Ephemeral or Harbinger?

How many consumers join to secure an auto loan—and then go dormant?

March 11, 2013

Many of us search for signs of spring.  Whether we appreciate longer days, warmer temperatures, or baby bunnies, we anticipate the upcoming rejuvenation with enthusiasm after a long winter.

In particular, I enjoy finding flowers emerging in the warming sun and spotting glimpses of birds rejoining us after their winter sojourns.

Some springtime flowers are ephemeral.  Trilliums and other ephemerals are “short-lived, or lasting for a brief time… (they) put in an appearance as soon as the weather hints at warmth and disappear when it segues into heat.  In that brief period,  they…generally delight.”

Ephemerals are fleeting visions of loveliness.

Robins, meanwhile, are favorite harbingers of spring.  Their initial appearance creates excitement as we imagine them throughout the summer months, tending their babies and hopping about our yards.

Harbingers, unlike ephemerals, stick around for a while: “One that indicates or foreshadows what is to come; a forerunner,” according to my dictionary.

Is your credit union an ephemeral or a harbinger?  How many consumers join to secure an auto loan, and then “go dormant” when the bill is paid?

Conversely, what is it about your credit union that resonates with loyal members?

Birds in flight

The migrating robin can, perhaps, serve as a harbinger for trends on the immigrant population this week.

“Over the last decade, the number of immigrants in the U.S. has steadily grown.  Since 2007 alone, the number of immigrants living in the U.S. increased by 2.4 million,” says the Pew Research Hispanic Center in “A Nation of Immigrants.”  

This report provides a statistical glimpse at immigration in the U.S. and other countries, along with discussion about the public’s viewpoints on immigration and immigration policy.

Second-Generation Americans”  “are substantially better off than immigrants themselves on key measures of socioeconomic attainment,” Pew reports.

Second-generation adults have a median household income of $58,000 versus $46,000 for their parents, and are less likely to live in poverty.  This study examines many variables effecting economic realities for this demographic, to include homeownership, educational attainment, and others.

For the past five decades, “Mexican Immigrants in the United States”  have been “the single largest origin group of Latin American immigrants.” This analysis by the Migration Information Source examines this demographic in detail.

Given that the Hispanic population is an important cohort for potential membership growth in credit unions, readers may be interested in such specifics covered as place of employment—“over 34% of employed Mexican-born men worked in construction, extraction, and transportation, while 39% of Mexican women worked in service and personal care occupations,”—and income: “In 2011, a larger share of Mexican immigrants (29%) lived in households with an annual income below the official poverty line than the native born (15%) and immigrants overall (20%).”

Have immigrants suffered disproportionately in the economic downturn?  If so, is this a result of their immigrant status or other characteristics that differentiate them? These questions are examined in “How Do Immigrants Fare During the Downturn?” 

To summarize, “The impact of the downturn differs markedly by gender, with only male workers being affected.  Among these, immigrants suffer more than natives, as their observable characteristics are more associated with losing a job.  When comparing only comparable workers, immigrant status itself has no impact on separation rates.”

This detailed study of the immigrant experience in Italy may bear some consideration for American counterparts.

On a different path with regard to flight patterns and movement of the population, note that “600,000 in U.S. travel 90 minutes and 50 miles to work, and 10.8 million travel an hour each way,” according to the Census Bureau’s “Mega commuters”  analysis.

The typical mega commuter is male, married, and older, and has a higher income and a nonworking spouse.  In all, “About 8.1% of U.S. workers have commutes of 60 minutes or longer.”

How much time do your members spend on the road getting to work?  Do they have adequate modes of transportation?

Retirement planning in bloom

Future Retirees Don’t Grasp Health Costs,” says Boston College.  A new study reports boomers need to know more about healthcare costs, one of the biggest retirement expenditures.

It is estimated that by 2020, out-of-pocket spending for healthcare will vary from $2,453 to $7,272 annually.  Two additional findings:

  • More than 52% of retired boomers or Gen Xers “substantially underestimated how much they would spend every month” when compared to findings of experts; and
  • Women are even further off the mark with their estimates. Despite their longer life span, they assume they will spend less than men over retirement for healthcare…$30,000 for women versus $60,000 for men.”

Overall, “Americans Anxious About Retirement,” reports The Washington Post.

Poll results by The National Institute on Retirement Security show “55% of Americans are “very concerned” that the current economic conditions are harming their retirement prospects.  An additional 30% reported being ‘somewhat concerned’ about their ability to retire.”

Increased debt, escalating health-care costs, and lessening pension funds mean “a long era of improved living standards for the elderly is now in jeopardy.”

Also, “black and Latino workers are particularly at risk for seeing their standard of living significantly erode in retirement because they tend to have fewer assets, less retirement income and higher medical expenses.”

“Spring is the time of plans and projects,” Leo Tolstoy said.  Take the opportunity provided by the season to consider how you might rejuvenate your relationships with current and potential members.

Both ephemerals and harbingers are welcome visions to those who have been troubled by a long harsh winter, or to those suffering the ills of a difficult economy.

However, you might prefer to consider your institution the harbinger of better times for your membership as opposed to a flitting vision of brief delight.  Let members know that even in difficult times, you provide an ever present breath of fresh air.

After all, asks poet Percey Bysse Shelley, “If winter comes, can spring be far behind?”