The new year is nearly upon us, and as we prepare to cheer on the arrival of 2024 and reflect on 2023, many will be working on finalizing their New Year’s resolutions. While a significant amount of those resolutions may be to exercise more, eat healthier, break bad habits, etc., experts agree that finances will take the cake this year.
YouGov listed finances as one of the top three resolutions (along with physical and mental health), Forbes noted that nearly 40% of Americans plan to make financial goals their New Year’s resolution, and WalletHub reported that 36% more Americans will be adding finances to their list than last year, with nearly half of respondents saying they’ll be making a financial resolution.
With the cost of living rising thanks to the rampant inflation from the last few years, and interest rates at alarmingly high rates, it’s no wonder so many people are looking to 2024 in hopes of bettering their savings, increasing their income, and meeting their financial goals. At the same time, however, only 9% of people usually achieve their resolutions, and 43% will quit by the end of January. This is where credit unions can step in to make a difference.
Learn what their resolution is
On a list of credit unions’ New Year’s resolutions, the number one item should always be to help members better their finances and improve their financial wellness. There are opportunities year-round for credit unions to support members in achieving their New Year’s resolutions, but where should you start?
The easiest way to help members is to first learn what their goal for the year is. Do they want to build their savings? Do they need to pay off debt? Are they looking to buy their first home? Whatever the resolution, you are better equipped to provide resources and services once you know what it is.
Leave slips in your branches for members to fill out, telling you what they are aiming for. Email them a digital version as well. Put it on your website and in your online banking portal. You won’t get participation from every member, but it’s a great place to start learning.
Tailor the experience to the goal
Once you know the goal, you can tailor the products and services you offer them to fit their resolution. You can also provide them with specific educational materials that will help them.
If they’re looking to build their savings, show them what accounts you offer. Do you have a high-yield savings account? Does your online banking have an automatic savings withdrawal option, where if a member makes a deposit (say, on payday), a certain amount will automatically be transferred to their savings account?
What about educational materials? Can you offer insights and resources on how they can make a budget that accommodates their savings? Does your credit union provide meetings with financial planners? Do you have webinars they can attend?
What about a member whose New Year’s resolution is to buy their first home? The best way your credit union can support this member would be to first provide them with information on what kind of mortgages you offer (and what would be the best fit for their needs) along with what size downpayment they’ll need. Many first-time homebuyer loans don’t require a full 20% down. If your credit union offers any of those, let your members know!
Additionally, talk to them about interest rates. Your credit union’s rates might be better than the competition, but how can members know they are getting a good deal? Or should they wait for rates to drop before getting a loan? According to the same WalletHub survey from before, 42% of people said interest rates and inflation would come between them and their financial resolutions for 2024. Your goal should be to make sure that doesn’t happen!
Pacing yourself and your members
As any expert on New Year’s resolutions will tell you, the goal should be to create a sustainable resolution with achievable milestones. Don’t give 120% of your effort constantly, only to burn out by the end of January. While you should stress this to your members, it’s also something credit unions should keep in mind for themselves.
On our New Year high, it can be easy to make plans on how you will follow up with each member who provides you will a resolution each week or some such goal. But once the holiday craze passes and regular work resumes, we might find our goals too lofty to keep up with. That’s why it’s important to pace yourself and find opportunities throughout the year to support your members and remind them of their resolutions.
Financial Literacy Month in April is a great time to do so. You’ll be able to provide your members with a plethora of educational resources. If you start gathering these resources at the beginning of the year to support New Year’s resolutions, you’ll be more than ready come April. Use this as a chance to stock of your current offerings (financial wellness meetings, webinars, budget planning, etc.) and see where you can add more.
Keep the goal alive
Sadly, the reality is that the majority of New Year’s resolutions fail within the first month of the new year, either because the goal set was too unrealistic or because of a lack of motivation. Having a support system can be the difference between a member giving up on a resolution or seeing it through to the end, and thankfully, your credit union has the opportunity to be that support system!
Finding ways to support member’s financial resolutions benefits not only the member but the credit union as well. While it’s the right thing for the credit union to do, it’s also a great way to market your products and gain a member’s trust. When the member with a goal of buying their first home needs a mortgage, they’re going to go to the financial institution that has had their back every step of the way, from financial planning to education.
Make your members’ resolutions your credit union’s resolutions too, and see what you can achieve together in 2024!