Millions of people who earn low wages or have accumulated little wealth need access to affordable loans with attractive terms and conditions. Many consumers feel their only options are to use alternative financial services (AFS) centers. These outlets including payday loan stores, rent to own companies, pawn shops, to name a few, are in business to make huge profits. This profit motive hits consumers of all income levels but unbanked consumers are hardest hit. Using these expensive and often predatory products erodes their ability to build assets or savings, marginalizing their financial position.
How can credit unions help change America’s less than zero percent savings rate?
Consumers turn to AFS businesses for quick, easy cash and/or credit without the need for standard bank accounts. Service offerings that meet the needs of low-income consumers – particularly check cashing and bill payment are often not available from traditional financial institutions. AFS providers have stepped in to fill the gap.
Credit unions have a philosophy of encouraging financial empowerment for members of all ages, income levels and ethnic backgrounds. They are also uniquely positioned to initiate and build relationships with modest income households. While bankers and brokers compete vigorously for the assets of the upper income households, the lower end or emerging markets is much larger and can be rewarding for those who strive to serve it.
The need for financial education is becoming urgent for American citizens. Preparing a budget, buying a home, a car, saving for college, planning for retirement – with so many financial decisions to make, consumers need to know how to handle money wisely.
The young adult market (ages 18–30) offers huge business opportunities for credit unions. Unfortunately, most credit unions are not capturing a large share of this market.