Giving the Gift of Savings – to Ourselves and Others

America Saves Week begins Sunday, February 22, and the event comes this year as consumers all across the country rededicate themselves to the principle of saving to buy later instead of charging to buy now. With this in mind, here are two credit union savings programs that crossed my desk this week that I thought I would share with you.

The Rainy Day Savings Account – Truliant FCU

Truliant’s Rainy Day Savings Account is based on the idea that pennies add up over time. On a daily basis, the credit union sweeps the change in member checking accounts to this special savings account. For new savers,  this product will teach both the power of compounding and persistence when it comes to saving money – and hopefully open the door to a new awareness of how people can take charge of their lives by paying themselves first.

The Match Savings Program – The World Council of Credit Unions

WOCCU’s recently-announced Match Savings Program allows credit union people worldwide to promote savings among impoverished  people living in rural Mexico. People who need to pay for basic things such as shoes and school gear for kids — or even a trip to the dentist — open savings accounts. As these new savers contribute to their credit union  accounts, they are matched by your contributions to the program.

All contributions are tax deductible, but the real value lies in helping people empower themselves. Times are tough and extra money is hard to find these days, but I hope you’ll give thought to supporting this wonderful program.

There’s also a Social Networking component to the Match Savings Program, so even if you can’t contribute directly to the program – you can still contribute.

The economic crisis has reminded everyone of the basic value of pay-as-you-go. Kudos to both Truliant and WOCCU for their work, and to all credit unions that are continuing to promote thrift to their membership.

The Nature of Cooperation

There’s a really outstanding post today on Evolutionary Biologist Olivia Judson’s Wild Side blog on the New York Times web site. Titled A Mutual Affair, Judson’s post explains some of the cooperative relationships that exist among animal species, including the living arrangement of the shrimp and goby (a small fish).

Judson writes that, “The shrimp build and maintain a burrow, which the goby and shrimp live in together. Each shrimp works hard, shoveling sand out of the front entrance like a miniature bulldozer.

“The goby just sits in the entrance of the burrow, keeping guard and warning the shrimp, which is nearly blind, of danger. At any sign of danger — a diver coming too close, a passing predator — the goby darts into the burrow. If the goby zooms in, the shrimp hastily retreats deep inside. And before the shrimp emerges from the burrow, it touches the goby’s tail with its long antennae. To show it’s safe to come out, the goby gently wiggles its tail. When the shrimp is out of the burrow, it keeps one antenna touching the goby. If the goby suddenly retreats, so does the shrimp.”

Judson explains this arrangement as benefiting both parties – the goby without the shrimp has no burrow to retreat to and is soon killed by predators, while the shrimp without the goby will not grow as quickly.

Judson’s post reminds us that nature (and humankind by extension) is about interdependence & mutuality … cooperation if you will. (OK OK, it’s also about the lion eating the wildebeest, and JPMorgan Chase eating Bear Stearns).  

But credit unions will continue to be strong if we act more like the goby and shrimp, and less like the lion and wildebeest.