I recently spoke at league conferences in Virginia, Oklahoma and Hawaii on the importance of building programs for boomer members. These events included alternate sessions on the economic and regulatory events that have made the last couple years challenging. These topics still made sense in a time when we are unsure if we are on the path to recovery or just in the eye of the economic storm. But I noticed a new mood among conference attendees. Many credit union leaders attended my session stating that they were ready to shake off the negatives and move forward to grow their businesses and help their boomer members.
Similarly, I have been talking with boomer members and reading numerous consumer blogs, research and reports. I found these boomers are also emerging from their economic storm shelters to face their personal financial wreckage and start making repairs. For most, their job security, retirement accounts, housing equity and confidence have been damaged but not their attitude. Boomers are resilient and are unwilling to change their historically positive outlook. They are very willing to change their approach.
On Tom Brokaw's recent CNBC special "BOOMER$," an interviewee gave a great example. Her downsizing made her reexamine the differences between her upbringing and the way she is raising her children. She now questions obligations such as having to drive her kids across state lines to play in every soccer tournament while she grew up playing with the neighborhood kids in the backyard. Similarly, the cab driver on one of my trips shared her rethinking of retirement expectations by reflecting that working longer is OK, if it is something she enjoys. Adding that if she has to stay active to stay healthy, she might as well get paid for it.
Recent research suggests boomers have adjusted their mindsets in four significant ways. First, they are setting simpler, more realistic retirement dreams. These new dreams come with a sense of inward satisfaction from reconnecting with what really matters to them. Second, boomers now realize their best assets are themselves. Instead of putting all of their faith in stocks, bonds and real estate values, they can invest in their own abilities to produce results and adapt to future challenges. Next, boomers are looking to forge better relationships in business, in their personal lives and with their financial institutions. They realize bankruptcies and betrayals can be avoided through higher quality partnerships. Finally, boomers are looking for new, collective solutions. As they find themselves closer to retirement with many of the solutions sold to them failing during the downturn, they are now looking for better ideas, even if they have to create them.
This refreshed outlook sets the stage for credit unions to become the primary financial institutions for boomers. Credit unions can help members work toward their new dreams and realize their financial potential if they are willing to build boomer focused retiree programs. Credit unions already have the advantages of trust and collective ownership. Trust is more important than ever to boomers, and Forrester's 2010 advocacy study shows credit unions are at the top. They ranked 12 percentage points above regional and local banks and a staggering 30 points above large banks like Wells Fargo. But credit unions remain shy about their trustworthiness and haven't leveraged it to grow membership and provide solutions. If their competition had this kind of ranking, it would be plastered on every ad and customer contact point.
Boomers would rather be members of credit unions throughout retirement than numbers at Wall Street institutions. However, there is a point at which the limited convenience and range of offers that a credit union can provide on its own overcomes this desire. Fortunately, the collective nature of our movement provides the solution. Together, we are larger and stronger than our competitors and should be too big to fail in a positive way. And while I cannot find a credit union with a complete boomer retiree offer, I can find all the components of a great boomer program across the movement.
Boomer research and insight can be found from organizations such as Filene, CUNA and CUNA Mutual Group. Retiree products are available from current credit union providers and additional specialty vendors. Retiree advice can be provided by the existing credit union financial advisors as well as a variety of online financial advice tools. Great marketing, sales and service can be shared by award winning credit unions. The little we lack we can build and broker.
It's the summer of 2010. In just six months, the first boomer member turns 65, so now's the time. Our boomer members expect us to act, a growing number of credit unions are ready to act, and I for one am going to start acting to make 2011 the year we make a difference for this generation. Join me, and let's get some move in this movement.
Jeff Hunt is consumer product manager for the 55-plus strategic market for CUNA Mutual Group. He can be reached at 608-231-7053 or