Reading the news about the European financial crisis we find
that the modern Greeks did not follow the wisdom of their ancient forbearers,
"Everything in Moderation." As always, a healthy balance is
essential to a healthy life.
Over the years, many people have heard me observe: "Money shouldn't be the
most important thing in life, but if money isn't managed well, all the more
important things tend to fall apart."
Moderation is a message that we financial marketers need to keep constantly in
mind. Why? Because when we don't we can find ourselves conflicted. A major part
of our job is to get consumers to consume more, to borrow in order to buy cars,
homes, personal property, trips and more. The epitome of this is through credit
cards which when coupled with aggressive retail marketing often leads to
compulsive spending, the loss of moderation and consequently the loss of a
In our business we see it all too frequently. Indeed, isn't this prolonged and
painful recession the consequence of immoderate spending of a failure to
This serves to remind us that even the most intelligent of our profession have
not been immune to excesses - witness the Wall Street debacle of the past
several years. It has been a clarion call to us community bankers to preserve
the roots that brought us to where we are.
Before I sound too much like a preacher, let me become a practical banker. Why
is it important for your institution to place a strong emphasis on customer
financial education? After all, isn't that education another expense to pull
down profits? I hope the answer should be obvious. While it seems wonderful to
grow those loan portfolios, gaining recognition and rewards along the way, if
it is done by taking advantage of undisciplined money management of our
customers, they lose and ultimately we and our banks do, too.
It's not easy. Whenever education is pitted against marketing, it is an uphill
battle, but it is still an essential one. Sure we "want" people to
spend, but we "need" (the verbs are chosen metaphorically and
deliberately) them to spend wisely, to maintain a healthy balance and a healthy
So financial education, while an expense, is ultimately an investment. This is
especially true among the young, those still in high school before they
graduate and face aggressive marketing, especially of credit cards. Credit is
essential to survival in our economy, but credit without proper education is
frequently putting a dangerous weapon in our youth's hands.
HarborOne has successfully been offering quality financial education to various
segments of our marketplace: youth, ethnic communities, clients of non-profit partners
and yes, middle class residents too. And they have been doing this for over two
decades - long, long before this terrible recession shocked so many others into
recognition we will continue to offer it long after the recession ends and we
return to prosperity because "Everything in Moderation" works
best in the long run.
Register for the Spring Conferenceto hear Leo and
other panelists present on "Making the Grade with Financial