MADISON, Wis. – From cosmetic surgery to adoptions, credit unions are starting to carve a niche in so-called lifestyle lending. This type of lending, typically unsecured, has evolved to cover a variety of non-traditional loans that can both enhance and finance a member’s lifestyle, including adoptions, cosmetic surgery, infertility treatments, and uninsured medical expenses. Credit unions have advantages that other lenders lack: a direct relationship with members; a location within the community they serve; and a reputation as a trusted adviser. That’s the conclusion of an investigative report, Lifestyle Lending Offers Innovation and Growth for Credit Unions, by Mark C. Meyer, director of innovation for Filene Research Institute. The $185 million Toledo Area Community CU, for instance, began offering lifestyle loans in 2004 to finance cosmetic surgery in response to a member request, according to the credit union. The Filene report is a follow-up to the 2004 Filene i3 Progress Report Innovation: Novel Ideas from the Next Generation Credit Union Leaders, which identified innovations and the importance of responding to the needs of the market. Lifestyle lending was one of the ideas discussed.