From Cashers To Crashers, And A Dinner In Between

Some notes from around the Credit Union Community:

* The economy must be improving if even skeptical cynics such as credit union CEOs are saying they see a better future (see news item on page 3). But "improving" remains a relative term.

Take the plight of the average credit union member. In the most recent Discover U.S. Spending Monitor, members were asked, "If you lost your income suddenly, how many months would you be able to continue your lifestyle before replacing your income?"

Some one-fourth of members (24.4%) replied zero. No mas for no months. In short, as every collections exec knows, no paycheck this month, no payments this month.

Approximately 41% said that if pink-slipped tomorrow they could keep going for one-to-three months.

And another fourth (24.6%) estimated they could make it up to six months on their current savings, even though most people traditionally underestimate monthly bills.

If nothing else, it certainly makes you pause and wonder where all those savings dollars piled up and pushing down loan-to-share ratios are coming from.

The Discover U.S. Spending Monitor also asked credit union members about their spending plans for the coming month, which in this case was for February. The findings:

* 37.6% said they expected to spend more, while 53% plan to spend the same and 8.4% said they would cut expenditures.

* Nearly half, 48.1%, of members reported they would have less discretionary funds for things such as entertainment expenses.

* At the same time, more than one-third (35.4%) of members surveyed said they would save or invest less money next month.

Consumer sentiment can be a tricky thing. For all the metrics and volumes of data economists crunch and review, economies remain mostly psychological. Confidence begets confidence, and the opposite also remains true. But that's what consumers were saying last month. We'll see if the trend continues in the next Monitor.


* Sometimes you hear a conversation and it remains unbelievable long afterward and despite other eyewitnesses. Consider this from a recent dinner I attended:

Diner: What do you recommend?

Waiter: We're known for our prime rib.

Diner: I really hate prime rib.

Waiter: OK, sir; well, our other dinner selections are also quite good.

Diner: Well, if you recommend it, I'll have the prime rib.

(Half-hour later, prime rib sits untouched on the plate.)

Fellow Diner: You never ate your prime rib.

Diner: Yeah, I hate prime rib.


* Here's hoping not too much money was spent on this "finding." The Filene Research Institute recently noted in a press release related to the attitudes of those who were previously known as "poor," that, "The study found the group is aware of the limits of a low-income, low-asset lifestyle."

Why, I'd go so far as to say they are acutely aware of it. Everyday.


* I've got some bad news for the "Crashers": Welcome to the Establishment, gang.

The "crashers," as you may know, is the broad, umbrella name given to a group of young (defined as under 30) CU people who "crashed" the GAC a few years back because they could not afford the registration fees but said they still wanted to participate in the industry's biggest event.

In brief, the crashers were the original "Occupy Credit Unions." They were Generation Text, the constantly (and often annoyingly) connected young people credit unions have targeted as the key to growth (see related story, page 1). They have sponsored a number of cool things, including a rave at GAC last (which you have to admit, when you look around is not really a rave crowd). Mosh pit? Not yet, unless you want to risk injury tripping over a Hoveround.

I even had the pleasure of speaking to a Crashers group in Michigan last year (which I have to admit, it's unlikely any of them considered "cool").

But as those of us who have come before you have painfully learned, Crashers, it isn't long before you go from cool to cold. For the upcoming GAC the Crashers have a corporate sponsor, in this case, PSCU Financial Services, which has generously agreed to sponsor 15 Crashers to attend the meeting.

When you have a corporate sponsor you're no longer "crashing" anything. You're no longer on the outside looking in-you're as inside as it gets. You've officially gone from being hip to getting closer to breaking a hip.

In fact, the Crashers have gone corporate and aren't even "Crashers" any more, announcing earlier this year they have a new name, The Cooperative Trust, and, egad, a logo and "brand!"

So, welcome aboard, Crashers. It's just a matter of time before some "young" people are looking to crash your events.

Frank J. Diekmann can be reached at fdiekmann@cujournal.com.