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Cornerstone celebrates 1st year of consolidation

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FARMERS BRANCH, Texas (7/1/14)--One year ago today, the credit union leagues of Arkansas, Oklahoma, and Texas became one. Today, the Cornerstone Credit Union League is the largest credit union league in the country, serving 557 credit unions which in turn serve more than 9.5 million consumers.
Member credit unions have and will continue to benefit from this consolidation, said league CEO Dick Ensweiler.
Points of access provided by the Cornerstone Credit Union League in its first year include:
  • 130 professional development opportunities, including seminars, workshops, conferences, and webinars.
  • Asset-liability management services as a dues-supported service. These services included a semi-annual key ratio report and peer-group statistics, as well as monthly dividend and loan pricing guidelines. Cornerstone is the only league in the country offering these ALM services as a dues-supported service to credit unions.
  • Nine councils, including the CFO, Compliance, HR, Lending, Marketing and Business Development, Operations, Technology and Member Business Services councils. In the true spirit of collaboration, the league collaborated with the Louisiana Credit Union League in 2013 to offer the Member Business Services Council. Cornerstone added a Volunteers Council in 2014. Overall, council membership increased 20% in 2013.
  • Thirty-five credit union chapters, offering credit union professionals and volunteers opportunities to learn, network and share best practices.
  • Ideas and insight from Cornerstone's Young Professional Advisors. Cornerstone selected 12 young credit union professionals from across the region to serve in leadership roles, working to recruit and empower credit union professionals under the age of 35 to be engaged in the current and future successes of credit unions.
  • Financial education, professional development and disaster relief grants through its charitable arm--the Cornerstone Credit Union Foundation. In 2013, the foundation approved 301 grants totaling more than $384,000.
  • Services and solutions through its wholly owned subsidiary--Credit Union Resources, including human resources consulting and employment services, compliance, financial and auditing, technology consulting, strategic planning and shared branching. In 2013, CU Resources' signed partnerships with CO-OP Financial Services and INTECH, and in 2014 launched the only executive search program working inside the credit union system, recruiting and placing the next generation of leadership with credit unions.
"Consolidation has enabled us to harness the expertise and resources of each respective league. Our name may have changed, but our commitment to credit unions and the movement has not," said Ensweiler. "Drawing on the talents and experience of a diverse staff of 119, we are well positioned to respond to the needs of our member credit unions and deliver the outstanding products, services and resources they have grown accustomed to."
Tandie Lee Kenser, president, Garland County Educators FCU, Hot Springs, Ark., with $3.4 million in assets, said she believes the consolidation was necessary. "The Arkansas and Texas credit union leagues had already been collaborating in a number of areas including education and compliance, without the validity of true oneness,"  she said. "In my opinion as the leader of a small credit union, this change has been extremely positive. The quantity and quality of dues-based services have increased dramatically, the library of information is easily accessible, and the willingness of peers to work together is something I have never experienced before."
Sean Cahill, president/ CEO of Southwest 66 CU, Odessa, Texas, said he was initially concerned about the consolidation. "The Texas Credit Union League, to me, was the best league in the country, and I was worried that services may suffer with the consolidation," Cahill said.
 "But the absolute opposite has occurred," he added. "Cornerstone has taken things to a whole new level and I could not be more impressed.  The dues services are incredible, and the non-dues services provided through Credit Union Resources are world class. I use Cornerstone and Resources as much as I can because I know they have my best interests at heart. The leadership between both of these businesses lives and demonstrates the credit union motto every single day."
In hindsight, consolidation was the right decision, Cahill said. "The combined power of the three states collaborating together has brought new and exciting ideas to the table, as well as connecting the credit unions in these three states," he added. "I feel like my network has expanded as a result of the consolidation. And I do feel the league is in a better position to serve our needs, especially with regard to advocacy."
Cornerstone is headquartered in Dallas and maintains offices and a strong presence in the state capitols of Arkansas, Oklahoma, and Texas. Cornerstone also has a satellite office in Houston, Texas. Advocacy remains a critical area of focus for the league, so maintaining a presence in Austin, Little Rock, and Oklahoma City was a necessity, according to Cornerstone Paul Trylko, the league's board chairman.
"Being politically engaged is essential for the continued growth and prosperity of our movement," Trylko said. "It's important that lawmakers know that we are present, engaged and ready to defend and protect the rights of consumers who depend on credit unions to meet their financial needs."
Mike Kloiber, president/CEO, Tinker FCU, Oklahoma City, Okla., who was involved in the consolidation efforts from the beginning, feels it has exceeded expectations in the first year. "The feedback in Oklahoma is very positive, and the concerns held by many regarding the loss of identity and becoming lost in a bigger trade organization has proved unfounded by most everyone," Kloiber said.
While the consolidation has offered many benefits to member-credit unions, Kloiber highlights the following as the top three benefits:
  • Premium educational meetings, webinars and conferences provided by an impressive league infrastructure now available to all credit unions in Arkansas, Oklahoma and Texas;
  • A league staff of highly trained and experienced professionals willing to assist in every way possible; and
  • Network of communication through personal contact, technology and professional publications.

CU System briefs (07/01/2014)

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  • FORT LEONARD WOOD, Mo., and VANCOUVER, Wash. (7/1/14)-- Credit unions in Missouri and Washington recently held special events to support their local military service members . Mid Missouri CU, with $212 million in assets, hosted its ninth annual Military Appreciation Day at a Springfield (Mo.) Cardinals game June 14 ( Missouri Difference June 27). The Fort Leonard Wood-based credit union raised more than $20,000 prior to the event in order to purchase more than 2,000 tickets for active duty personnel, reservists, veterans, National Guard, retired military of all branches and their immediate family members. The credit union also gave away prizes and sponsored the evening's fireworks show. Maj. Gen. Leslie Smith administered the oath of enlistment for more than 40 U.S. Army enlistees who were sworn in before the game began (Missouri Credit Union Association photo). During Columbia CU's Heroes Night, about 1,500 people donated about $3,000 worth of items and $1,000 in cash. The $982 million-asset credit union, based in Vancouver, Wash., surprised attendees by buying gas cards or paying for memberships to Costco--the host business. The event's scavenger hunt gave attendees a chance to learn about community service organizations and win prizes ...
  • LEAVITTOWN, Pa. (7/1/14)-- Inspire FCU, an $87 million-asset credit union in Bristol, Pa., named Jim Merrill as its new president/CEO to succeed Glenn Styer , who is retiring July 31 ( Bucks County Courier Times June 30).  In the past 23 years, Merrill served as CEO of Fairless CU, Morrisville, Pa., with $47 million in assets, and executive vice president of the New Jersey Credit Union League. Most recently, Merrill was senior vice president at LendKey Technologies, a technology firm that is a CUNA Strategic Services alliance provider ...
  • TAMPA, Fla. (7/1/14)-- Arthur Wood III, who has been president/CEO for 17 years of Railroad and Industrial FCU, Tampa, Fla., will retire Oct. 1 .  During Wood's tenure, the credit union has more than doubled its assets, membership base and branch locations. Peter Giorgianni, who is currently vice president of operations for the $281 million-asset credit union, will succeed Wood Oct. 2. Giorgianni will be only the fourth CEO in the credit union's nearly 80-year history, said board Chairman Ben Davis ...

ACUC: Farber spreads the love, a critical component of leadership

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SAN FRANCISCO (7/1/14)--In command of the room, with a booming-clear voice and confident posture, Steve Farber broached a subject that perhaps the packed house at the first general session of the Credit Union National Association's 2014 America's Credit Union Conference (ACUC) Monday wasn't expecting.
Along with three other principles--generating energy, inspiring audacity and providing proof--creating a culture of love, Farber said, is an absolutely integral component of running a successful business and being an effective leader.

Click for slide show San Mateo CU CEO Barry Jolette, a former chair of the Credit Union National Association, checks in Monday for the 2014 America's Credit Union Conference at the Hilton Hotel Union Square in San Francisco. (CUNA Photo)

Farber took it even a step further than that.
"To say that love has no place in business is just insane," he said. "It's probably one of the most powerful business principles we can tap into."

The first of four keynote speakers headlining this year's ACUC in San Francisco, Farber has built a reputation in the business industry as the "Extreme Leadership Guru," penning several books that have earned acclaim in business circles far and wide.
And in all his time researching and speaking about leadership, he told the crowd, within all of the most prosperous companies and organizations he has worked with, that four-letter word always finds its way into the reason for their success.
His proof? The words of a few the most accomplished business people in the world.
"(I'm) convinced the only thing that kept me going was that I loved what I did," Farber quoted the late Steve Jobs, who said this after being fired from Apple. "The only way to be truly satisfied is to do what you believe is great work, and the only way to do great work is to love what you do."
"I look into their eyes and try to figure out whether they love the money or if they love the business," read Farber's next slide, quoting Warren Buffett, famed billionaire investor. "If they don't love the business, I can't put my money into it."
Perhaps this discovery, that love is so inherent to the success of a business, is the reason why Farber's Extreme Leadership Institute has adopted the credo "Doing what you love in the service of people who love what you do."
Beyond meeting customer, or member satisfaction, which Farber describes as only a baseline accomplishment, getting members to love you and the services your organization provides is the key to really making an impact.
"(It's) serving them in a way that's so significant that what happens, the result that we get, the response that we get is that they love us back," Farber said. 

The following days of the conference bring many more interesting and enlightening events, including three more keynote speakers: Simon Sinek, who speaks today about leadership; Amber MacArthur, a digital media guru who will speak Wednesday; and Marcus Luttrell, who will tell a harrowing story Thursday of his time as a U.S. Navy Seal.

In addition to the speakers, the conference rolls on over the next few days with informational events such as the much anticipated risk-based capital session today, and discovery sessions such as "How to Create Killer Campaigns for Young Adults" and "Winning with Hispanics" tomorrow.  

Every day brings a vendor exhibit "Open Hall" and valuable time set aside for networking. 

Be sure to visit News Now and Credit Union Magazine frequently this week to keep up with all the ACUC action in San Francisco. You can also follow ACUC on Twitter using the handles and hashtag below:

ACUC: CUs give 'Bite of Reality' to teach financial lessons

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SAN FRANCISCO (7/1/14)--While the consequences may have been fake, the financial decision-making lessons learned by students at the "Bite of Reality" money fair, held on Day 1 of the Credit Union National Association's 2014 America's Credit Union Conference (ACUC) here, were very real.
As a part of attending CUNA's America's Credit Union Conference, Maria LaVelle, CEO, Westmoreland FCU, Greensburg, Pa., volunteered for Monday's "Bite of Reality" financial simulation.
The event was held in conjunction with the conference as a way to continue a credit union tradition of giving back to a community that hosts a credit union event.  As explained by Amy Nigrelli, CUNA vice president of marketing and communications, CUNA and credit unions believe it is important to put together a give-back event like this.
"These people, these CUNA, league and credit union volunteers, could have gone on wine tours or other events throughout San Francisco, but they chose to come here and volunteer in this youth financial education effort," Nigrelli said. "It truly reflects the credit union philosophy of 'people helping people.'"
At the money fair, several dozen high school students from San Francisco were handed new identities--complete with jobs, salaries and family situations--and asked to make purchases on the essentials and not-so essentials based on their respective financial situations.
Volunteers--all credit union professionals attending the conference--ran the "stores," and as salespeople, they encouraged the students to buy lavishly, with the hope that at the end of their shopping sprees they would receive a little "Bite of Reality," and learn a tough but valuable lesson.
"You learn when you fail," said Tena Lozano, executive director of the Richard Myles Johnson Foundation, who spearheaded the event in collaboration with CUNA and the National Credit Union Foundation. "The best place to learn when you fail is when the money isn't real. Hopefully these lessons will sink in."
Desmond, a San Francisco high school student, was frugal when he made his purchases during Monday's "Bite of Reality" financial simulation at CUNA's America's Credit Union Conference. (CUNA photos)
When the students arrived, Lozano gave them a crash course on writing a check, which was their only form of payment, and then sent them off to buy cars, housing, groceries and clothing, among other goods.
Some splurged on boats, big houses and nice furniture, while others chose a thriftier route. "I didn't get the Ferrari," Desmond, a student participating in the event, told News Now . "Not in the budget."
After shopping, the students were instructed to visit the final booth, a mock credit union, where they would assess the damage and have the ability to sell back products they couldn't afford. Those who spent without regard received a dose of reality, while those like Desmond learned they might have the right idea in terms of managing finances.
"When it's your own money, can you afford that new iPhone?" posed Maria LaVelle, CEO, Westmoreland FCU, Greensburg, Pa., with $67 million in assets. LaVelle was one of the volunteers at the event. "I think it's about determining what a need is vs. what a want is."
Added Diana Kot, vice president of member development/advocacy, for SchoolsFirst FCU, Santa Ana, Calif., with $10.3 billion in assets:  "The results are amazing when you watch the kids, what they learn, the hands-on reality. The kids walk away with a much greater appreciation of what their parents have to do on a day-to-day basis; it's an eye opener for them."
But the students aren't the only ones who learned something Monday.  Volunteers, many of whom are involved in the credit union community, got a glimpse of the financial abilities of younger generations.
Judy Ensweiler, wife of Cornerstone Credit Union League CEO Dick Ensweiler, said she was surprised that so many kids didn't know how to write a check, taking that and many other "Ah ha!" moments away from the event.
Meanwhile, organizers of the event were pleased with the turnout, both by the students and by the credit union volunteers who participated.

Be sure to visit News Now and Credit Union Magazine frequently this week to keep up with all the ACUC action in San Francisco. You can also follow ACUC on Twitter using the handles and hashtag below:

One day without a phone? No way, says mobile report

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CHARLOTTE, N.C. (7/1/14)--Americans are attached to their smartphones--enough so that nearly half say they wouldn't last a day without their technological teddy bear. According to a Bank of America survey released Monday, smartphones rival only cars and deodorant as "can't live without" items.

And forget binge-watching "Orange is the New Black" while drinking a cup of joe: 76% of owners say their smartphones are significantly more important to them than TV, and 60% rated phones higher than coffee.

The inaugural Consumer Mobility Report looked at the banking behaviors of people who own smartphones and have a relationship with a financial institution.

The report also found that the youngest millennials age 18 to 24 are most likely to consider view their mobile phones as very important (96%)--more than deodorant at 90% or a toothbrush (93%) and even their toothbrush (93 percent).

As far as mobile banking goes, almost two-thirds have tried using mobile banking, most often for checking account balances, transferring funds and depositing checks remotely.

Even as interest in mobile services grows, the survey found 84% had visited a branch within the past six months. Visits were strong across age groups--83% of millennials and 85% of those age 35 and older.

Heard at ACUC: Come for the sights, stay for the networking

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SAN FRANCISCO (7/1/14)--For the 1,200 credit union professionals converging in San Francisco, there are countless reasons to attend the Credit Union National Association's 2014 America's Credit Union Conference (ACUC).
Some want to come up to speed on the latest technology, others want to pounce on unique opportunities to learn how to incorporate more financial education into their credit union's operations.  And this year they get to do that while taking in the bustling sights and sounds of a certain vibrant city by the bay, when there is time.
But there's one theme that seems to underlie all motivations for coming to ACUC, and that's for the chance to network and interact with credit union professionals from throughout the country. This incentive is especially high for small credit unions.
"Get out of your shops so you know what's going on, get (up to date) within the 21st century at least, and it's very important to network, very important," Linda Cappella, president/CEO of Credit Union ONE Inc., North Jackson, Ohio, with $10.8 million in assets, told News Now before Monday's small credit union roundtable.
"Small credit unions have a tendency to stay in their own little cocoon and their own little world and they operate like they always did, and that just isn't going to work anymore. It's not sufficient anymore."
Joni Senkpeil, director of small credit union development at the Illinois Credit Union League and the Credit Union Magazine CU Hero of the Year--honored Monday at the first general session of ACUC--could not agree more.
"It's really a networking opportunity, you learn so much from other credit unions, and if any industry can do it best, it's credit unions when you're talking about collaborating and that kind of thing," Senkpeil told News Now . "We've got to join together, join hands and we can do it easily. It's part of our foundation."
In truth, however, there are additional opportunities beyond networking to take advantage of at ACUC.
Brett Weber, who sits on the supervisory board of Allegiance CU, Oklahoma City, with $247 million in assets, for example, wants to increase his knowledge of the financial services industry in general, as his background is in IT.
Further, Weber is in search of ways to ramp up interest in credit unions by younger generations, which are noticeably missing at his credit union.
"We don't have as many volunteers of the younger generations to come up and help with supervisory committee, board of directors, volunteering and things like that," Weber told News Now . "I don't know if there could be some type of program to help gain interest for the Gen Xers out there that would want to volunteer for their credit union, something like that that would get new blood."
Weber plans to attend several of the young professional discovery sessions CUNA has planned for the week.
Cappella, meanwhile, is interested in learning about advances in technology that her credit union might be able to take advantage of.
"Technology is moving rapidly," Cappella said. "You blink and it's something new. Every day we're getting a new program, a new update and that's difficult, that is very difficult."
But in the end, no matter what each credit union professional takes away from the conference, they know they will leave with new relationships, which can be leveraged to improve credit unions nationwide.
"I gotta tell you it's the people sitting in the seats (here)...," Senkpeil told  News Now . "There's a lot of products and a lot of economies of scale that you can take advantage of in certain companies, and you have to look at that."

Be sure to visit News Now and Credit Union Magazine frequently this week to keep up with all the ACUC action in San Francisco. You can also follow ACUC on Twitter using the handles and hashtag below:

Mergers don't stymie Wis. CU member growth

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MADISON, Wis. (7/1/14)--As with virtually every other state in the country, credit union mergers are changing the financial services landscape in Wisconsin, the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel reported in a June 29 article.
But regardless of the merger trend, credit unions aren't going anywhere. "We are seeing more people served, although by fewer credit unions," Brett Thompson, president/CEO of the Wisconsin Credit Union League, told the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel .
Two Wisconsin credit unions are set to merge this week, the latest in a wave of consolidation that has cut in half the number of credit unions in the state since the late 1990s, the Journal Sentinel reported. In the state's fifth merger of the year, Capital CU in Kimberly, with $480 million in assets, and Pioneer CU, Green Bay, with $604 million assets, will create Wisconsin's eighth credit union with more than $1 billion in assets.
The mergers are driven by a number of factors--increased regulations, the demand by consumers for costly technology such as mobile apps and the difficulty of finding people interested in running small credit unions as older leaders retire--the Journal Sentinel noted.
Since the recession, both credit unions and banks have been subject to creeping regulation. Smaller credit unions struggle the hardest to keep pace with the increased resources required to meet the demand of the new regulations.
"The regulatory and legal pressure on credit unions is as heavy as it's ever been," Thompson told the Journal Sentinel . "And to comply with all those regulations takes a great deal of staff time, a great deal of resources that many of our credit unions don't have."
At the same time, consumers demand the technology, such as mobile banking, that makes accessing their accounts convenient--requiring investments that only increase the financial strain for small credit unions.
The best way to provide those products is by merging with a larger credit union, Thompson said.
When the chief executives of the smaller credit unions retire, it can be difficult to find a replacement, said Mike Schenk, vice president and interim chief economist for the Credit Union National Association. Simply put, running a small credit union be a challenge, Schenk said.
"We do periodic salary surveys, and it's very clear these folks are working 60, 70, 80 hours a week, and the pay range is actually quite low in the scheme of things," Schenk told the Journal Sentinel . "Finding people who are willing to put in that labor of love, basically, is very, very difficult."

ACUC: Joni Senkpeil named CU Magazine's CU Hero of the Year

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SAN FRANCISCO (7/1/14)--In sheer numbers, small credit unions are big business, said Joni Senkpeil, director of small credit union development for the Illinois Credit Union League.
"They provide financial choice," she said. "We need them."
Credit Union Magazine  readers voted Senkpeil the 2014 Credit Union Hero of the Year. She received her award during Monday's opening general session at the Credit Union National Association's  America's Credit Union Conference. 
Keynoter Steve Farber also honored Senkpeil during his address. "A hero is someone who sees a need and steps up, like Joni," he said.
Senkpeil's passion for credit unions, especially small ones, is evident in her every activity. She started the league's Small Asset Size Credit Union Advisory Group, which aims to foster a stronger small credit union community.
She also launched a regional "lunch and learn" workshop series designed for small credit unions. The workshops are formatted strategically to minimize travel, time away from the office and hotel expenses for participants.
Believing credit unions needed a single source for resources, Senkpeil also was instrumental in developing content for the league's Small Credit Union Center website, including best practices, information on grant funding, strategic planning services, and common business templates.
Through her work, Senkpeil has given small credit unions a vital forum to network and help each other.
"Together we have a powerful voice, and we can do a lot," Senkpeil told her ACUC audience. She added there's not enough stories about how small credit unions work together. "Collaborate, and share your ideas with each other."
This honor has been "an amazing, awesome experience," she said, and thanked the credit unions she serves--her heroes--for inspiring her each day.
Credit Union Magazine  readers also honored these leaders as Credit Union Heroes:
  • William Armstrong, director, Northeast Community CU, Elizabethton, Tenn., with $99 million in assets;
  • Dan Morrisey, CEO/treasurer, Queen of Peace Arlington (Va.) FCU, with $2.1 million in assets; and
  • William "Bill" Rissel, president/CEO, Fort Knox FCU, Radcliff, Ky., with $1.1 billion in assets.
Use the resource link to go to Credit Union Magazine for more on the hero awards and to see more scenes from Monday at the ACUC. And for more on Farber's keynote speech on leadership, see related story: ACUC: Farber spreads the love, a critical component of leadership.

Also be sure to visit News Now and Credit Union Magazine frequently this week to keep up with all the ACUC action in San Francisco. You can also follow #ACUC on Twitter and by following NewsNowLiveWire .

Mich. state CUs granted derivatives authority

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LANSING, Mich. (7/1/14)--The Michigan Department of Insurance and Financial Services (DIFS) has granted state-chartered credit unions the authority to purchase interest-rate derivatives to mitigate interest-rate portfolio risks.
DIFS Director Annette Flood signed Order No. 14-033-CU on June 23 to allow state-chartered credit unions the authority under the Michigan Credit Union Act (MCUA), the Michigan Credit Union League reported ( Monitor June 30).
The league, together with DFCU Financial CU, Dearborn, Mich., with $3.6 billion in assets, requested derivative authority based on the current provisions of the MCUA. DFCU and the league said that the use of derivatives is commonplace in the financial industry as part of sound risk-management practices.

Credit unions, like their banking counterparts, have interest-rate risk and are directed by their regulators to mitigate that risk. Appropriately used derivatives is a cost-effective means to mitigate that risk and a tool necessary to compete with other services providers, including federally chartered credit unions and banks.
Under the MCUA, the state director may issue an order authorizing domestic credit unions to exercise powers not specifically authorized if the director finds those powers appropriate and necessary to complete with other financial service providers in the state. Within the order, the director specifically found that:
  • Domestic credit unions may purchase interest-rate derivatives for the purpose of mitigating interest-rate portfolio risk in a safe and sound manner;
  • Sections 401 and 431 of the MCUA support authorizing such activity;
  • Competing federal credit unions operating under recently promulgated NCUA regulations already have the authority to engage in such purchases, thereby placing domestic credit unions at a competitive disadvantage if they are not permitted to use these derivatives;
  • There are no specific limitations on domestic credit union powers under the MCUA or other law that would prohibit authorizing these additional powers; and
  • Granting this additional authority is appropriate and necessary to enable domestic credit unions to compete with other providers of financial services.
State-chartered credit unions planning to purchase interest-rate derivatives to mitigate interest rate-risk must notify DIFS 60 days prior to the purchase, the order said.

America Saves: Consumers show more effort, more interest in saving

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WASHINGTON (7/1/14)--In the most recent Personal Savings Index from America Saves, consumers reported being more interested in saving and putting greater effort into doing so, resulting in more effective savings habits.
May's scores ticked back up to September levels after slumping in January. "The low savings interest, effort and effectiveness in January is probably related to holiday spending that served as a distraction and also made it difficult for many to save," said Stephen Brobeck, executive director, Consumer Federation of America.
The survey, taken every four months, measures consumers' interest in saving, the effort they make to save and how effective they are in meeting those goals.
"However, in each of the three periods, there was a consistent and predictable relationship between interest, effort and effectiveness.  Not all those with interest in saving make the effort, and not all those who make the effort are successful," Brobeck added.
As in the two earlier surveys, the savings gap was significant among income groups: those with less than $25,000 income annually were only 60% interested in saving, compared with 80% of those in the $100,000-plus income range. The difference continued in saving effort, 50% vs. 77%, and saving effectiveness, 43% vs. 74%.
"The lower one's income, the harder it is to save, and this difficulty appears to depress saving effort and even saving interest," Brobeck noted.