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Michael Ray has spent much of his career helping people make good decisions when using credit union services. He wants members to understand their obligation to the credit union.
Ray, vice president of business development at $291 million asset PAHO/WHO Federal Credit Union in Washington, D.C., recalls a member who wanted to buy a car far beyond her means.
“I asked her, ‘Do you really need this expensive car? Your credit is great, but what happens when you can’t make the payment?’ ” he recalls. “She told me she’d worry about that if it happened.”
The member qualified for the loan and later lost her job—as well as the car and her good credit rating.
“We need to do more to make sure that when we talk to people about loan products, they understand their responsibility and that there are other options,” Ray says. “If all they need is a car to get to work, it’s our job to talk them down into something they can manage.”
The credit union, which serves the global health community, including the Pan American Health Organization and World Health Organization, builds financial education into its lending and other programs.
Financial education is a top priority for the credit union and a personal passion for Ray, a credit union development educator who conducts a daylong series of financial education classes each year for seniors at a Bronx, N.Y., high school. He shares his own experiences during these sessions.
“I grew up poor,” Ray says. “When we had money, which was little, we spent it on shelter, food, and other necessities. When you’re in that situation, you don’t think about homeownership or wealth accumulation.
“It’s only when someone in the know provides financial education that young people start believing they have options and can save to eventually become a home owner and improve their situation in life. This is the mission of our movement and our credit union.”