Saturday, August 17, 2013

In Shakespeare’s Hamlet, Polonius gave advice to his son, “Neither a borrower nor a lender be.” Yeah, just try to keep your money. Don’t lend it to anyone and don’t borrow any money. Few of us can say that we actually can live our lives by those simple practices. Most of our economy is fueled by lent and borrowed funds. There is one American family that seems to lend out a lot of money on a regular basis. But they do it with strict rules.

In Omaha, Nebraska there is America’s only family Credit Union. It is also called Susan’s House. She is the family member who manages the Our Family Social Credit Union from her tiny home office. Any family member who has a current loan with her has a file in her file cabinets and she even keeps track of who bought what with the money borrowed. Not a bad idea since my family is always hitting me up for money.

The whole idea was started in 1950 by the descendants of Manley Williams and their spouses. The credit union now has 482 members and assets of $444.606. Our Family Social is classified as a state chartered natural person credit union. It has no full time employees and one part time employee. I need to get organized and run my favors like a real business too.

You always hear the phrase, “never loan money to friends and family” but that is the only people this family lends money to. In fact their extended family has been kept close by money. I have a close friend who gives employment to all her friends and family and even loans them money. She has to garnish their wages to get anything back sometimes and then she goes on vacation with all of them anyway.

How this family does it is that they require a five dollar deposit plus a 25 cent handling fee, and you become a member of the Family Social Credit Union if you are also a direct descendant of Manley and Lucy Williams or married to one. Today they have 511 members in 22 states and assets of about a half Million dollars. It is a small operation that has made a huge difference in the lives of family members over the years. They take care of their own.

They lend money when it is needed for things like a new car or a new baby or college costs. Remember that Credit Unions are very different from banks. Banks have shareholders and they have to make a profit. Credit Unions are NOT for profit organizations. That doesn’t mean that they do not make a profit. It means that their profits are returned to their members.

Peggy Powell runs America’s Credit Union Museum on the site of the nation’s first credit union founded in 1908 in Manchester, New Hampshire to help French Canadian mill workers who couldn’t get bank loans. Well, here we are century’s later and there are plenty96 of American workers who still don’t qualify for bank loans. Now there are many Credit Unions all over the country helping Americans save and prosper.

The idea of a family credit union is not that very different from other unions. It is a group of people combining their resources to look out for one another. In the Family Social Union, Susan and the other managing members all have other full time jobs but they are there to get the calls about someone who has just lost their job or about whatever reason they need to borrow money. They do turn some people down but most get the loan and are required to make payments regularity. There are no late fees or interest rate hikes but you better pay something back regularly or you will get a call from Susan.

She will remind you how she was there for you when you needed assistance, now you must make that effort to pay back. They keep in touch. They have family reunions every 2 years and scholarships are given out and even a family newsletter called Relatively Speaking is written. The family will know pretty soon if you are a dead beat and no one wants to look poorly to their family. .
Apparently money is the glue that keeps this family together and knowing each other and caring about each other and helping each other to thrive and prosper. They are family.

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