Welcome to Congressional Federal’s 2012 Executive Connections. As the President and CEO of your credit union, I am honored to lead an incredible group of professionals who are dedicated to assisting you, our members, and your families to achieve your life aspirations. Because we are a financial services co-operative, one hundred percent of our resources are committed to increasing your understanding of complex financial products and demonstrating how they work effectively on your behalf. And, as a member owned organization, our primary objective is to break down the financial barriers, thereby expanding our collective financial literacy and empowering you to make and meet your goals. Throughout the year, my colleagues and I will use this forum to highlight many interesting and frequently misunderstood financial topics.
Asserting that the challenges in our current economy have created newfound stress in our lives would be an understatement. My litmus test for stress is what keeps me up at night. During the last couple of years, I have seen a shift in what appears to be keeping us all up at night. Yes, you’re not alone. Traditionally, discussions with members focused on long-term goals related to items such as saving to purchase a home, provide funding for future higher education, or, perhaps the most challenging of all, planning for retirement. Today, members have more immediate concerns, such as creating a short-term emergency fund, refinancing a home to lower their rate or monthly payment, or the elimination of high interest rate debt.
However, the biggest issue appears to be getting started. Where should you begin? The first step is to commit yourself to taking control of your financial life. I realize that this is easier said than done, and that a frequent impediment appears to be the fear of the unknown. If you’re like most of us, our parents, high school or university didn’t provide us with all the skills necessary to buy a car or a home and manage credit card debt. We also weren’t taught what kind of insurance to purchase or how to invest for the future. Who explained all of this to you? My guess is that you had to figure it out on your own, but did you really figure it out or did you cram for the test? Do you fully understand how to buy a home with terms that are in your best interests and obtain a mortgage, or did you skim through all of the many mortgage documents?
Before you begin a journey you have a clear understanding of where you are and where you want to go. With respect to where you are, do you understand your current financial position? Do you have a budget and do you understand your overall debt and investments? If this is all new to you, start tracking your expenses, review them weekly, then develop a budget and monitor yourself for a couple of months. This will give you a fantastic platform from which to start planning for the future. We have a program that will gather all of your transaction history, help you categorize items and create a budget from all of your credit union accounts within Online Banking. Go to “Account Services” and then down to the “Money Tracker” application. If you prefer, open a spreadsheet or grab a notebook and just jot down your transactions. The point is to get started using whatever method works for you and not to get caught up in the process.
The next step is getting your goals and objectives out of your head and onto something that you can refer back to from time to time. So, back to what’s been keeping you up at night. If you are tracking your expenses on a piece of paper, start recording your financial goals, such as college costs, retirement, home, auto, and insurance. Yes, even the ones that you think are too “out there.” I can hear you now asking, “Isn’t there an application for that too?” Sure, go back to Online Banking, choose “Account Services” from the menu bar and then go down to “GoalBuilder.” Take a look when you have a few minutes. However, for our purpose a simple paper list will do. For the next couple of days, jot down your goals as they pop into you head. Now, don’t get unduly concerned by the contents on the list. Now that you have the list in front of you, which financial goal is the most pressing? That’s the one to work on first. Go ahead and prioritize the full list, starting with the most important going to the least important.
Keep in mind that Congressional Federal is holding a number of interesting forums, seminars, and other programs on and around Capitol Hill in an effort to expand your financial knowledge, and get your mind thinking about solutions to those items on your goal list.
- Mortgage Seminar
- Financial Reality Fair
- Industry Expert Speaker Series
Remember when we were kids and we played hide-and-seek and hid in the basement or the back bedroom? When we were very little, our imagination created untold fears and obstacles about going into the dark corners of the house alone, so we hid under the kitchen table instead. The financial issues facing us today can be even more frightening than what we imagined as children because they are real. However, just as we needed someone with us when we were young, having a trusted advisor at your side today is equally comforting.
We are committed to continually enhancing the financial expertise of the members at your credit union, Congressional Federal. The professional relationship management teams in our branches, call centers and lending centers are a dedicated resource to you and your family. Please don’t hesitate to stop by a branch or pick up the telephone if you have a question. You will find financial experts who are equipped to listen to your concerns, and help you navigate through what may have been unknown to you in the past, but will certainly become clearer as you continue your personal financial journey.
Always keep in mind, our primary mission as a member-owned financial cooperative is not to provide profits to stockholders, as they don’t exist. It is rather to provide our members with the education and financial empowerment to make prudent financial decisions for your future.
Charles A. Mallon, Jr.
President and CEO
Congressional Federal Credit Union