a better interest rate, I have saved money on tickets to a local theme park and attended a workshop on saving for retirement. Most importantly, I feel understood. I know that if I have a question, I can call the credit union or stop in the branch and I will get my answer, explained in a way that I understand.
I know that if I have kids, I will follow my parents’ example and teach them the value of smart financial decisions, with one addition piece of advice: join a credit union!
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PFP | The Family Security Plan® has been working in the credit union movement since 1973 and remains committed today to unite the nationwide community by bringing valuable information about the lives of over 400,000 credit union members who know us, like us and trust us to provide them and their families the foundation for a secure future.
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Written by: Sarah Way