Pewaukee, Wis. – Credit unions, which are member-owned financial institutions that do not have stockholders, saved 2.2 million Wisconsin consumers $203 million via competitive rates on savings and loans and lower and fewer fees for financial services, according to the REAL Solutions 2010 Scorecard for Wisconsin Credit Unions, a report by the Wisconsin Credit Union League. Members of credit unions, the report says, saved more than $112 million on loans, more than $56 million on savings products and paid $33 million less in fees for financial services.
The report also cited millions of dollars of additional value from credit unions via “intangible” services like free financial counseling that has prevented home foreclosures and improved borrowers’ creditworthiness, free tax preparation for low-income filers, outreach to new Americans, financial education within schools and more. Those services are part of a voluntary – not mandated – effort by credit unions called REAL Solutions to help families and small businesses in ways that for-profit financial institutions typically won’t extend themselves.
During 2010, the report says, credit unions increased their lending to small businesses 8.3% to compensate for an almost equal decrease in available business credit from banks. A whopping $44 million of the savings on financial product usage accrued to lower-income consumers; credit unions, in fact, operated 40% of all the financial institution branches in low-income areas. Nearly all credit unions offered loans of $500 or less at modest interest rates – an alternative to costly payday loans. And credit unions also outperformed non-credit union lenders by approving 71.3% of home loans for low-income borrowers and 77% of home loans for minority borrowers, compared to a 66.2% and 56.7% approval rate by others, respectively.
Credit unions also supervised 109 branches inside schools to teach young people the regular habit of saving; students statewide have stashed a whopping $2.1 million in their in-school accounts. Credit unions also delivered 1,221 presentations to 31,027 consumers to improve their financial savvy, paid for 47 Wisconsin teachers to attend summer workshops that help them improve financial lessons offered in classrooms, purchased 75,000 copies of a personal finance magazine to help every public high school achieve state teaching standards related to money management, supported 2,943 charities and civic activities, granted $162,150 in student scholarships and trained 3,520 of their own employees to encourage greater investing activity among members.
“Credit unions’ unique member-ownership puts members’ needs before profits,” the report says. “That enables credit unions to go where other financial institutions can’t.” Learn more at http://www.theleague.coop/scorecard.