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NFCC Poll Reveals Consumer Preferences When Seeking Financial Help; CUs Ready to Help
Tuesday, September 24, 2013 7:00 AM

The August poll hosted on the National Foundation for Credit Counseling (NFCC) website revealed that when consumers are in financial distress, they prefer reaching out to a qualified professional for help as opposed to other options.

Most poll respondents, 45 percent, indicated they would contact a certified financial professional, while fewer would utilize online education, a financial self-help tool, or attend a financial workshop.

The actual NFCC August poll question and answer results are below:

Q: If I were having financial trouble, for help resolving it I would most likely

  1. Reach out to a certified financial professional = 45 percent
  2. Attend a group workshop related to my concern = 3 percent
  3. Take advantage of online resources related to my concern = 35 percent
  4. Utilize a financial self-assessment tool to help pinpoint the problem = 17 percent

Adelina Gomez Abshire of Beacon FCU says they are poised to assist members in need of financial advice.

“We have several employees that are certified counselors.  Our financial counselors are available to members that need guidance, or may be in a financial crisis to find a solution or simply answer questions,” she says. “We are ‘hands-on’ in all of the communities that we serve.”

Gina G. McNeal, director of Financial Education with Border FCU and a HUD Certified Housing Counselor, says they too assist their members by providing one to one financial counseling and education.

“Border FCU provides financial education/awareness at different events in town such as Health Fairs, immigration fairs, PTO’s, non-profit organization meetings, etc.  We also partner with the Colonias Initiative Project, Housing Authorities, Schools, non-profit organizations, and others to promote our financial education and financial counseling services,” says McNeal.

A Texas REAL Solutions credit union, Abshire says Beacon FCU taps into the vast resources available to them through the Cornerstone Credit Union League and the Cornerstone Credit Union Foundation.

“Beacon FCU was the first credit union in Texas to have a CU 4 for Financial Education Reality Fair, which is a program of Real Solution,” notes Abshire. “I am one of the financial presenters and it is rewarding to be able to talk to young people and explain to them needs vs. wants, how crucial it is to have a financial plan and to set goals.”

Abshire says it also makes her proud to be known as a financial educator in Lee College in Baytown, DeWalt High School in La Porte, La Porte Junior High, Ashbel Smith Elementary, Peter E Highland High School, Lee High School, Goose Creek Memorial High School, Seabrook Intermediate, Communities in Schools Program, Migrant Program, and the list can go on.   

“Beacon FCU has and will continue to give our young people the tools necessary to be financially fit,” assures Abshire.

Additionally, Abshire says the credit union’s collection department has been very proactive with their members that may be experiencing financial difficulties.

“If they see a member is in trouble financially, they will refer them to one of our financial counselors,” says Abshire. “We’ve seen positive response because of this effort, and hearing our members’ testimonials on how they appreciate our hand of hope makes our commitment a reality.” 

Just like at Beacon FCU, McNeal says many of the members at Border FCU who receive one to one financial counseling are referred from the collections department.  

“When members are at risk or start falling behind on their loan payments they are referred to financial counseling for assistance,” notes McNeal.

Those members who accept financial counseling assistance must work with a financial counselor to prepare a budget and conduct a cash flow analysis. 

“Based on their current situation we try to identify the best possible options for them to get out of their current financial distress,” explains McNeal. 

McNeal says some of the referrals for one-one-one financial counseling also come from the credit union’s lending department.

“Loan Officers are trained to identify those members whose credit history and/or scores could use improvement,” says McNeal. “We also offer a ‘credit reestablishment’ loan for members who do not qualify for a loan based on normal lending guidelines.”

According to McNeal, the members are granted the first loan regardless of credit as long as they attend credit counseling and meet other criteria.  During the credit counseling appointment the member along with the counselor’s guidance develops an action plan to improve his/her credit history. 

“The plan is a six to eight month plan so that when the member returns to renew the loan a year later there would have been credit improvement,” McNeal explains. “If there is no credit improvement, the subsequent loan is denied.  The loan can be granted at a later time only when there has been credit improvement.” 

Border FCU also reaches out to about 400 – 500 High School students every school year by providing financial awareness classes at school in budgeting, debt management and credit reports.  Once a year, the credit union provides a week long Financial Youth Camp targeting 14 – 18 year olds.  This financial camp has been very successful.  We have many returning participants year after year. 

McNeal says Border FCU has been very successful in assisting not only its members, but also the community at large.

“Spanish speaking members who do not want to come in the office we have ‘El Poder es Tuyo’ (The Power is Yours). Located on our website, this online financial tool features articles, videos and exercises focused on money management.”