A Source of Inspiration

What challenges inspire and motivate you to succeed at your CU?

April 22, 2013


My grandma recently died at the advanced age of 97. She was an incredible woman.

Grandma was a mother of three, a farmer’s wife, community activist, champion of education, dedicated caregiver to her own aging relatives, and a high school librarian. She set me on the career path I enjoy as a research librarian and nurtured my personal interests as a fine Scrabble opponent and kitchen mentor.

She was an inspiration with her accomplishments despite adversities like economic hardship and prevailing social beliefs of the day that failed to empower women.  She deftly managed the balancing act of raising a family, co-working a farm, and growing a career.

Sometimes harsh realities motivated her to achieve.

She was a forward-thinking lady, frequently challenging others with her beliefs and actions while maintaining a sense of humor. In one word: determined.

How do you influence others? Relationships are inspirational in many contexts; we need not have a personal connection to someone to learn from them and, accordingly, adjust our own thoughts or actions.

Consider who or what challenges inspire and motivate you to succeed at your credit union. There are many ways a person, belief, or attitude can bring tremendous appreciation and opportunity.

‘Education brings about opportunity, and in turn inspiration.’—Bill Frist

Education can be inspirational but today’s students struggle with challenging loan debt. One casualty is home ownership, says Bloomberg.

“Two-thirds of student loans are held by people under the age of 40,” and many are, consequently, unable to participate in the affordable housing market. Indeed, “The number of people in that age group who own homes fell by 4.6% in the fourth quarter from the third, the biggest drop in records dating to 1982.”

These borrowers further suffer as the $150 billion private market for student loans includes those with interest rates that in some instances exceed 12%, and borrowers “have little hope of refinancing at lower rates.”

Those who do not graduate have other considerations regarding their student debt, according to the National Center for Education Statistics


Some highlights of this statistical brief (2009), which focuses on students who don’t complete a degree within six years of enrollment:

  • The median cumulative federal student debt for all noncompleters amounted to 35% of their annual income;
  • Greater percentages of students at for-profit institutions were borrowers; and
  • “An increase in noncompletion between 2001 and 2009 was observed only for students in for-profit institutions” (35% to 46%).

This high student debt load poses a risk to growth, according to the Federal Reserve. “At $1.1 trillion… outstanding student loan debt is the largest consumer debt class after home mortgages.”

This article concurs that “student borrowers are paying record relative interest rates on their government loans” which creates problems for the Fed as it attempts to reduce borrowing expenses for businesses and households.

Further concern regarding the student loan issue is reported by Equifax, which indicates “student loan charge-offs… rose more than 36% to $3 billion in the first two months of the year, compared with the same period a year ago,” according to The Atlanta Journal Constitution.

Also, “Equifax said the balances outstanding on student loans rose more than 14% to $852.7 billion in January and February,” compared to the previous year.

Can these student loan issues inspire services offered to borrowers in any way?

‘I get inspiration from my everyday life.’—Hayao  Miyazaki, Japanese film director

Will examination of everyday consumer spending realities prove inspirational for your credit union?

Child-care costs, for example, are on the upswing, according to the U.S. Census Bureau. “Child-care costs have nearly doubled in the last quarter century while the percentage of families who pay for child care has declined.”

How much are families paying? Those “with an employed mother and children younger than 15 paid an average of $143 per week for child care in 2011, up from $84 in 1985.”

Also noteworthy, “families in poverty who paid for child care in 2011 spent a greater proportion of their monthly income on child care than did families at or above the poverty line (30% vs. 8%).”

In the everyday realm of getting cash, see that for “ATMs: Some Consumer Fees Have Increased,” according to the Government Accountability Office. “The prevalence and amount of ATM surcharge fees charged by financial institutions have increased since 2007, and… the estimated average surcharge fee for financial institutions that charged a fee increased from $1.75 in 2007 to $2.10 in 2012.”

The prevailing thought is, “ATM operation costs will continue to rise in the future and… revenues will be flat or decline.”

Meanwhile, “more than 1.5 million baby boomers [are] caught in that painful limbo between a long and successful career and retirement” as jobless workers in this age group struggle with extended unemployment, according to a Boston College blog post

How are they making ends meet? Reportedly by “tapping charities, teaching college courses, and collecting food stamps.”

Some are filing early for Social Security benefits against their wishes and “roughly two-thirds receive some income from their investments or savings, including capital gains, stock dividends, or yields on bank certificates of deposit”—typically not enough to live on.

Can this reality inspire you to reach out to this group of challenged consumers in any way?

When we inspire others, we feel good about the knowledge and experiences we share and the opportunities that others may find through such interactions. Actions taken as a result of inspiration can benefit one or many, and may prove beneficial to the person providing the source of inspiration as well.

In any case, as in the words of auto executive Carlos Ghosn, “Any job very well done that has been carried out by a person who is fully dedicated is always a source of inspiration.”

Who can you inspire today?

LORA BRAY is a research librarian at CUNA.