Spring 2020 – First Choice FCU Newsletter

Today, it seems like a lot (too much) is going on. The COVID-19 pandemic, an economic downturn…it is exhausting.

Our community, in these times, needs to come together and do whatever is necessary. We’ve looked at our membership, had a lot of discussions, and plan on offering some services and giving you changes to help you.

Here are just a few of the things that we have changed or added to help our membership. Please call our branches for more information.

  • Offering Skip-A-Pay Earlier – Lowering Fee
  • Offering Skip-A-Pay on Credit Cards
  • Waiving Fee on all Gift Cards
  • Temporarily increasing daily ATM Withdrawal limits to $500
  • Offering Low Rate / Low Dollar Short-Term Loans

In this newsletter, we’ll be covering the changes to our credit union and our membership. We’ll be looking at the history of economic downturns and upturns. We’ll also be highlighting some specific changes to our schedules, family at FCFCU and more.

It was the best of times, it was the worst of times…

2020 hasn’t started off as planned for many of us.

On Thursday, March 19th we made a very difficult decision to close our lobbies to the public. Prior to that we had implemented precautions to keep our employees and members safe, but it was a particularly hard decision because of what it represented.

Circumstances dictated that I work the teller line two days prior to the closing of the lobbies and when I waited on members I saw in their faces and heard from their comments what being opened meant. It was normal. In a world of chaos and uncertainty, they enjoyed the normalcy of that brief interaction they had with our friendly staff.

The Board and I hated to add to the growing hysteria, but we determined that if we were able to service our members needs with minor inconvenience via the drive-through and reduce the face-to-face interaction to our members by one person per day, it was worth the effort.

What is next? Where do we go from here? What impact is this going to have on my life in retirement? Next year? Next month? Next week? Tomorrow?

I wish I had answers for you. I wish I had them for myself. We are all navigating in uncharted waters. There was a picture hung in a place I loved that depicted a boat with a saying that read, “A ship is safe in harbor, but built for the call of the sea.”

We will cast out into this stormy sea of adversity. We may be battered and bruised by the tossing waves of doubt and winds of change. But your credit union will meet you where you are. We realize that your life has changed today and probably tomorrow.

We want you to know that we are here to help.

If you have not already, you will soon receive a letter in the mail informing you that we are moving up the time table for Skip-A-Pay. Typically, we run this program in the Summer to allow you flexibility in your budget to get away. We are offering it now to our members in order to help in case you need a break from payments. We are also reducing our normal fee of $35 per loan down to $10 per loan.

We plan to announce shortly a similar ability to skip payment(s) on your First Choice FCU credit card at no fee. More information will be forthcoming regarding this program. Check our Facebook Page or call for more details.

There are many of our members and those in the Community that are unable or unwilling to get a checking account. Yet at this time when online purchases or limiting your physical contact with cash is wise, we are waiving our fees to open or load Gift Cards. These cards can be used to make online purchases as well as purchase goods at Points of Sale (POS). Use these as an alternative to a Checking Account Debit Card.

We have temporarily increased our ATM cash withdrawal limit to $500.

For a limited time, we will be offering low dollar amount, low interest rate loans to help our members who need assistance due to job interruption.

These loans will not be risk based. That means the payments that are disclosed here will be the payments that every member will pay, unless they elect debt protection.

In order to qualify for these loans:

  1. The person must be an existing member
  2. Member must have had an interruption to employment to their household or similar need
  3. Member must still otherwise qualify for the loan
  4. All other lending guidelines will be enforced (i.e. income verification will be required, etc.)

We will continue to work with our members to try and meet their individual needs in any way we reasonably can. Simply pick up the phone and communicate with us. We want to be here to help you, to do our very best to calm these stormy seas and help you get back to solid footing.

These are stopgap measures. We hope that you do not need them, and hope that you do not need them for long, but they are here if you do.

I started this letter with a quote from Charles Dickens, A Tale of Two Cities. Perhaps you don’t see the “best of times”. I do admit you may have to look a little harder for it, but it is there. It is there every time you see a neighbor extend themselves or a teacher reach out and call a student or parent at home just to “checkup”. It is present in the smile of the extremely tired grocer or nurse who is personally scared, but has put duty before their own needs. It is “your person” who has let you cry or cried with you during this ordeal and has encouraged you to keep going for the sake of your family. It is the Pastor or Priest that is on the phone praying because in-person visits are just too dangerous at this time… not that they think of themselves, but they don’t want to go from house-to-house and potentially spread germs.

When tragedy strikes there are those that refuse to be defeated and they drag as many of us as they can with the power of their positivity and sheer force of will. They do not ignore the risks; they acknowledge them and lead us through fear. They accept that “perfect decisions” are a myth and instead focus on “doing their best”. I hope that each one of you have someone in your life like that. I hope you are someone like that for others.

For those inflicted with this virus and to their families, our hearts go out to you. We pray for a speedy and full recovery.

We look forward to seeing you soon, even if for now, it has to be on the other side of glass.

A natural one, but not always a healthy one

“The only thing to fear is fear itself.” said Franklin D Roosevelt at his first Inaugural Address. He was planning on leading America out of the darkest financial Depression the world had known.

Fear is real and it is present in our daily lives. It is also not all bad. Fear of an oncoming car can cause you to jump out of the way. Apprehension of a test could help some to fixate on the task at hand and deliver a more focused outcome.

However, unrelenting fear can turn to anxiety which can lead to powerful negative consequences.

We have a lot to be anxious about these days. We do not know what the future holds, but the present and recent past are not great. We live in the “now” and when things begin to become uncertain it is easy to let things build.

However, let us look to the past to gain comfort for our future. Below is the 100 year look at the Dow Jones. I am not an Economist, but let me make some simple observations:

  1. The market is very cyclical with lots of twists and turns
  2. FDR gave his “fear” speech just after the lowest point of our market’s history.
  3. The market has generally risen over the last 100 years and has been on a higher rate of incline since 1982.
  4. Because of technology and increased globalization each financial crisis that we have faced as a nation has had a shorter recovery period.

We are not brokers and leave investment advice to the experts. The market is most assuredly down and often as a counter-reaction people will liquidate investments to “stop the bleeding”. Pulling out of the market can stop you from future additional portfolio loss. However, if you sell ownership in an investment, you do not have the opportunity to regain that which you lost if the company is able to rebound. Consult your financial advisor to discuss the long-term health of the individual investment.

The worlds greatest gardener or farmer still needs to exercise patience in order to make their goods grow. So to is how we must approach our investments.

Nelson Mandela spoke to all of our anxiety when he stated, “I learned that courage was not the absence of fear, but the triumph over it. The brave man is not he who does not feel afraid, but he who conquers that fear.”

It is normal to be afraid at times like these. Let us try and limit our anxiety about the unknown future by facing our fears, working together, and conquering them.

Many Resources

In mid 2018 we hired a Marketing Consultant to assist us in bolstering our social media presence. James Blews has done a fantastic job of keeping our members up to date and working tirelessly to keep our messaging flowing. He is the web designer of our secondary website www.firstchoicefcuinfo.com. He is the creative mind that keeps us relevant. His work is very well done and highly informative and entertaining.

As this latest crisis has unfolded he has outdone himself with online resources for people of all ages to turn to. From education links for students to entertainment links for all ages. He has provided countless websites to our members not just about finance, but about life in general.

Thank you James for your great work. Check out our posts and review our older posts for these great resources. You will thank him.

Postponing our annual meeting

It is our practice to host our Annual Meeting sometime in April or May of each year. However, we have indefinitely suspended this year’s meeting until further notice. However, you do not need to wait until an Annual Meeting to express any ideas, cares, or concerns about your credit union. You are an owner and you have every right to speak to us about the business of this company at any time. We look forward to rescheduling this meeting and seeing

We got you covered!

Many of our members have opted for the additional Debt Protection Coverage with their loans. There are three options with this coverage.

Life Plus – which will not only eliminate the burden of the loan on family members should the borrower pass away, but also will alleviate payments up to and including the full balance for certain medical diagnoses or hospital stays.

Disability – If you are injured this coverage will make your loan payments while you are medically unable to work. In the past you were responsible for the first 30-days of payments, but no more.

Involuntary Unemployment – If you are laid off work, other than for Seasonal reasons, this will make your monthly payments for you up to 6 months. It will pay retroactive to the first day you are off, but you will have to wait 30 days and collect unemployment during that time.

If you have those coverages and want to make a claim, or have questions about the coverage you elected, please give our office a call.

To get more information…

Thank you for reading this month’s newsletter. If you would like more information, give us a call at (724)652-8393, or stop by one of our branch drive-throughs and we’ll be happy to help!!!

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