A+ Federal Credit Union recently saw more evidence behind the power of marketing, especially to a demographic such as baby boomers with millions of them set to retire this year.
The $815 million credit union in Austin, Texas, signed on in 2008 to implement the "Plan It: Retire Ready Toolkit," a CUNA-created online retirement planning resource for 40- to 60-year-olds and others that can be personalized and formatted to fit their learning styles and needs.
With Plan It, members can create a personal profile and track their own retirement savings and goals, adjust variables to see how they would affect finances later, print personalized charts and make their own retirement to-do lists. A financial longevity tool gives members an idea of how long their wealth will last based on inflation and their answers to general questions about their retirement age, savings, and the like. Member information and data are securely stored on the site and updated each time a member logs in and enters new data, according to CUNA.
Although Plan It had been in place at A+ FCU for two years, it was in early 2010 when a direct e-mail marketing tool targeted at members ages 55 and over that activity took off. Usage on the site more than tripled as members flocked to tools, calculators and articles that addressed their financial and retirement queries, according to Dawn Ambuehl-Sadek, community education director at A+FCU. Even during a three-month period in 2010 when usage declined compared to previous months, many more pages were still viewed than in previous years.
Ambuehl-Sadek said since January, more than 500 members have used the site without any additional push from the credit union’s e-mail marketing campaign.
"I conclude that members, once aware of the value of the tool, were more apt to come back. The credit union’s main effort was taking a targeted approach to build awareness among our members," Ambuehl-Sadek said.
Another popular feature used by members is the "Click ‘n’ Learn" section, which provides mini-courses on a variety of financial topics for members, including record keeping and organization, budgeting, facing family challenges, and insuring against losses. Additional financial information is provided through a variety of channels, such as articles, tips, calculators, audio clips and more. In "PreRetiree Lane," for example, members can learn about common preretirement challenges by following the lives of fictional couples and individuals as their situations are acted out in various audio episodes.
"There are roughly 40 million baby boomer households quickly approaching retirement, and research shows that a large percentage of them are ill prepared for it," said Jim Hanson, vice president of CUNA’s center for personal finance. "Credit unions need to position themselves as a trusted service provider for this market."
One of Ambuehl-Sadek’s goals when she was hired at A+ FCU was to implement a number of outreach programs that would help children, parents and teachers with their financial literacy efforts. When she started conducting workshops for adults, she noticed that many of the attendees were older. That prompted the addition of topics on issues such as estate planning and wills. In tracking how members are using the Plan It site, many of them are searching for more information on 401(k) plans, allocation and retirement. A recent check found that peak times for usage at are 11:00 a.m. and 8:00 p.m., she discovered.
Launched in the summer of 2007, about 117 credit unions are currently using Plan It. The smallest is a $7.5 million cooperative and its largest user is a $1 billion credit union, said Rena Crispin, managing editor at CUNA. The key is to keep the site from getting stale so articles are and other tools are constantly refreshed and updated.