Wednesday, November 23, 2005

A new tradition for after Turkey Day

Here’s a refreshing thought…instead of shopping on the day after Thanksgiving, just BUY NOTHING! I first heard about Buy Nothing Day (BND) a few years ago when I was living in Boston. At the time, it was quite easy for me to participate in BND because I had no money to spend anyway. Considering the fact that I dislike traffic and crowds and that I am almost the opposite of a shopaholic (would that be a shopaphobe?), it’s almost like this “holiday” was made just for me.

Now, I know there are good sales the day after Thanksgiving and I am not morally against going out and spending money, but the money I’d save wouldn’t mean as much to me as spending that time in ways I truly enjoy. So, if you're the least bit like me, start a new holiday tradition this year and skip the malls on Friday. You might just like it!

Monday, November 21, 2005

Resource for Simplifying the Holidays

Simplify, simplify, simplify! I’ve always been a big fan of making things simple and a few years ago I came across this great organization called Center for the New American Dream. Their mission statement says: We work with individuals, institutions, communities and businesses to conserve natural resources, counter the commercialization of our culture and promote positive changes in the way goods are produced and consumed.

I thought I’d share this resource with you because as the holidays approach, they can be a voice of reason for those who are stressed out by shopping and to-do lists. Their website contains information on how to live consciously, buy wisely and make a difference. It’s a great place to visit for inexpensive and meaningful holiday gift ideas, or for inspiration on how to make your holiday special.

Speaking of gift ideas, the Center recently conducted a holiday poll in which 62% of respondents said they were going to buy gifts this year that encourage saving, such as piggy banks and savings bonds. If you need help in that department, may I suggest your local credit union? ;)

Thursday, November 17, 2005

Props To Tina Hall

OK, OK, I have to admit, my true motive for this post is to prove to Laurel that I CAN insert a link without screwing up the spacing of this blog (she and Terrell have teased me behind my back because I can't seem to get links right.)

Check out our own Tina Hall in the news. Way to go Tina!

Click on this link.

All kidding aside, I am pretty proud to have a co-worker that won a WORLD award. I mean, winning state and national awards is cool, but to win something that the whole WORLD participated in, is pretty darn impressive. Verity rocks.

Wednesday, November 16, 2005

Getting Out From Under a Stigma

We are constantly challenged as a credit union to dispel the myth that credit unions are clueless when it comes to mortgage loans. I’ve heard it’s true that for a long time credit unions did not dabble much in real estate and that it was slow going in the beginning for credit unions to earn their place within the mortgage industry. However, times have changed and credit unions now are just as savvy as any other financial institution.

Due to a few inexperienced credit unions, many realtors and builders continue to have a preconceived notion that going to a credit union for a mortgage will be more hassle than it’s worth.

Personally, I have a hard time with this. From my own experiences, I have felt the impact that this stigma can have on a potential homebuyer. When I purchased my current home, we felt the prejudice not only from our realtor, but also from our builder… and they knew I worked in the mortgage department! It made an already stressful situation even more so.

I did explore going with the builder’s preferred lender. It makes sense as a buyer to research all your options. I spoke with a representative from the lender and I wasn’t impressed. It was very impersonal – I felt like just another number; it was expensive - I would have been paying almost $1,000 more to use them over my own credit union (before taking my employee benefits into account); and it was a mortgage broker so they had less control over what happened with my loan than an institution that is lending their own money.
This coupled with my own experience within our department confirms my confidence in Verity Credit Union’s mortgage programs and staff. It makes my job much easier when I truly believe in the services I am selling. Here’s why I continue to stand behind our mortgage department…

< Our staff is fantastic! Everyone has worked for the credit union for at least three years, most over five. They have been in the industry for far longer… many are creeping up to 20 years! Multiply that by the number of staff members on our team and you have a lot of experience behind each and every loan!

< Not only is our staff experienced, but they are conscientious as well. If a loan officer doesn’t believe that doing a loan for a member is going to benefit them, they’ll say so. I have sat at my desk and overheard Tony numerous times tell various members that a refinance may not be the best option for them at this time. I’ve also heard Wendy counsel members wanting to buy a house, that they should wait another year to improve their buying power.

< Our programs and fees are a great deal! As a not-for-profit organization, we only charge our members a 1% origination fee and any third party fees incurred during the process. This can mean a lot of savings to our members! I first truly realized the impact of this when a Verity staff member asked me to review a Good Faith Estimate that her brother had received from a mortgage broker. I went through it and circled all the standard fees, I then added up the extras. The extras added up to over $1500! I couldn’t believe it!

At Verity Credit Union we continually work to get out from under the stigma that we don’t know what we are doing. But it’s a slow process. While it can be frustrating, I do feel that we are doing what we can to serve our members and I only hope that through our constant efforts, we can help our members and our community not only become homeowners, but feel confident in their decision.

Tuesday, November 15, 2005

Ho-Ho-How Much???

Holiday shopping season is in full swing. I was up near Alderwood mall this weekend and it was a madhouse. It definitely motivated me to get my shopping over with as quickly as possible, or just do it all online. Anything to avoid the traffic, the crowds and the endless loop of Christmas music.

According to the National Retail Federation , the average American consumer plans to spend approximately $738 this holiday season. I’m sure there is some kind of formula they use to come up with this figure, but most people don’t think about the calculations involved. They simply think that “average American consumer” means their friends and neighbors and every Tom, Dick and Harry. And this might make them feel that $738 is a reasonable amount of money to spend, which could be a huge mistake. For example, I have no business spending that kind of money. I only have three people in my life that I splurge on for Christmas, and I will probably spend about $100 on each of them. Then, I will spend between $10 - $15 on friends, and another $50 on charity. Overall, I might spend around $450, which is still a hefty amount of money.

Every person’s situation is going to be different, so I’m sure for some people the projected $738 might even be on the conservative side. But as a young adult with a modest salary, I think it’s best to plan ahead, look for sales, get creative (think homemade gifts) and don't go overboard.

Monday, November 07, 2005

full-time teller; part-time recording artist

I’m very proud of the fact that Verity has 100% total creative control of our radio commercials. Not only do we write the content, we use our own voice talent. That’s right! Those aren’t actors, folks. Those are real, all-natural Verity employees.

If you’ve ever heard our radio commercials, you know they are unique. And whether you like them or not, you have to admit that they catch the ear. Personally, I love hearing my co-workers on the radio because we make sure the lines they read are true to their own personality. For example, one of my favorite lines was from Veniacha (who at the time worked in the call center) who said, “When you call it’s like a ray of sunshine coming through the phone.” Now, if you knew Veniacha, you would get it. This is totally something she would say.

I’ve been featured on the radio twice now, and I have to say that I cringe whenever I hear my own voice. But, I’m willing to suffer a little for the good of the team. And luckily a lot of us around here don’t take ourselves too seriously because otherwise we wouldn’t have been able to do a commercial that pokes fun at our softball team or calls out our most dedicated Fantasy Football players.

So, the next time you hear a Verity ad on the radio, turn it up and get to know us a little. We’re real people, just like you…even if we are big-time radio stars.

25 and Younger are the Fastest Growing Group of Homeowners

We all know that the housing market in Seattle is booming! Speaking from recent experience, the prices in Seattle can be pretty high. It is for this reason, that an article I ran across in the Credit Union Times just amazed me. The article cited that more younger consumers are buying homes everyday and the fastest growing age group of homeowners are those 25 or younger. I don’t know about you, but that seems particularly young.

I want to say kudos to anyone at any age that takes the time to save up and buy a house. There are some great financial options available when people decide to buy a house and I suppose that makes it easier for everyone to make their homeowner dreams come true!

Sunday, November 06, 2005

Link To Article About Our Blog

Blog article.

EEEW... I Didn't Know They Made Those

My husband came home from the grocery store yesterday with a bag full of Ricola's. I looked at them and asked him if he was starting to feel sick. He said, "no. Put a handful in your pocket!" I knew instantly what he was talking about because the day before I had heard the commercials for the Mystery Cougher that Ricola is doing. If you hear someone cough, offer them a Ricola and they are the Mystery Cougher, you can win one million dollars.

We weren't quite sure of all the details of the promotion so I Googled it. I saw a Mystery Cougher blog and got excited. I had visions of another person, as interested in winning money as my husband and I are, giving us insights, strategies, and other such blog stuff. But when I visited the blog, it was an advertising page!

You can't call yourself a blog if all you are doing is advertising!! That is just wrong. I expected to walk into the world of another person similar to me and it was just corporate sales. I felt like I had just walked through a spider web. EEEWWW.

Speaking of blogs, ours just got some national recognition. That is so very cool. (I tried to embued the link into this post, but I am somewhat of a Ludite) Here is the article.

If you have ever logged on and thought our blog is simply an advertisement for our credit union. Let me tell you, it is not. It might seem like a few of the posts are over the top in terms of "I love Verity", but if you knew the people who posted them, you wouldn't think that. Some of us bleed orange. Some of us (count me it), really, really love this place.

OK, that is all for today. I am off to find that Mystery Cougher. Wish me luck!

Thursday, November 03, 2005

pass me the Top Ramen

I don’t envy recent college grads. Turns out many of them are working 2 jobs to make ends meet. Not only is the cost of living in most cities unbelievably expensive, but college tuition continues to increase every year. By the time a young adult graduates from college these days, they are usually tens of thousands of dollars in debt and have to take low-paying entry level jobs. Even in fields like marketing, the starting salary is usually at or below $30k. A lot of these kids are supplementing their incomes with retail and restaurant jobs; so they’ll work 9-5 in an office environment and then race off to the Olive Garden to wait tables.

I remember some wise advice I was given once from the owner of a brewery where I worked years ago. I was moving from a mid-size town in Colorado to Boston, MA, to pursue a “real” career. At my going away party, Doug told me, “Terrell, you’re supposed to be poor when you’re young. So just enjoy it.” I thought maybe he’d had one too many and blew him off.

Moving to Boston was a complete culture shock and was one of the most eye-opening experiences I’d ever had. My rent doubled immediately; I had to pay car insurance on a car I couldn’t even drive in the city; groceries were so expensive they were luxury items; and utilities during the winter sometimes cost $300 per month.

But Doug was right. Everyone else my age was in the same boat. We all got really good at improvising our finances. We knew where the cheapest happy hours were and how to get discount tickets to shows. We sold books on Amazon for extra cash and bought toilet paper in bulk. We got our furniture from Craigslist and learned how to share subway passes and ate a lot of Top Ramen. Finding ways to save money was almost like a game. And looking back on the time I spent there, I can honestly say it was a lot of fun.

So, I feel for those kids that are struggling right out of college. But they’ll be just fine. After all, you’re supposed to be poor when you're young, right?

Wednesday, November 02, 2005

Communicating with Different Generations

Last week I had the opportunity to facilitate a training to a group of trainers from credit unions around the state. The topic was “Generations at Work” and it discussed the characteristics of the four generations that are in our workplace today.

Before I go any further let me just make it clear that this is a topic I am extremely interested in. People routinely call each other ethnocentric but I think that most people are also generationcentric (if you will allow me to make up a word). In most work environments we deal with people from different generations on a daily basis but don’t seek to understand what influences their decisions. People routinely complain about working with different age groups because they do things different. Instead of trying to understand them they judge them based on their generation’s values.

So what defines a Generation?

A generation is defined by shared experiences in your formative years, which range from ages 8 – 23. Think about how events like the Depression, Vietnam, AIDS, and Video Games shaped the values of different generations. It is quite amazing just how much outside influences shape your personality.

Today’s workforce is made up of four generations (where ages are placed may differ slightly depending on what you read):
• The Silent, 1922 – 1943 (ages 62-83)
• Boomers, 1943 – 1960 (ages 45-61)
• Generation X, 1960 – 1980 (ages 25-44)
• Generation Y, 1980 – 2000 (ages 5-24)

Here is an example of a generation clash. The Boomers generation prides themselves on their work ethic (which is very strong). Their motto would be lets stay here and get the job done. They are the coworkers that put in 10 hour days five days a week.

Members of Generation X also have a very strong work ethic. However they place a huge value on work and family balance. They may be in the office for six hours and work from home for the rest of the day.

They are both doing the same amount of work but they just go about it in different ways. If they don’t seek to see what is important to each other they risk judging incorrectly. The Boomer might think that the Gen X employee isn’t carrying their weight because they don’t spend enough time in the office. The Gen X employee might think the Boomer is unproductive because they have to spend 10 hours every day in the office. The simple fact is they both have the same goals but they go about achieving them in different ways.

It was interesting to see how people reacted at this training. Many times people were quick to point out the positives of their generation but talk about the negatives of other generations. In order to communicate effectively with people from different generations it is important to find what that generation values. If you take this approach you will be surprised with how much more you are able to achieve.

Now I am not suggesting that everyone from a certain age group shares all the same characteristics. However the majority of people from a certain age group will share similar values. Imagine the power you have when you are able to communicate directly to someone’s core values.

Tuesday, November 01, 2005

Identity Theft-- check out these resources

Shari's post below coincides with some resources that were forwarded to me by Sarah (who's helping Shari "catch that creep" who stole her checks.) These links will be on our website soon, but I thought I'd link them here in case you've just read about Shari's ordeal.

Identity Theft - Up Close and Personal

It finally happened to me.... I logged on to Home Banking last Monday and discovered five checks written against my account.

Over the course of my career, I must have written, talked about or advertised over 1,000 pieces on Identity Theft and now I tackle the subject with a whole new vigor.

It started with our mail being stolen when we moved in July. Now I am dealing with closing accounts, signing affidavits, filling out police reports, alerting the credit bureaus. I almost titled this post "I Hate Thieves" but I thought that would be too harsh (that and I doubt I know any thieves personally). I thought about "I Hate Theft" or "I Hate Paperwork" but then I decided to turn that frown upside down and look at the bright side.

Is there a bright side to fraud? Well, no not really. But I can say one good thing... Verity Credit Union takes fraud personally. That might sound funny, but it is true.

When I called to report the checks, Veniacha Sims and Sarah Riddle helped me. You would think that it was their own personal mission to catch "this creep" as they called him/her. That felt really good. I called the other institution that I deal with and they dealt with it more like an everyday occurrence. Which makes some sense. To them, it is probably just the cost of doing business. But Verity Credit Union has been the credit union for Federal Employees for so long that we are not used to people stealing from us. And when they do, we take it personally. Monday morning, when I was on the phone, freaking out about the $1500 drained from my account, it felt good to have someone as indignant and ticked off as me. It also felt good to talk to someone immediately who could tell me exactly what to do.

There isn't really anything good about theft, but there is something nice in having an advocate when it happens to you.

Shout Out

This weekend Laurel and I attended the Blog Business Summit at the Bell Harbor Conference Center in Seattle. After spending all day talking about blogs and learning new technology and applications, I am feeling more passionate about blogging. It's more than simply an online diary, which is how I've often heard it described. It can actually be a very powerful tool for building relationships with people. You know, Verity's blog is relatively new and it's a work in progress, but it is headed in the right direction and I'm so excited about what the future holds.

This is my shout out to the folks from the Summit. Thanks for sharing your knowledge with us!