Feeling the post Christmas financial pinch?

Too much food and wine aren’t the only things causing post Christmas hangovers in 2011. January can be one of the most financially stressful times of the year as Christmas bills start arriving into households around the country during the month. This year in particular, many families will struggle to keep their heads above water as they deal not only with Christmas overspending but reduced incomes, cuts in social welfare and job losses.

Irish League of Credit Unions CEO, Kieron Brennan says, “This is a particularly stressful time for many Irish people. An ILCU commissioned study carried out in December 2010 showed that over 50 per cent of the Irish population would get themselves into debt over the 2010 Christmas season and found that it could, in some cases, take some people up to nine months to financially recover from this over spending. These are worrying statistics.

“The ILCU is urging both members and non members who find themselves in trouble this January and throughout the rest of the year to call in and speak to their credit union. The credit union is flexible and will work with its members to find a solution to financial difficulties, be it by assisting with budgeting or rescheduling payments where possible.”

He added, “The Credit Union prides itself on its innovative people-focused approach to loans, savings, and other financial services and works for the mutual benefit and general welfare of its members. Our uniqueness lies in our difference to other financial institutions and this can be seen in the way we approach our services and how we deal with our members”

Loans

Credit unions offer personal loans with affordable repayments to members that need to borrow money. These loans are unique in that there are no hidden fees or transaction charges, the interest rates are fair and reasonable and repayments are calculated on your reducing balance so less interest is paid with each repayment.

Once a member is eligible for a credit union loan, the repayment terms can be designed around their needs. A credit union loan is insured, subject to terms and conditions, at no direct cost to the member while other lenders charge for this service. A credit union loan can be paid off early, additional lump sum repayments can be made and a member can increase their repayments without a penalty – other lenders may charge extra for paying them back faster. The priority for 2011 is to continue to provide credit for those who need it in these difficult times.

Savings

Whether you’re saving for something in the future or just for a rainy day, regular saving is a good idea. Member’s funds are entirely safe, as credit union members benefit from the double protection of the ILCU Savings Protection Scheme, which currently stands at €125 million and the Irish Government’s Deposit Guarantee of up to €100,000 per depositor.

Insurance

Credit Unions also offer insurance services to all eligible members. Some of these insurance services are paid for directly by the credit union and others are paid directly by the member. Your local credit union will be able to give you details about what is available. The insurance covers currently provided by credit unions in respect of eligible members are:

• Loan protection

• Life savings insurance

• Death benefit insurance (may be provided by some credit unions )

Some of the member pay services currently available at credit unions around the country are listed below. However, the ILCU advises members to check with their credit union to confirm what services are available to them.

• Repayment protection insurance (RPI )

• Death benefit insurance (may be offered as a member pay service )

• Travel insurance

• Home union insurance

• Auto union insurance

• Private health insurance schemes.

The Credit Union exists to serve its members, not to profit from them. It offers its members the chance to have control over their own finances by making their own savings work for them. The credit union is different and its uniqueness lies in the fact that it is an accessible, community owned, not for profit provider of financial services. Credit unions have served their members well in Ireland since 1958, and as long as there are active members, they will continue to do so.

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