Don't Let Your Finances Become a Battle

Date: September 14, 2016, 4:04 pm

Tags: Credit Unions

The following is a guest post by CCCU Service Associate Shawn Larson.

Leaving the Air Force after 12 years was one of the most difficult decisions of my career. Since I had graduated high school in Devils Lake, the military was all I had really known, but now I felt a calling for something different: I wanted to pursue my college education. I was excited to start a new chapter in my life.

As a teenager, my father tried to teach me all he could about finances, but once I graduated I seemed to forget it all. I was young and finally free of the constraints that come with living under your parents' roof! Twelve years later, I found myself in an eerily similar situation: I was once again leaving an establishment with strictly outlined rules and threw myself into the civilian world. Even though I was now a (much younger looking) 30-year-old man, I still wasn't a financially sound individual.

I attended college in Nevada for a couple of years before I moved back to North Dakota to finish school at UND. What I didn't realize was the impact the move would have on me financially. I had the funds to move, a helpful older brother with a place to stay while I found housing, and I had a job; what I didn't have was a bank.

I had a tendency to not stay with any one financial institution for very long, considering I moved around a lot. Most of my peers used USAA, but not having physical locations can be quite a hassle. I had briefly worked at a national bank in Nevada, but I disagreed with many of their practices, so I tried not to keep much money there. Why was banking such a hassle?

I soon found myself running into issues controlling my money. It wasn't until later that I realized where I had gone wrong: in addition to not taking control of my finances, I didn't realize that these institutions had people that were there to help me with issues. To be fair, when I worked with bankers they were more about filling quotas and referring products than actually helping. I recalled plenty of my former customers audibly complaining in line, saying they typically use a credit union, so once I was settled I ended up looking for one of those.

The differences were immediately noticeable: accounts with no fees, better rates, I was a member (stakeholder) instead of just another customer; but the best part, for me, was the people actually cared. Banks are for-profit, which explains why I was more of a number than an individual. With credit unions, I wasn't just a target for better numbers, so employees weren't pressured to "sell, sell, sell," or make fake accounts to appease the higher-ups. They made known that they were here for me, something every other financial institution had said in their advertising, but must have forgotten to actually practice. Thanks to my credit union, I was able to take a more active role in my financial life and had a less stressful college career.

The transition from the military to the civilian world can be difficult financially, but there are people out there to help. Even for older veterans, it is nice to have that feeling like someone is watching your back again. I am just glad I found the right place to make sure I wasn't going to war with my finances.