Well, it finally happened. I’ve become that annoying know-it-all who explains away all of today’s ills using historical references. That guy who talks of simpler times when riding in the back of a pickup was safe, helmets weren’t necessary, lead paint was healthy and locking your door was unheard of. Yeah I know we’ve all seen that email, the gist of which is how much better life was when people kept things simple. Don’t get me wrong; I love my gadgets, but it’s getting harder for me to dismiss the argument that many of today’s economic problems wouldn’t have occurred if we had kept things simple. Take the mortgage meltdown as an example. Granted, greed was the primary motivator, but let’s look at the catalysts? Did we really need hybrid and option-ARMs with teaser rates and confusing terms tied to indices few outside the industry were familiar with? Did we need to leverage those loans with asset backed securities and collateralized debt obligations so complex even the investment firms, rating agencies and regulators didn’t understand them? Seriously, arbitrage transactions, hybrid CDOs, variants, mezzanine tranches, one CDO backed by the tranches of another CDO, CDOs backed by credit derivatives, or my favorite, one CDO backed by another CDO backed by a third CDO? It reminds me of the smooth talking salesman trying to sell me a timeshare in Mexico. When he finished his presentation I was so confused I had no idea what I was buying, nor did I know how much it would truly cost and whether or not I could afford it. All I knew was that I was a fool if I didn’t take advantage of this unique, once in a lifetime opportunity… Fortunately, I was only there for the free breakfast, catamaran ride and a bottle of tequila.
Things are pretty messed up out there, and Nevada is about as bad as it gets. People are losing jobs, cars, and home and in many cases, there is more month left after the paycheck is gone. How did this happen? Somebody better pay for this, and who is going to fix it?
The sentiments I understand, and I wish the answer I’m going to suggest was less painful, because I’ve got bad news… WE ARE GOING TO PAY and WE PARTICIPATED. Step back from the media talk about the evil banks, investment houses, credit evaluators. Yeah, many of them deserve the criticism heaped on them, but why did so many of the sheep go as lambs to the slaughter?
Sometimes bad things happen to good people and there are medical problems, people lose jobs and even the best of financial plans gets turned on its ear. More bad news… life is not fair, you better plan on it. I can hear it now, “Easy words for the president to say. Get a real life buddy.” Well, been there, done that, and it included driving a Toyota Corolla for 12 years and a number of other exercises I know you don’t care to hear about. I’m still looking for the guy who told us that we deserved to have the dream at 30, and if we still have money in the checking account after paying the “minimum monthly payment”, we can still buy more. Why in the world did we believe this guy? There are things we need and there are things we don’t. I can remember wanting a really cool car. I got it at 52, after the kids left and my wife finished her degree. I was never the most stylish dresser, surely wasted on a bald guy.
I am one of the luckiest guys in the world; definitely not the richest. For the last 20 years or so I have worked at a credit union; for the last 15, this credit union. It’s a great place to work with people who believe in what we do here. It’s the perfect bank. We, all the members, we all own it together (cooperative ownership), everyone gets to participate equally no matter how much or little they have (democratically run). We have a volunteer board of directors that can’t be paid or compensated in any manner, no stock options, nada. Everything we do here is to provide the best loan rate we can, the highest deposit rate we can, process your transactions just like the banks and do everything possible we can to minimize fees.
This credit union has chosen to emphasize providing financial education to high school students and to everyone else with periodic classes about retirement, getting new loans, budgeting and more. If you understand that banker’s primary job is to extract the absolute last dollar out of you, why do the masses assist in the effort? Credit unions are a great idea and all it takes is the effort, because common sense directs the choice. Is that the problem? It takes effort?
My personal life and my professional life parallel in so many ways. It would stand to reason considering I grew up at Great Basin. I was 18 years old and one month to the day when I was hired 16 years ago. In that time, I was promoted and mentored and treated like family. I also got married and had three children.
You could say that I am in the heart of my journey as a loyal employee and as a loyal mother and wife. What is fascinating to me is that the way I feel at home and at work are very similar. The way I manage my responsibilities and relationships in both lives are nearly identical. I love my employees like I love my family. Some consider me a “Mom”, some a “Sister”, and some a “Daughter”. My home family considers me an advocate, a manager and a decision maker.
In the end, my job with my home and work families are to teach them through action. Show them what it is like to work hard and build relationships. Guide them to communicate effectively and stand up for what they believe in. Have integrity and do the right thing. Then, I have to stand back and let them find their own way with the tools I have given them. Sometimes they need help to find the right path again, but they know I am there for them. We will fight challenges and we will celebrate success together…as a family.
“Is it just me or do we all have parallels like this in our lives?”