The P.A.

A weekly address from Patrick Adams,
President of St. Louis Community Credit Union

Well-Meaning Legislation Can Be A Zero-Sum Game

On July 27th, 2009, posted in: Uncategorized by

Here’s my opinion…Sometimes I worry that the legislative leaders of this great country may be out of touch with what’s going on around the kitchen table at Joe Six-Pack’s house. They all purport to be in touch with their constituency. Yet some best-intentioned piece of legislation makes its way from a bill to a law, and suddenly the rest of us outside the beltway respond with a collective gasp, a quizzical look (like the quirky head cock of your puppy the first time it saw you in a bathing suit), followed by some under-the-breath commentary not usually fit for mixed company. What happened?

Yes, I’m throwing a wide net here. But it has been my experience that too many of the very laws that are being passed to protect the consumer end up inadvertently putting the Average Joe in the penalty box. In other words, well-meaning laws that receive the collective blessing by our elected officials somehow become a burden to our being. I bet you’re thinking…How’s that?

Have you ever heard of the “zero-sum” game? “Zero-sum” is synonymous with “somebody’s gonna pay,” and is a tricky way for those in the business world to pass along the costs related to the new or amended law to the lowest common denominator. With all due respect to my fellow consumption minions, consider you, me and Joe Six-Pack as the lowest common denominator. True enough, we’ll “pay the freight”…in one way or another.

Worse yet, imagine the elimination of competition and consumer choice because a well-intentioned piece of legislation became such a burden that smaller institutions could not bear the cost of compliance and quietly disappear. Oh, the big behemoths would like nothing better. So is that legislation costly to the “man on the street?” You betcha!

Think for just a second. For those of you not paying close attention to media reports (who can blame you), please note that financial institutions on the brink of Armageddon just a few months ago are already posting monster profits. For-profit bankers are very smart (read: dumb like a fox). HMMMMM.

Switching gears…there are two parties that should be active in the assurance that consumers do not suffer in their financial services relationship: the consumer and the financial institution (the Feds not so much). The consumer should be smart; the financial institution should be responsible and competitive; and lastly, the government should provide oversight. Each has a role – two active, and one a little less active.

As an example, I know thousands of people who have never paid a bank fee in their entire life. Why? They’ve got good money management behaviors. Then why would they want Uncle Sam to determine what a financial institution is allowed to charge in the way of fees or rates? Well, in all fairness, some folks aren’t going to change their behavior and might need a watchful eye – so oversight is needed to some degree.

But I’ve got a better idea. Consumers should vote with their feet! Walk away from the place that’s gouging you, and find a financial institution that matches your behaviors. Don’t wait for the government to fix it…you fix it (your behaviors and your choice in financial institutions); i.e. move your account someplace else.

Remember the “zero-sum” discussion a few paragraphs back? Trust me…if the Feds start legislating fees and the like, you will pay for it in some other service at most institutions. Your savings rates will be less, your loan rates will be higher, and/or your service hours will be cut. Believe this…the business world will get back what is taken from them by government regulation…and as they say, you won’t even know what hit you.

If the government intervenes in one arena, the for-profit bank will covertly recover the costs or lost opportunity elsewhere. Yep…they’ll get you, quietly and legally. Seriously, it’s best that you make the decision (not Washington D.C.) and go elsewhere.

Be a smart consumer. Change financial institutions. St. Louis Community Credit Union might be a good choice.

St. Louis Community Credit Union Is COOL

On July 20th, 2009, posted in: Uncategorized by

The Center for Economic and Entrepreneurial Literacy (CEEL) reminds the general public that financial forethought can help you be a smarter consumer as it relates to avoiding fees and the like. I couldn’t agree more. Having a plan and thinking ahead is essential to avoiding the pitfalls of allowing emotion to overcome rationale. In other words, don’t make the mistake of managing your money to meet the whims and wants of the moment. That’s where you pay fees and penalties.

While I had never heard of CEEL prior to this weekend, I like their style. It aligns with another organization of which I have intimate knowledge – COOL. The Center for the Opportunity of a Lifetime (COOL) is more commonly known as St. Louis Community Credit Union. Yeah, that’s right…if you want to align with the words of wisdom brought to us by CEEL, then you should seek out COOL. It’s what we do…we give you and your fellow members an opportunity to manage your money, as opposed to your money managing you.

James Bowers, managing director of CEEL, stated that “economic illiteracy is at the heart of our current economic crisis.” To paraphrase some of the additional comments of Mr. Bowers, he goes on to encourage consumers to have family budgets, to read the fine print, to learn the facts related to borrowing money, and to understand the basic facts of economics and how they affect you and your family. Bravo, Mr. Bowers, bravo!

COOL is where you should be. At COOL, there isn’t much fine print and certainly none that is designed to penalize you for not paying attention. Go to the COOL web site to gain financial education (it’s free). COOL has great loan rates and loan products that help you avoid the traps of payday lenders. COOL has a means by which you can re-build your credit score. COOL helps you with an understanding of basic economics by providing you with low cost loans and fees coupled with some of the best deposit rates in the region.

CEEL refers to the fact that, according to a 2008 study from Bankrate.com, a bounced check fee is now close to $30. At COOL, the fee is $15. CEEL tells us that $27.50 is the average overdraft fee (up from $25 last year). At COOL, the overdraft fee is $15 – not up from last year or the year before, or the year before that, or the one before that, or ever. That’s right…COOL has never raised the overdraft fee. It’s the same as the day we introduced the program.

Follow the advice of CEEL and find your way to COOL. Just like CEEL, we want you to be a smart consumer as well. St. Louis Community Credit Union is COOL. Opportunity is what we give.

The Credit Union Helps Make St. Louis An All-Star Town

On July 13th, 2009, posted in: Uncategorized by 1 Comment

It’s “All-Star Week” in River City. Major League Baseball has brought their mid-season classic to our fair city, complete with the fanfare and regalia fit for baseball’s royalty.

Welcome one and all! But I have to tell you that St. Louis has been loaded with all-stars long before those guys in cleats showed up. We’re home to many unsung all-stars who are doing the little things every day to insure that our city is a great place to live, work, worship and go to school. Yeah, I’m beaming…St. Louis is awesome!

My friend Don said it best. “Doing the little things lead you to the big successes. You can’t build the big building until you fix the screen door on your neighbor’s house.” What a great metaphor for what makes a baseball all-star, a community all-star and an all-star city.

First, you have to be great at the fundamentals. Mowing the widow’s yard every week is what all-stars do. All-stars fill up the food pantries for those less fortunate; they tack up the shutters on the old man’s house at the end of the block; serve as the neighborhood crossing guard; provide financial education to help folks get ahead; and generally speaking, they respect and provide for each other.

Well, if Don’s idea of an all-star is right (which it is), then St. Louis is well deserved of this year’s MLB All-Star Game. Really, what’s being showcased this week is all of the fine people in St. Louie, Louie…and there are plenty.

Like the city, we’re loaded with all-stars at the Credit Union. Our employees are a part of what is aptly defined in the aforementioned paragraphs. They are the people who help to make this city the jewel of Mid-America. Our community relations, our give-back to our members, and the countless hours of volunteer work are what make the staff of SLCCU a team full of all-stars.

Think about this as just one example…our Freedom Loan (a payday loan alternative) has saved our members somewhere around $3 million over the past two years. No kidding! You heard right – I said three million. You know what $3 million represents…full food pantries; neighborhoods full of good-looking shutters, and lots and lots of beautiful screen doors. I’m glad St. Louis Community Credit Union is part of the reason we’re an all-star town.

To those who participate in America’s pastime at the highest level, welcome to St. Louis…and let’s play ball!

Together, We Can Build A Brighter Tomorrow

On July 7th, 2009, posted in: Uncategorized by

I’m excited about the future. No, really, I am. One of the great alchemies of all time is the ability of an over-the-top optimist to convert the worst economic calamity our country has seen in 85 years into a warm and fuzzy feeling of hope. But, that’s me.

True enough, maybe I’m just drunk on the American spirit as I celebrate the 4th of July. But this country is great, and the people who make it up…well, if we’re nothing else, the citizens of the good ol’ US of A are never to be underestimated. When the stuff hits the fan, we rally together and get through it.

Post-recession (the operative word being “post”), a new consumer will emerge and St. Louis Community Credit Union will be right there ready to help. We crawled into the foxhole together when the economic bombs started dropping, and when the smoke clears we’ll crawl back out – and together we’ll begin rebuilding. Here’s how…

First, in the new economy, it will be cool to save money. That’s right. Your newfound thriftiness is a great lifestyle choice. Nobody forced you to do it. You did it because you’ve come to realize that the world is a little better place when one has an “emergency” fund to fall back on during those tougher times. I think our mommas called it “saving for a rainy day.” In a post-recession world, we will save more – and that is a great thing to do. And if you’re going to save, you might as well do it with the Credit Union. After all, we have some of the best rates in the region on certificate of deposit accounts and money market accounts.

Second to our post-recession recovery is that our home’s value will come back…slowly.
We have learned that our home as an investment has risk – and just like every other risk – we can lose. However, our home still represents the American Dream. We will be more hesitant to borrow long-term against our property to satisfy our short-term desires. You will see more Americans do less borrowing against their homes for vacations and the like. The vacation is over in seven days. The second mortgage payment lasts considerably longer.

Lastly, because you are borrowing less, you will improve your credit score. That’s right! My guess is that you will pay down your current loans without stacking on new debt. The combination bodes well for an increase in your credit score and the subsequent decrease in your cost of borrowing money. When it’s time to get the next car loan, see us. We have low rates that reward your good credit. That, in turn, lets you save more…and now we’re making headway!

In a post-recession America, we will willingly save and borrow in a more prudent and cost-effective manner. As I said earlier, on the other side of this “wild ride,” we will crawl out of the foxhole together to insure a brighter tomorrow.