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State Employees’ Credit Union Helps Seniors with New Reverse Mortgage Product

(Special thanks to SECU’s Marlon Lewis for coordinating the visit with Arabelle and conducting the interview! Arabelle’s comments will be shared with the NC Congressional Delegation prior to Hike the Hill this month.)

Like many seniors, Arabelle Plonk’s home represents her financial security blanket. The 82-year-old Plonk, who has called her North Raleigh residence “home” since 1967, watches her finances very carefully.

A friendly sort with a quick sense of humor, Plonk has had her share of challenges over the years. Her husband passed away in 1970, leaving her with three children to raise and a home to maintain.

Having navigated those waters nicely, Plonk’s senior years have brought a new set of challenges. Things like home maintenance and health care costs combined to strain her budget and add stress to her life.

Over the past few years, Reverse Mortgages have been introduced to assist seniors like Arabelle. While they can and do help, many of these products come at a steep cost – some contain incredible servicing fees and other unfriendly terms.

To help bring some sanity and fair play to this line of the mortgage market, State Employees’ Credit Union has stepped up with its own Reverse Mortgage product. Unlike other lenders, the SECU solution comes with much lower fees and a much clearer understanding of the total cost of the product.

In the above video, Arabelle Plonk talks about how SECU’s Reverse Mortgage has helped stabilize her financial situation. Plonk, who previously held a Reverse Mortgage with another lender, now has financial flexibility and peace of mind that was missing before.

Instead of worrying about the cost of her prescription medications and home maintenance, she can instead focus her attention on her weekly ballroom dance classes and occasional nights out for dinner with friends — as it should be!  

SECU has closed more than 80 Reverse Mortgages since starting the program last fall. To their credit, SECU rolled this new product out just as the credit crisis was gaining a full head of steam. It’s another example of how credit unions are trying to help people in some very tangible ways during the recession.

With the Baby Boomers beginning to retire, products like this one will become more and more important to people who, like Arabelle, wish to remain independent, financially secure – and in their homes.


Truliant FCU Shines in Media Outreach in Credit Crisis

This is a bit of an update to the July 16th post about the credit crisis, and the insurance protection credit union members enjoy through NCUSIF. Credit unions across the state and nation have been busy sharing  important information with members during these uncertain times.

Truliant FCU has really done a masterful job of getting this information in front of the media through timely press releases. Last week, the credit union sent out a press release showing their mortgage closings shot up in the first six months of the year, even as the real estate market in Forsyth County and the Piedmont Triad struggled.   

A key quote from this press release:

“Our mortgage department stays extremely busy,” said Marc Schaefer, President/CEO of Truliant Federal Credit Union. “We take the necessary steps and time to analyze each member’s needs to ensure they understand all of their options and the costs associated with each. By placing this information within the context of all their financial needs we help them purchase a home that they can both enjoy and afford. As a credit union, we are member-owned and pride ourselves on doing what is best for our members.”

This quote really pushes out some clear points of differentiation for Truliant and just about every other credit union in America!

Of course, the IndyMac bank failure a couple of weeks ago also generated a lot of concern, and Truliant is taking the exceptionally wonderful step of scheduling seminars to help members understand and maximize share insurance protections. This info was also sent out to the media.

This information may or may not end up in newspapers or other forms of media – a lot of times, good news gets ignored at the expense of the sensational. And that’s too bad.

But at a clear inflection point in the economy and the financial services sector, these press releases do help Truliant differentiate itself in the eyes of reporters and editors. And in a movement that outsiders don’t understand very well, and the media sometimes forgets about, that can’t help but be positive. Keep it up!

Why Was I Dreading This Letter?

As a long-time credit union member, I’ve come to expect that I’ll be treated differently than a bank customer (AKA profit center, but I digress). So why had I been dreading the letter I got yesterday, announcing the reset of my two year ARM?

It’s probably all the news stories I’ve seen – earnings are challenging for banks and credit unions, there’s the fear of job losses, and the increasing loan delinquencies that come in a bad economy. Plus I knew my credit union could “play by the rules” of the ARM and bump up my APR on the loan by one percent, no questions asked (which in the wake of the above headlines, had become my expectation).    

It’s human nature I guess to let go of the truth about our own situation when we see a different (and in this case scarier) reality happening to others.

All across the country, people like me are opening letters from their bank – ARM resets are going up because “by the rules” they can, and credit card & other rates are heading up. All because numbers have to be hit, Wall Street fat-cats have to be pleased, and capital reserves have to be rebuilt in the wake of loans the banks shouldn’t have made in the first place.    

But I am a credit union member, and this is the notice I got in the mail: the APR on my mortgage for the next two years is adjusting DOWNWARD 50 basis points, to 4.75%.

Why is this? Because my credit union isn’t looking out for Wall Street or trying to milk a number – they’re looking out for me. 

It’s just one more – very personal – example of how credit unions are different from banks.