Lessons From Sunday School Change A Life

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Sometimes it takes just one person to make a difference in someone else's life, and in turn set off a chain reaction of good service.

For Jim Moore, that one person was a Sunday school teacher he had years and years ago.

"I had a Sunday school teacher who worked for Merrill Lynch. He introduced me to the concept of investing, and I got my dad to buy me some stock in United Transit. It's paid off for me," he said.

That was a lesson Moore never forgot, and he has been paying it forward to the credit union community for more than half a century. Moore is a board member of the $150-million E Federal Credit Union in Baton Rouge, a seat he has held for 53 years. One of the reasons he has served so long can be traced all the way back to his Sunday school days. Moore understands the importance of financial literacy and believes credit unions are doing a good job of teaching it.

"There are too many people who do not understand how to handle their financials, otherwise there wouldn't be such high credit card debt," he told The Credit Union Journal. "Credit unions offer members an opportunity to handle their financials properly, and I'm interested in credit unions continuing to be this way. I don't want us to fall into the trap of liking the fact that our members have balances on their credit cards just because it's money for us."

Support For Financial Literacy

Moore is chairman of the Louisiana Credit Union League's legislative committee and a board member of the local Consumer Credit Counseling Service. As such, he has been a huge proponent of financial literacy legislation in Louisiana. In 2003, he supported a financial literacy bill introduced by Louisiana Sen. Paulette Irons that would require the teaching of personal finance in all Louisiana high schools. The bill passed by an overwhelming majority, and the new curriculum was introduced at the beginning of the current school year. It includes lessons in income, money management, spending and credit, and savings and investments. Thanks to programs like the Jump$tart Program for Financial Literacy, teachers are being taught the curriculum at no charge and are receiving a stipend for attending the training.

"This is something important that will benefit everyone, and the credit unions supported it. The banks did not. This is one more reason why I believe that credit unions are valuable to people," Moore said.

That's pretty much the message Moore emphasizes when he talks with his lawmakers. He and other members of the league's legislative committee meet with their representatives during the Governmental Affairs Conferences hosted by CUNA in Washington, D.C. and by the Louisiana league in Baton Rouge.

LCUL CEO Anne Cochran says having Moore on their side during those times has proven invaluable to their cause.

"Jim is definitely a leader when we go to Capitol Hill, and he is one of the first people we would turn to in the room for an opinion," she said. "Jim is a true credit union pioneer. He definitely is a visionary, able to see issues from a small credit union standpoint and the large credit union standpoint. He believes in the cooperative spirit of credit unions, which is very much needed in our industry today. He is a true leader in our state. When you say Jim Moore has an opinion, people will listen."

Since taxation is the big issue facing all credit unions these days, Moore is hoping the legislators will continue to listen to what he and so many others have to say. Pointing out the difference between telling and teaching, Moore believes telling legislators that credit unions are non-profit might not have as much of an impact as teaching them what that means.

"I think the reason banks were successful in generating a lot of support initially is that it wasn't understood what non-profit really meant," Moore explained. "I try to let them that know that the only thing excess earnings does is add to the financial security of the credit union. We do not have tremendous salaries. We are there for the members. For their investment, they get paid interest, but nothing else. I think legislators have a hard time understanding this."

Sometimes to get his point across, Moore compares the difference between banks and credit unions to the difference between private health clubs and the YMCA. A lot of the services are similar, but they are more affordable at the "Y," whose purpose is to provide services that benefit the community. They are not in business to make a profit. Despite all of the controversy surrounding credit unions' tax-exempt status, Moore does not believe the bankers will ever win, at least not in Louisiana, where even the governor serves on the board of a credit union.

'What Would They Tax?'

"I think that they are going to have a tough time with this. We are non-profit, because we don't make a profit. Quite frankly, I don't know what they would tax," he said.

If the banks do decide to launch an attack, Louisiana credit unions are armed. They have already raised $60,000 for the Louisiana Defense Fund, and the money is earmarked for the defense of banker attacks on credit unions' tax-exempt status. Moore attributes the success of that fundraising partially to the strength of the Louisiana CULAC, but he gives most of the credit to employees working at the Louisiana Credit Union League. Ironically, he originally got involved in the credit union movement because he thought the league was too controlling of credit unions. Since that control has changed hands over the years, he now has a different reason for staying involved for so long.

"It's important for us to give of ourselves, and we usually get more than we give. I get the pleasure of meeting with representatives, the pleasure of seeing the things that I believe in have some wings to them," he said. "If I like something, if I think it's worthwhile, I continue doing it, and when you have everything you need, you need to share some of it."

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