Why Join a Credit Union? A Personal Perspective
As a member and an employee of my local credit union, the question “Why Join a Credit Union” is one I’ve given a lot of thought to.
I’m an eternal optimist. I believe that tomorrow can be better than today and there is no challenge that we can’t overcome if we work together.
My heroes have always been people who fought for the underdog. People who were able to bring people together to rise above a challenge. People who saw systems that didn’t serve their community or went against their fundamental ethics and worked to change them.
This kind of change takes hard work, and strong belief in the people around you. It takes strength of spirit, self-determination and reliance. It also takes the ability to compromise, find unity, and make decisions as a collective for the good of the whole. Self-reliance, mutual-aid, collective decision making—these characteristics work together to help raise everyone up and protect people from being pushed down so that others can get ahead.
From their modest beginnings credit unions have grown as a social response to an economic system that did not serve people equally. Credit unions are now a straightforward way that we can make change simply by choosing to bank with a values-based financial institution.
Put simply, credit unions resonate with my values and beliefs about how I want to live and be in community. I love credit unions and here are three of the biggest reasons why.
Structure—I'm an owner
By their design, Credit Unions are democratic, member-owned cooperatives. They are built on and encourage democratic engagement. As a member, my voice is important regardless of how much money I have. One of the most direct examples of this is that I have the right to vote for who sits on the board of directors—the elected members who protect and guide the credit union.
Board members are volunteer members to whom the CEO reports and who are responsible to maintain accountability for the management of the organization. Not only do I have a vote; I can apply to be nominated by my member peers to be a candidate for this position. If my fellow members believe that I would serve them well, they can give me their vote and I’d work to serve as one of them. Do you think that anyone could do that at a Bank?
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Purpose and motivation—members first
Credit unions put members first—it’s their sole purpose. Founded by members, built by members, and designed for their benefit, credit unions are the exact opposite of for-profit banking structures that legally value shareholders over the benefit of their customers. Rather than a zero-sum game where the goal is to extract as much money from me as possible to maximize shareholder profit, it’s in the interest of the credit union to educate me about how to manage my finances for stability and growth. When I do well financially and save it with the credit union other members can do well too. It’s a virtuous circle that keeps paying back dividends.
Local impact—my money at work
I want to live in a vibrant community where people thrive, and resources are used to build a bright future for all. For me, that’s all about the local economy. When and where I can, I choose to buy local—that can mean buying food from local farmers and producers, cord wood from local foresters to heat my home, and locally owned services like auto mechanics, gyms and more. Buying local keeps more money in circulation to be spent at the main street businesses I rely on to serve my community. Credit unions are one of the best tools to keep this local circulation going strong. When I deposit my earnings in the credit union, my funds can be put to use in a loan for my neighbor’s house, vehicle, or even their business, which could employ my teenage kid. Local resources, working locally—it just makes sense.
Credit unions are founded from the ethics of self-reliance, mutual aid, collective decision making—all things I want to support and strengthen in the places where I live. That is why I choose my credit union. That is why I love my credit union.
About Simeon Chapin
At VSECU, Simeon Chapin leads the conceptualizing, directing, and implementing of a comprehensive and diverse community presence and engagement strategy for the organization. He has a background in music performance and business, anthropology, non-profits, and mission based business. When not building community with VSECU, he will likely be found with his wife and two boys enjoying hiking, biking, making music, and cooking local food.