Ask a thousand kids what they want to be when they grow up and I guarantee not one of them will say, “I want to work selling digital banking to credit unions because I’m so passionate about the credit union movement.” I’m no exception. When I was little, I wanted to be an automotive engineer. Yet here I am, selling digital banking to the credit unions I love so dearly.
When I look back now, it almost seems I was destined to work in this industry. I became a member of Cutting Edge Federal Credit Union, which is down the road from me in Milwaukie, Ore., about 17 years ago. My relationship with the credit union has only grown and strengthened over those years.
My Early Years
My parents separated when I was four years old and I spent the next 13 years moving from town to town with my mom, who was a schoolteacher, and my little brother. My mom was an expert at managing (or maybe juggling) a single-income budget. However, she worked so long and so hard that she never had a chance to impart those skills and knowledge to me. By the time I reached 18, I didn’t know much more about managing money than when I was eight.
Just before I turned 18, I decided to set out on my own. I had a job as a welder/fabricator at an exhaust shop in Lewiston, Idaho, which meant I had a steady paycheck. And I had a checking account at the local Wells Fargo branch. Then the exhaust shop laid me off and I went from little money to no money.
I wasn’t smart enough to file for unemployment, but luckily I soon found factory work at ATK/Speer Ammunition.
The Turning Point
I wish I could say I’d learned some financial skills by this point, but that just wasn’t the case. I remember taking my first Speer paycheck to deposit at Wells Fargo, at which time a bank rep suggested that, due to my numerous overdrafts, I should probably take my business elsewhere.
Later that day, I was sharing my frustrations with an older, more seasoned co-worker when he said something that literally changed my life. He looked me dead in the eye and said, “You’re a dumb a$$ with your money and that’s on you, but it’s because nobody’s taught you. You need some help.” Then he proceeded to tell me about the credit union that served the employees of our company.
I had nothing to lose and everything to gain, so I stopped by the credit union after work. That’s when I met Mayree. As I started to tell her my story, she pulled me into her office and sat me down. After I fully explained my situation she said, “This is going to take some work, but I want you to know you’ve got a friend now and we’re going to help you fix this.” And that exactly what she did.
The Mayree Factor
Slowly over time, the credit union got me from just living paycheck to paycheck, to starting to figure out how to put some money in savings. And then Mayree started educating me on how to start building my credit score.
She started out by giving me a $200 line of credit – an account that I have to this very day – still with the $200 limit. The truth is, I haven’t used it in years, but it means so much to me at this point, I’m sure I’ll have it forever.
So what’s a dummy like me going to do with a $200 line of credit? Whatever Mayree tells me to, that’s what. She’d call and say, “I want you to spend some money on your credit line and this is how fast I want you to pay it back.”
When I needed tires for my car, Mayree advised me to visit Les Schwab Tires and open a credit account there, which I of course did. Mayree told me exactly how much to pay (not the minimum) and when to pay (on time) to maximize the effect on my credit report. Then she helped me get a credit card and, more importantly, taught me how to use it responsibly.
The Credit Union Way
I eventually moved from Lewiston to Portland, Ore. Luckily, as I noted earlier, the Cutting Edge main office is just outside of Portland in Milwaukie. I didn’t realize it at the time, but when I moved, Mayree contacted the main office to make sure they showed me the same care and respect as the branch in Lewiston.
Today Cutting Edge not only has me as a personal member, but my wife is a member, my dad is a member, and my wife and my non-profit is a member. The best part of it all is, now Cutting Edge has given me an opportunity to return the favor of service by granting me a seat on their board as well as the role of Supervisory Committee chair.
I could tell you so much more about all that Cutting Edge FCU has done for me over the years, but I think you get the point. Credit unions always talk about people helping people, and I think some outsiders assume that’s just some sort of slogan. However, in my case, I can say that Cutting Edge FCU truly saved my life, at least from a financial perspective. I owe so much of who I am today and where I am to my friends at Cutting Edge and the fact that people went out of their way to care. So if you ever wonder why I am so passionate about this industry and what I do … now you know!
That’s my credit union story. What’s yours? We know there are countless stories out there about the impact community FIs have on people’s lives. We would love to hear them and spotlight those institutions. Email us YOUR story to firstname.lastname@example.org or use the form below. We can’t wait to hear it!