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Everything in Moderation

Posted By Leo MacNeil, HarborOne Credit Union, Thursday, April 5, 2012
Updated: Wednesday, November 20, 2013

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 healthy life.

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 maintain balance?

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 budget.

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 Education."

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