Checking Fees, Housing and Retirement…Oh, My!

Research trends reveal employment woes and related challenges for the consumer.

October 10, 2011

The Roundup this week includes a look at various issues of importance to credit unions and consumers including topics on fees charged, employment news, consumer spending reports, retirement considerations, and housing. Let’s saddle up!

Checking accounts hit the news recently and the prevalence of free checking is dwindling in 2011 as the banking industry institutes hikes not only in checking account fees but ATM and overdraft charges. Only 45 percent of noninterest-earning checking accounts are currently free, down from a high two years ago of 76%, according to’s 2011 Checking Account Survey.

Financial institutions should take note, too, of the news available on the housing market. Bankers surveyed by FICO readjust their positive attitudes to one of a pessimistic view as they expect a rise in consumer delinquencies and predict the dismal housing market will continue for the long haul, as reported at FICO, “Housing Prices Unlikely to Recover Before 2020, FICO Survey Finds.”

Subscribe to Credit Union MagazineMeanwhile, the ‘Mortgage Market in 2010: Highlights from the Data Reported Under the Home Mortgage Disclosure Act” indicates that mortgage originations declined between 2009 and 2010, according to HMDA data, by around one million loans.

Further, home loans in distressed census tracts was 75% lower in 2010 than reported by these same areas in 2005. This perhaps reveals a dramatic decline in loans to high income borrowers here.

A final update on the housing scene comes from news that “FHFA reports Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac guarantee fees increased in 2009-2010,” and “Lenders that delivered smaller volumes of mortgages to the enterprises, on average, paid higher guarantee fees on loans of similar credit quality than did larger-volume lenders.”

Of continued critical importance in the current shaky economic climate is the employment situation. This issue is reflected in recent reports as the “International Labour Organization Warns of Major G20 Labour Market Decline in 2012 and Serious Jobs Shortfall by 2015”  which announces global concerns on this matter.

For a domestic glimpse at the employment scene, the Monthly Labor Review for September 2011 provides “Characteristics of Displaced Workers 2007-2009: A Visual Essay” and also a once-over of “Multiple Jobholding in States in 2010.” 

Finally, on employment, Gallup reports “U.S. Job Creation Falls Back Further in September.”

It’s not only those currently in the workforce that are facing challenges, as data discovered on the topic of retirement research shows. “The MetLife Study of Women, Retirement, and the Extra-Long Life” reports these key findings:

• 39% of women expect to live to age 90 or older;
• 71% percent of women are either “very or somewhat concerned about providing for their own or their spouse’s long-term care needs”; and
• 53% of women deal with unanticipated financial problems by responding to them “if and when they happen” rather than by advance planning.

Furthermore, a report from the Employee Benefit Research Institute muses, “Is There a Future for Retirement?”  and the Harvard School of Public Health reports “Retirees and Those Near Retirement Have Different Views of Golden Years.”

These findings indicate “about a quarter of pre-retirees (27%) and a third of retirees (35%) say they won’t have the annual income they need to live comfortably in retirement.”

The Roundup wraps up this week with an examination of recent consumer spending habits. Rand indicates “Accelerating Health Care Costs Wiping Out Much of Americans’ Income Gains” as the family of four is left with only $95 of extra income each month.

Perhaps Gallup, therefore, has an explanation for its revelation that “Americans’ Spending Declines Again in September.”

The Center for Retirement Research at Boston College considers “Did the Housing Boom Increase Household Spending?” in a report addressing household spending in a bust.

Perhaps further illumination on this can be provided by American Express in their
'2011 Spend Sights Special Report: Global Luxury Fashion Spending.”

Finally, Pew Research reveals that as far as what consumers think, there’s “No Consensus About Whether Nation is Divided into ‘Haves’ and ‘Have-nots.’”

Survey results show that “while 45% say American society is divided between “haves” and “have nots,” 52% say it is incorrect to think of the country this way. This is comparable to the balance of opinion a year ago.”

LORA KLOTH is a research librarian in CUNA's business-to-business publishing department.