It's not all doom and gloom at New Jersey credit unions

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This opinion article is in response to a recent Credit Union Journal story about the financial performance of New Jersey credit unions.

Most often, statistics don’t tell the entire story.

While National Credit Union Administration metrics could portray New Jersey credit unions as some of the most challenged in the country, from my perspective our members are a beacon of light in a slow-to-recover New Jersey economy.

There’s no arguing that the great recession of 2008 hit New Jersey hard from the housing market to employment statistics to even tourism. The devastation wrought by 2012’s Hurricane Sandy didn’t do us any favors either.

While New Jersey has experienced a recovery over the past decade, it’s been slow and has had a disproportionate impact on New Jerseyans of low or modest means — the members we serve.

These are the people and neighborhoods that the big banks have left behind, and that is exactly why credit unions are so important here, as the best financial alternative in the consumer and small business marketplace. In the aggregate, New Jersey credit union members saved more than $64 million in lower interest rates and more than $9 million in fewer/lower fees over the past year, and $7.5 million in increased interest on deposit accounts.

In total, they received $81.5 million in better rates on loans, deposit accounts and fewer fees. That’s $168 in benefits per member household for the more than 1 million credit union members in the state.

We’re also looking forward. New Jersey credit unions collaborated on our award-winning Financial Reality Fair program to educate 4,075 New Jersey students at 25 Fairs over the last school year, free of charge. These budget simulations put high school and college students through an exercise to show how to live on a budget with a real-world salary. The fairs benefit students and teachers long term, so they can avoid excessive debt, high-interest rates, and poor credit.

As not-for-profit financial cooperatives that hold our people helping people philosophy at the core of everything we do, we’re needed now more than ever. New Jersey credit unions will help New Jersey consumers flourish financially for decades to come.

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