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Michigan Credit Union League

AC&E 2018: Ken Ross' "CU Ideas in Action"

Before his keynote, MCUL President/COO Ken Ross introduced special guest Jonny Hendricks, a child who was directly affected by the Children’s Miracle Network. In September of 2013, he was diagnosed with Acute Lymphocytic Leukemia. He’s a strong young man that’s had to deal with more than his fair share of challenges, and in the face of adversity, he's a positive and happy 11-year-old boy.

Ross’ presentation started with a short history of the credit union movement, both in Michigan and the U.S. Credit unions were put in place to solve the problem of usury, or extremely high interest rates.

During the age of the machine, mass production was put in place and consumer culture was formed. However, there were no consumer lending practices from financial institutions. The way you got money at that time, Ross said, was from your family or salary lenders, the latter of which are precursors to today’s payday lenders.

Then, Edward Filene came onto the financial institution scene. He was an innovator whose goal was to end usury and teach financial literacy. Inspired by a trip in India, where he saw people forming lending communities amongst fellow consumers, he wanted to form a similar structure in the U.S. Because of Filene, today we have credit unions driven by the motto “people helping people.”

Fast-forwarding to 2018, the usury methods that Filene combatted 100 years ago has evolved into predatory lenders that are supported by large amounts of capital. “Americans are more unsettled than ever,” said Ross.

Retirees should be at a point in their life where they are enjoying a life well planned, he said. But 52 percent of households age 55 and older have no retirement savings.

Working adults are also struggling:

  • 26 percent of adults or either unbanked or underbanked
  • 28 percent non-retired Americans have no retirement savings or pension
  • 32 percent of adults say their income varies to some degree from month to month
  • 44 percent of adults could not cover an emergency expense costing $400

While these stats are better than they were ten years ago, consumers are still “on the edge, financially.”

Students, of course, are most affected by student debt, he said. Americans owe more than $1.4 trillion in unpaid education debt.

Connecting those stats to political action, Ross said “we have a lot of work to do.” At the legislative level, the Michigan credit union community will be busy in the near future amending the Federal Credit Union Act, preventing payday lending expansion, protecting data breach victims and maintaining our tax status. Further, MCUL’s advertising campaign, CU Link, needs to continue playing a significant role in promoting the CU Difference.

“We can’t drop the ball on this,” he said. “If we don’t tell our story, there are people who want to tell our story for us, and it won’t be as flattering as the way we tell it. When we tell lawmakers our story, they love it and want to be a part of it. We have to invest in cooperative advertising.”

Ross also touched on the social mission of the credit union movement. “The work is never done. Credit unions are always innovating,” he said before showing the following video:

The message behind this is the importance of these ideas not only to building communities, but that we can use them as great examples. We need your ideas, Ross said, to show our legislators what the CU Difference means.

“When we have that support from our lawmakers, we will be more equipped to pass meaningful legislation that will combat the evolved usury that negatively affects our consumers.”

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2018-06-08 00:00:00