Go Granny, Go!

CUs must commit themselves to perpetual adaptation to remain relevant to members.

January 23, 2012

I am fortunate to have had a vivacious, well-educated little old lady as a mentor and friend for most of my life.

I met Stasia when I was about four, and she was “about ancient” to my reckonings.

Stasia never married, and was wonderfully unconventional. She spoke Latin, was a published poet, and loved tea parties. We baked bread together, discussing woes I suffered as Big Sister to a Pest.

Lora Kloth is a research librarian at CUNA.
Lora Kloth is research librarian at CUNA.

Stasia escorted me and The Pest to various community events and she frequently shared favorite books with me. The subject matter grew as I did.

A world traveler despite a plaguing back injury, Stasia brought back fascinating artifacts and tales of her adventures. She was a retired college teacher, avid gardener, and health nut. Outspoken on politics, she often engaged Mom and Dear Old Dad in spirited debates.

Stasia’s most meaningful observation: You are never a “finished product.” Lifelong learning is essential. Always reach for the stars and grow, no matter your age. Enthusiasm, curiosity, and dedication are vital elements in this evolutionary mission. Enjoy life.

We can apply this message in our careers and business practices as well. To meet members’ changing needs and keep our careers and service offerings relevant, there must be commitment to perpetual learning and adaptation. There is no time to rest on our laurels!

Let’s start with this week’s findings.

Stasia found news pertaining to the aging demographic interesting. In “Does Retiree Health Insurance Encourage Early Retirement?” the National Bureau of Economic Research notes the “link between health insurance and employment in the United States that may cause workers to delay retirement until they become eligible for Medicare at age 65.”

An extension of employer-provided insurance to retirees affects retirement age, and “retiree health coverage has its strongest effects at ages 62 and 63.”

See also “Raising the Ages of Eligibility for Medicare and Social Security” by the Congressional Budget Office, which reveals that “raising the eligibility ages for those programs also would reduce…lifetime Social Security benefits and cause many of the people who would otherwise have enrolled in Medicare to face higher premiums for health insurance, higher out-of-pocket costs for health care, or both.”

How are your older members dealing with the reality of health-care costs?

The Employee Benefit Research Institute may give some insight on this in “Spending Adjustments Made By Older Americans to Save Money.” It claims that 21.5% of those aged 50 or above “made prescription drug changes such as switching to cheaper generic drugs…stopping pills or reducing dosages…and…skipped or postponed doctor appointments to save money.”

Reportedly, the less healthy will make more financial adjustments.

Additional thought-provoking news on health expenditures is found in “Growth in U.S. Health Spending Remained Slow in 2010.”

The Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services report cites these key findings:

  • Private business covered $534.5 billion (21%) of health expenditures in 2010, down from 23% in 2007; and
  • The federal government covered 29% of 2010 healthcare spending, up from 23% in 2007.

New opportunities

Stasia would applaud forward thinking in Wharton’s “Transformative Times: New Opportunities for Business in an Era of Upheaval,” a special report that explores “the many ways that the business community has responded to changes in our global economy. They look at industry trends, and analyze how startups as well as established firms are taking advantage of transformative events around the world.”

What might this mean for small businesses you could serve? Can you capitalize on any opportunities in the commercial financial services arena?

For more on commercial lending, examine “The Great Recession and Bank Lending to Small Businesses” by the Federal Reserve Bank of Boston:

“Findings are consistent with the pattern of differentially more rationing of credit to small borrowers in recessions as predicted by the model. This suggests that policy measures that counter this effect by encouraging lending to small businesses may be effective in stimulating their recovery and, in turn, job growth.”

Bankers are considering public relations strategies in Gallup’s “Fixing Customers’ Confidence in Banks.” 

We might not be surprised that poll results “concerning confidence in banking are stunning—and not in a good way.”

Furthermore, “The key driver of lower bank loyalty appears to be a sharp decline in the number of bank customers who are extremely satisfied with their primary bank’s products and services…This is one of the reasons I think it is more important than ever that bankers begin to ‘think behavioral economics’ in the year ahead,” says Gallup Chief Economist Dennis Jacobe, Ph.D.

Finally, a “Rising Share of Americans See Conflict Between Rich and Poor,” according to Pew Research. Approximately two-thirds of the public believes there are “very strong” or “strong” conflicts between the rich and poor—up 19 percentage points since 2009.

Stasia died a couple of years ago, leaving a void. She once asked what I aspired to achieve. I replied I wanted to be a writer or a librarian.

I think she would be delighted that I’ve found a way to be a little of both, but she’d also say these accomplishments aren’t the end of what I can achieve or expect from myself.

Here’s to you, old friend.

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