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<p>MADISON, Wis. – Once nearly 80,000-members strong, MEMBERS Prime Club, a group designed to offer affinity services to retired credit union members, is being dissolved, CUNA Mutual announced at press time. MEMBERS Prime Club was the new name (created in 1998) of the National Association for Retired Credit Union People (NARCUP). NARCUP was formed in 1978 by then retired CUNA Mutual Group CEO Charles Eikel. It was originally aimed solely at retirees. One of Eikel’s main goals was to use the group to let retired credit union members know they could still belong to their credit union, or to help them find other financial options in retirement if they no longer had CU membership. “There was a time when a number of credit unions did not have `once a member, always a member.’ Some members were forced out of their credit unions at retirement. At the same time some thought they had to leave. Credit union membership was synonymous with employment,” said Phil Tschudy, who served as executive director of MEMBERS Prime Club since 1989. As time went on the group had to market to more than just retirees. Many Baby Boomers are nearing or are in their so-called “retirement” years, but have no intentions of retiring any time soon, said Tschudy. “Kids are still in the nest at age 50. Twenty-five years ago at the age of 50 kids were not in the nest,” said Tschudy. “Boomers are also living longer. I don’t think people at that age (50) are excited about joining these types of organizations,” said Tschudy. Tschudy said today’s seniors don’t join organizations like in years past. “The Baby Boomers behave a lot differently. Their needs are different. They’re not big joiners. It used to be retired people joined fraternal organizations like Kiwanis. The Boomers are not in that same class. You see a lot of fraternal organizations begging for members,” said Tschudy. MEMBERS Prime Club’s membership peaked at about 78,000 in the mid-’90s. Today it stands at just 18,000. This dwindling membership led the CUNA Mutual Board to decide to dissolve the group. Its primary products were a prescription drug discount card and a travel discount program. Members could use the discount prescription card at a network of 40,000 pharmacies nationwide. Discounts averaged 24%. There is an annual subscription fee of $49.95 to belong to MEMBERS Prime Club. CUNA Mutual also offered a wholesale option where it would charge participating credit unions $36 per member, and the CU could offer it to members fro free, or charge a fee they determined. Only about 250 CUs were part of the wholesale program at press time. While Tschudy said he believes the Baby Boomers aren’t joiners, the premier and most powerful seniors group in the country, AARP, has seen its membership numbers go up in the last decade, the time at which the Baby Boomers have really come onto the retirement scene. In 1990, AARP had 33.1 million members, today it has 35.2 million. Tom Otwell spokesperson for AARP said there’s no denying that Baby Boomers have different needs, and what it means to be retired has also changed. “We did some surveys that found about 80% of Baby Boomers say they’re going to continue to work in some capacity after retirement.” Otwell said AARP has adjusted to Boomers in a number of ways. For one, up until a few years ago it was known as the American Association of Retired Persons – now it’s simply AARP. “We changed our name to reflect that we are not an association of retired people. At least half our members are working part-time or full-time,” said Otwell. AARP has also launched a more “hip” magazine aimed at 50-55 year-olds, said Otwell. “My Generation has content and a look designed to appeal to younger readers. I’ve described it as more sprightly.” The group still has its flagship bi-monthly publication, Modern Maturity. AARP has thriving chapters all over the country. Why does Otwell think it’s so successful? “We are an advocacy group on both the state and federal level. There’s the discounts, the magazines, the bulletins, the opportunity to be engaged in the community, to take part in the AARP on the chapter level, and to volunteer,” said Otwell. And with just at $12.50 annual membership (spouses included for free), it’s quite a bargain, said Otwell. While MEMBERS Prime Club was a non-stock, membership association, it has always been affiliated with CUNA Mutual, and for most of its existence run by its staffers. Its bi-monthly publication, Prime Times, was done by the same CUNA Mutual staff that publishes CUNA Mutual’s Dimensions magazine. Tschudy has been a CUNA Mutual employee since 1986. Tschudy said he’s sad to see the group dissolved, but understands why the CUNA Mutual board made the decision. “The number of members had gone down. We really got to the point where we lost the critical mass to even make this a break-even proposition. Looking forward the prognosis wasn’t good. We tried a number of different approaches.” Details of the dissolution are still being worked out, but no new memberships will be accepted effective July 31. Tschudy said it was not clear what would happen to the benefits of existing members. The magazine is likely to be phased out. Interestingly, despite the credit union ties, Prime Times was more of a senior lifestyle publication, than a financial publication. Tschudy is not sure what’s in his future. “At this point I don’t know. My desire is to stay here at CUNA Mutual. It’s a great company to work for.” [email protected]</p>

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