Let's Celebrate!

March is 'Credit Education Month,' so why not throw a party?

March 18, 2013
One of my favorite reference books is Chase’s Calendar of Events. This interesting tome identifies and provides background information on a myriad of fascinating celebrations and observances.

Many March days are noteworthy. March 6 is Dentist’s Day, March 11 is Johnny Appleseed Day, March 18 is Awkward Moments Day, and March 14 is Pi Day—3.14.

My favorite observance in March, however, is the 15th: “Beware the Ides of March.” I am a fan of Shakespeare, and I appreciate the implied drama.

Credit union employees have asked me, as CUNA’s research librarian, for ideas about how to best celebrate their founding anniversaries. What have other credit unions done? Perhaps a loan promotion? Cake in the lobby?

How about a presentation that discusses not only the history of your credit union, but the history of our movement as well? Such events are great marketing opportunities.

Do you reach out to members on their special days, too? How about birthdays? If you have teachers as a select employee group, is there a day that recognizes them? Yes: It’s “Teacher Appreciation Day,” which falls on May 7 this year.

Marking the anniversary date of a mortgage closing might be a special observance for the first-time home buyer who may, at some point, consider acquiring another property.

Perhaps your remembrance would bring your credit union to mind for their future financial needs.

National Mom and Pop Business Owners Day: March 29

Small businesses take center stage in March—and in this week’s news.

“Big banks approved 15.9% of the small business loan applications in the (Small Business Lending) Index, up from 15.3% in January 2013 and 11.7% in February 2012,” Bloomberg reports.  Reasons for the uptick include a stabilizing economy, banks’ need to “maintain larger capital bases under Dodd-Frank regulations,” and “attractive premiums on securities backed by Small Business Administration [SBA] guaranteed loans.”

What is the small business climate in your state? See “2012 Small Business Profiles for States and Territories” for a detailed summary to include number of firms, business ownership demographics, small business income, banking, turnovers, and employment statistics.

We learn, for example, that in Wisconsin, small businesses “represent 97.8% of all employers and employ 51.8% of the private-sector labor force.” See your state’s profile and learn about the impact small business makes on the regional economy.

Lastly on small business, see the SBA’s “Primer on Programs” from the Congressional Research Service. This study examines various SBA programs that support small businesses, including loan-guarantee programs that increase access to capital, contracting programs, direct loan programs, and small business management and technical assistance programs.

Summarizations of various types of loans are provided in this report, including disaster loans and microloans.

March is Employee Spirit Month

Employment topics are also prevalent in research findings this week.

“The unemployment rate edged down to 7.7% in February but has shown little movement, on net, since September 2012. The number of unemployed persons, at 12 million, also edged lower in February,” according to The Bureau of Labor Statistics “Employment Situation Summary.”

Further, “the number of long-term unemployed…was about unchanged at 4.8 million,” and “accounted for 40.2% of the unemployed.”

An interesting technological development in employee compensation is discussed in a Reuters article that asks, “When Tip Jars Go High-Tech, Do U.S. Workers Benefit?” 

Growing consumer use of plastic cards at establishments such as coffee shops have affected the take-home pay of employees who previously enjoyed cash deposits in tip jars. DipJar, a device that accepts tips on plastic, and Ziptip, a smartphone app that allows tipping via QR codes, are innovations that make an impact for baristas and wait staff.

At one time, tip jars accounted for as much as an extra $2 to $3 in hourly wages. Newfangled tipping strategies mitigate cash losses, but they’re not without problems as workers may be affected by transaction fees.

Minimum wage earners find themselves affected by inflation, reports “Inflation and the Real Minimum Wage: A Fact Sheet” by the Congressional Research Service. Minimum wage was at peak value in 1968.

“To equal the purchasing power of the minimum wage in 1968 ($10.57), the current minimum wage’s real value ($7.80) would have to be $2.77 (or 26%) higher.”

Legislated wage adjustments between 1969 and 2009 have not kept up with price increases, resulting in a fall in real minimum wage. Statistics illustrate the issue in greater detail in this compelling analysis.

Although most U.S. residents (71%) support raising the minimum wage to $9, Gallup reports, this level of approval is lower than for previous minimum wage increase proposals.

“In 1996, 1999, and 2000, between 81% and 83% of Americans favored raising the minimum wage.” Persistently high unemployment and the belief that higher wages will result in job cuts may be to blame for lower level of support.

Workers are delaying retirement, a trend revealed in “More Older Americans Remain on the Job,” according to a George Washington University project. “Four out of 10 Americans 55 and up are still working. That’s the highest percentage of 55-plus people in the workforce in more than half a century.”

Other interesting facts:

  • 43% of workers 55 and older will remain working by 2020;
  • The recession caused workers to remain on the job, “despite high unemployment and longer spells of joblessness;” and
  • 1990 was the lowest point for employment of those 55 and older, at 30.1%.

Calendar observances are opportunities to not only celebrate, but to bring awareness to various important causes. Take note of events that you can mark to let your members know you are attuned and interested in their life events and circumstances.

Chase’s identifies March as “Credit Education Month,” an observance sponsored by professionals in the credit industry to “remind consumers and educators…of the importance of developing the skills needed to manage their finances efficiently and effectively.”

Why not throw a party?






Lora Bray is a research librarian at CUNA.