On January 1st of this year, we celebrated the sesquicentennial of the signing of the Emancipation Proclamation. One hundred and fifty years ago marked that momentous occasion when President Lincoln placed his signature to that historic document ending slavery in America. But just for a minute, I want you to imagine, what if our current President who happens to be a resident of the same state of Lincoln, by the stroke of his presidential pen granted financial emancipation by proclamation? Consequently, all Americans would be made financially free from all personal debt. That proclamation would include the forgiveness of all credit cards, automobile and student loans, mortgages, medical bills, etc. Now, take a deep breath, open your eyes, and remember that you were just using your imagination. The reality is financial emancipation which is the freedom from oppressive debt will not happen by the stroke of the President’s pen, rather you as an individual must proclaim your own economic freedom from debt. The good news is credit unions are there to help you achieve that goal.
According to the Federal Reserve, as of the first quarter this year, Americans owed approximately $2.8 trillion in consumer credit or debt. From 2008 to the present, outstanding consumer credit rose by almost $235 billion signifying an upward trend in debt among the citizens of the United States. King Solomon once wrote, “The rich rule over the poor, and the borrower is servant to the lender.” There is no doubt that the affluent shape and influence policies that govern those that are less fortunate. Likewise, those who find themselves in debt are not truly free, but are beholden to their creditor. Why? Because the choices you would otherwise make but for your outstanding debts are now limited in scope. Instead of taking that much-needed vacation, paying for your child’s college tuition, or purchasing a home, you are relegated to making the monthly minimum payments mandated by your credit card issuer.
Moreover, one of the many powers of a lender lies in its ability to change its fees or rates (i.e., raising the annual percentage rate (APR) of interest on its credit card without notice to the borrower). You will find buried in credit card agreements statements to that effect. For example, a bank headquartered in South Dakota with a 36% APR credit card has the following fine print in the agreement terms: “Changes To Rates, Fees And Terms: We may change the terms of your Credit Account, including the APRs at any time in accordance with the Credit Card Contract that will be sent with your Card.” In addition to this form of “legal usury” and financial legerdemain, the terms also include a one-time processing fee of $95, a $75 annual fee for the first year, $45 thereafter, a $35 late penalty fee and a $75 annual servicing fee after the first year. These types of oppressive fees and APR have a tendency to keep the cardholder in a cycle of financial bondage. Ultimately, the debtor will find him or herself experiencing financial death by a thousand fees.
Credit unions are unlike other institutions. We frown upon high APRs and dislike fine print and oppressive terms in our credit card agreements. We are not-for-profit because we put people before profits and provide quality service toward individual financial freedom. Our rates are affordable and we pride ourselves on the relationships we have with our members. Credit unions want to hear our members’ stories, not just their FICO score. We believe in the principle of people helping people. As our members become financially free and thrive, so does the institution. Credit unions also invite family members to join, so that a sister or brother, mother or father can also claim financial emancipation. Beyond the shadow of a doubt, financial freedom will not come by the stroke of a pen, but it can happen by your own proclamation. Proclaim today to join a credit union!