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Help for Consumers

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Navigating the process of choosing financial products and services that best fit your financial needs can be frustrating and often confusing, especially when making a big financial decision like purchasing a car or home. Many times that frustration is elevated when you feel that you have been treated unjustly by a company or financial institution.

If you are applying for a mortgage, choosing a credit card, shopping for a school loan or using any other consumer financial products and have a complaint about the company or financial institution that is handling your account, the Consumer Finance Protection Bureau (CFPB) has resources to help you file a complaint.

Just visit the CFPB online and click “Submit a Complaint.” Choose a product or service from the available options and click “Get Started.” Next enter what happened, your desired resolution, your contact information, information about the product and review your complaint. You can even attach electronic documents that relate to your issue. After your complaint is filed, the CFPB will forward the complaint to the company and work to get a response about your issue. You will receive email updates and you can track the status of your complaint. Once the company has received and had an opportunity to review your complaint, the CFPB will ensure that the company communicates with you as needed and report back to the CFPB about the steps taken or that will be taken to resolve your complaint.

The CFPB works to ensure that consumers get the information they need to make the financial decisions they believe are best for themselves and their families by educating consumers about abusive practices, supervising the practices of financial institutions and providing consumers with the information and tools to protect themselves against unfair or fraudulent financial practices. Your complaints help the CFPB’s work to supervise companies, enforce federal consumer laws and write better rules and regulations to protect all consumers.

Follow HOPE online for more tips, tools and resources to help you protect your financial future. Like us on Facebook, follow us on Twitter or join our LinkedIn community.

 

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On Tuesday, July 29, 2014, HOPE CEO Bill Bynum testified before the Joint Economic Committee in the U.S. Congress.  During the hearing, titled “"Increasing Economic Opportunity for African Americans: Local Initiatives that Are Making a Difference", Mr. Bynum called on Congress to level the playing field by investing in proven solutions that give people – particularly African Americans – the tools to save and build wealth. 

The testimony began with an acknowledgement that much work remains in the region around issues of economic justice.  Specifically:

  • One out of four persistently impoverished counties (counties with poverty rates exceeding 20% for three decades in a row) is located in the Mid South.  In Mississippi, over half of the state’s persistently impoverished counties have African American populations above 50%; 
  • The Mid South is home to the highest rates of unbanked and underbanked households in the country – rates that are particularly disparate among African Americans; 
  • African Americans living in the Mid South experience the highest rates of high cost home lending in the country; 
  • Wealth disparities contribute significantly to a lack of access to capital to start and expand small businesses among minority populations; 
  • The region has over 1,000 bank deserts – communities with fewer than two bank branches.

Access to a financial institution to open a checking account, to take out a mortgage or to borrow money to start a small business remain essential for moving the region’s people ahead – particularly in communities of color.  Research has shown that when low-income individuals have a relationship with a depository, they are more likely to own assets.  Research has also shown that when a depository is located in a low-income or rural community, residents are more likely to have access to mortgages and small business loans.

Amid this backdrop, HOPE called on Congress to invest in high capacity CDFIs with a track record of connecting minority populations to affordable financial services through: 

  • Targeted federal investments in persistent poverty areas; 
  • Strengthening the Community Reinvestment Act to support community development institutions that provide financial services to bank deserts;
  • Support for federal consumer regulations that protect individuals from getting caught in loans that they cannot afford to repay.

HOPE concluded its remarks by emphasizing the critical importance of locally owned financial institutions to the successful implementation of the policy recommendations. 

To read a full copy of the testimony, click here.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Credit Union Restores, Expands Financial Services to Area Residents

Terry Ribbon CuttingTERRY, MS – Community leaders, local residents and members of the faith community gathered in Terry to celebrate the opening of the town’s newest business – a full service branch of Hope Federal Credit Union (HOPE).  After the town’s only bank branch closed this spring, the credit union responded by making a long term commitment to restore and expand financial services to area residents.   Regions Bank donated the facility to HOPE.


The decision to open a branch in Terry is part of HOPE’s five year strategic plan to double the number of places and people served – particularly in bank deserts.  Bank deserts are defined by the U.S. Postal Service as a zip code in which fewer than two bank branches exist.  When HOPE opened its doors, Terry met the bank desert criteria.

  
For local people, the opening of the branch is a welcome sight.  “I’ve been a member and maintained my business account with HOPE for a number of years and they’ve always provided high quality products and services” said Debra Hunter, a small business owner and resident of Terry.  “By opening a branch on Main Street, the credit union is not only bringing HOPE to downtown, but to all of the people who live in Terry.”  Ms. Hunter is the producer of Cooking with Honey & Friends, a local television show based in Terry.

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Mortgage, eligibility, “soft second”, and limited credit are all terms often used or heard when buying a home. All of those were heard as New Orleans resident and owner of a landscaping business, Demetria Christo, tried to buy her first home. Ms. Christo was referred to HOPDemetria Christo in front of houseE with a Goldman Sachs 10k Small Business Loan and she did indeed have limited credit, but she wasn’t deterred. Working with HOPE and her accountant, Ms. Christo poured over paper work to change her eligibility, reach “preferred status, and receive the best of all possible offers. It took six months

“She was meticulous about every detail,” said Mileah Lyon, HOPE mortgage loan originator who worked with Ms. Christo.

After working to obtain a NOLA Soft Second grant, Ms. Christo was ready to house hunt. This too proved to be time consuming. Property inspections on three different homes revealed concerns Ms. Christo and her realtor were unable to negotiate to get corrected. Plus, each time a new property went under contract a new file with new documents would have to be re-opened and then closed when the contract was cancelled. ..more paperwork and five more months!

“Not once did she become frustrated or anything less than grateful for my assistance thru this roller coaster of a loan,” said Lyon.

“Had I worked with another banker at another bank, I'm certain that my Soft Second would not have maintained momentum,” said Demetria Christo.

Her perseverance would pay off.

She closed February 6, 2014. Ms. Christo is very grateful for HOPE’s help but especially her loan originator.

“Because of people like Mileah, I will continue to do business with HOPE."

If you are thinking of buyng a home, call us at 1-866-321-HOPE or email us at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

 

You can even apply online

 

Jon Kalahar, Communications Coordinator, Hope Credit Union/Hope Enterprise Corporation/Mississippi Economic Policy Center

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Field Memorial front“There is nothing more fundamental to the economic stability of a community than quality health care,” said Bill Bynum, HOPE’s CEO, at the groundbreaking for Field Memorial Hospital’s new facility in Centreville, Mississippi. Field Memorial Hospital is a critical access hospital serving a medically underserved, rural community in Southwest Mississippi. In a community where four out of ten people live in poverty, Field Memorial provides vital preventive, emergency, surgical, rehab, and clinical health services to over 13,000 patients each year. It is the only hospital for 35 to 50 miles in any direction.

Field Memorial’s current facility is in dire need of replacement, and HOPE is thrilled to be able to help make the new facility possible. HOPE provided $6 million in New Markets Tax Credit investment and $2.5 million in conventional financing to the $21 million new state of the art facility that is under construction. “HOPE is extremely proud to be a partner in financing the development of Field Memorial Hospital’s new facility to be built here,” said Bynum at the event. “Not only is Field Memorial providing much needed health services, but it provides high quality jobs with good salaries and benefits, jobs that are critical to the growth of any community.”breaking ground

Field Memorial is 2nd largest employer in its region. It employs a total of 190 individuals in its hospital and its four clinics. The majority of these employees receive retirement benefits, health, dental, and life insurance, paid vacation and sick leave, and education and training. In addition, the construction of the new facility is creating over 150 construction jobs.

 As the only hospital in Amite or Wilkinson Counties, Field Memorial and its employees are working hard to address significant health challenges. Wilkinson County, where Field Memorial Hospital is located, ranks 78 out of Mississippi’s 82 counties in Health Outcomes and 63 out of 82 in Health Factors by Robert Wood Johnson Foundation. For example, 42% of adults are considered obese, 16% of residents have diabetes, and 29% of residents have overall poor or fair health.

 HOPE (Hope Enterprise Corporation/Hope Credit Union) has been financing health care providers for over ten years.  We recognize the absolutely critical role that community health centers, clinics, and rural hospitals such as Field Memorial, play in the economies of distressed communities across the Mid South and in the lives of working families and children. We have originated more than 30 health care and hospital loans for projects totaling more than $60 million. These health facilities provide thousands of jobs, and serve tens of thousands of patients annually.

 Field Memorial staff and board members made their appreciation for HOPE’s services clear. “We want to thank our financial partners, said Chad Netterville, CEO of Field Memorial Hospital. “We would not be here today without their financing and their expertise with New Markets Tax Credit financing.”

Bill Richard Field CEOFounded by two brothers, Dr. Richard Jennings Field and Dr. Samuel E. Field, in 1928, Field Memorial still feels like a tight knit family. Many employees are following in their mother’s or father’s footsteps, serving the community through a profession at Field Memorial. And the staff feels passionately about providing top notch health care and working to improve the health indicators of their service area. As is the case in most rural areas, their patients are their neighbors and family friends.

The HOPE family is honored to be joining the Field Memorial family to ensure that the residents of Amite and Wilkinson Counties are able to receive state of the art health care services for decades to come. We look forward to building on our investment in Field Memorial to offer our full range of affordable checking, savings and other products to strengthen the Centreville and surrounding communities, build assets, and improve the lives of the residents of Wilkinson and Amite Counties.

 

-Mary Elizabeth Evans

Vice President of Community and Economic Development

HOPE Enterprise Corporation

 
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Over the last year, the Mississippi Economic Policy Center, sponsored by the Hope Enterprise Corporation, has conducted a number of research briefs on the topic of asset poverty. A number of the more notable pieces include:

 

  1. 1.Scorecard: Mississippi has Highest Rates of Unbanked and Underbanked, http://mepconline.org/category/blog/page/3
  2. 2.Scorecard: Low and Middle Class Families among Mississippi’s “Liquid Asset Poor,” http://mepconline.org/category/blog/page/4
  3. 3.Scorecard: Financial Security in Mississippi, http://mepconline.org/category/blog/page/8

 

Additional information about the effects of asset poverty in other parts of the region can be found on the Asset and Opportunity Scorecard sponsored by the Corporation for Enterprise Development.

 

Recently, CFED held a forum in Dallas, TX to spotlight the challenges associated with asset poverty. Click here to view the forum.

 

Over the next several weeks, HOPE experts will weigh in on the topic of asset poverty and underscore the steps being taken by HOPE to address it in the Mid South.

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Hope Enterprise Corporation and Hope Credit Union would like to thank NeighborWorks America for helping us bring a screening of The Cherokee Word for Water to Jackson, Mississippi and Little Rock Arkansas.

NWA logo

 

The Cherokee Word for Water will be screened March 18 in Jackson at the Davis Planetarium and March 20 in Little Rock at the Historic Arkansas Museum.

 

Historic Arkansas Museum Logo

 

Based on the true story of the Bell Waterline Project, the movie is about a community coming together to improve its life condition. Led by Wilma Mankiller, who went on to become the first woman chief of the Cherokee Nation, and organizer Charlie Soap, a community of volunteers are inspired to embrace the values of reciprocity and interconnectedness. The successful completion of the waterline sparked a movement of self-help projects across the Cherokee nation and in Indian country that continues to this day.

Heller CWFW 9-30-11 1354 copy 2

After each viewing, the film’s producer Kristina Kiehl, and co-director Charlie Soap (Chief Mankiller’s husband and a lead organizer of the waterline project) will discuss the film and answer questions.

HOPE and the Winter Institute are hosting this event because of the strong alignment between the gadugi concept and the respective missions of our organizations. 

 A trailer for the film can be accessed via the link www.cw4w.com

The following is the schedule of events for the Jackson and Little Rock Screenings:

Jackson

Location:             Jackson Planetarium

Date:                    Tuesday, March 18, 2014

Time:                    Reception, 6:00pm, Screening, 7:00pm

Little Rock

Location:             Historic Arkansas Museum

Date:                    Thursday, March 20, 2014

Time:                    Reception, 5:00pm, Screening, 6:00pm

 

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In 2014, the Hope EntHeller CWFW 9-30-11 1354 copy 2erprise Corporation and Hope Credit Union will be celebrating 20 years of creating opportunity where it is needed most. To commemorate two decades of building communities, HOPE will be hosting a number of events, open to the public, throughout the region, throughout the year.

Our first major events in Jackson, MS and Little Rock, AR will include the co-hosting of the screening of “The Cherokee Word for Water” with the William Winter Institute on Racial Reconciliation. The Cherokee Word For Water (CW4W) is inspired by the true story of the struggle for, opposition to, and ultimate success of a rural Cherokee community to bring running water to their families by using the traditional concept of “gadugi “– working together to solve a problem. 

Based on the true story of the Bell Waterline Project, the movie is about a community coming together to improve its life condition. Led by Wilma Mankiller, who went on to become the first woman chief of the Cherokee Nation, and organizer Charlie Soap, a community of volunteers are inspired to embrace the values of reciprocity and interconnectedness. The successful completion of the waterline sparked a movement of self-help projects across the Cherokee nation and in Indian country that continues to this day.

After each viewing, the film’s producer Kristina Kiehl, and co-director Charlie Soap (Chief Mankiller’s husband and a lead organizer of the waterline project) will discuss the film and answer questions.

HOPE and the Winter Institute are hosting this event because of the strong alignment between the gadugi concept and the respective missions of our organizations. 

 A trailer for the film can be accessed via the link www.cw4w.com

 

The following is the schedule of events for the Jackson and Little Rock Screenings:

 

Jackson

Location:             Jackson Planetarium

Date:                    Tuesday, March 18, 2014

Time:                    Reception, 6:00pm, Screening, 7:00pm

Little Rock

Location:             Historic Arkansas Museum

Date:                    Thursday, March 20, 2014

Time:                    Reception, 5:00pm, Screening, 6:00pm

 

All are invited – please share widely!  There will be no charge to attend the events, but donations will be accepted. Any proceeds will support the Wilma Mankiller Foundation, which promotes culturally appropriate community, media and economic development projects in Native communities, to advance educational and women’s leadership opportunities for Native people. For more information, please contact Jon Kalahar, with HOPE at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. or via phone at 601 944-9320.

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Finding Hope: Terry Road Branch Profile

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Come by and see us at our Terry Road Branch today. For a list of branches, opening times, and services offered at each branch, click here.

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"You can do anything when you have a strong education and people believe in you." That was the message students of McDonogh 42 Elementary School received from HOPE CEO Bill Bynum at last Thursday's celebration honoring the start of renovations to their school. HOPE (Hope Enterprise Corporation/Hope Credit Union) is making our commitment to the children of New Orleans clear by investing $6 million in New Markets Tax Credits to renovate McDonogh 42. 

Built in 1928, the historic school building, located in New Orleans' 7th Ward, has not been fully rehabilitated since the 1950s, and experienced significant damage during Hurricane Katrina. The school's $22 million renovation will provide a high quality learning environment for its 500+ elementary school students, including state-of-the-art classrooms, science labs, libraries, and much more. Thanks to an investment of New Markets Tax Credits by HOPE, Urban America, and US Bank, the school building will reopen in fall of 2015.McD42-9959 - E

Mickey Landry, Executive Director of The Choice Foundation, the organization operating the charter school, also spoke at the celebration. "There is no reason our kids in New Orleans should be stopped from fulfilling the promises they have within them," he said. Landry is working to ensure that McDonogh students have the world class experiences and the high quality education that all parents want for their children. To all of the students, parents, community members, and investors, he promised, "We will not let you down!"

HOPE's work in New Orleans and across the Mid South is about transforming lives and revitalizing distressed communities. Since opening an office in Central City in 2004, we have invested millions of dollars in New Orleans communities by financing affordable homes, investing in business that provide high quality jobs, offering responsible financial products, and supporting the future of our children. Building on this work, McDonogh 42 is the first charter school that we have financed. 

A strong education is the cornerstone of an economic future, and our CEO knows this as well as anyone. Bill Bynum grew up in a low-income neighborhood very similar to the neighborhood surrounding McDonogh 42 Elementary School. He said that the teachers who believed in him were crucial to his professional success, and assured the students of McDonogh 42 that HOPE believes in them and will support them to be successful. "I have never felt like we've made a smarter investment than the one we are making today in McDonogh 42."

Recovery School District Superintendent Patrick Dobard expressed great appreciation for HOPE as a strong partner.  "Thank you for believing in us, for investing in our schools, and for investing in our children. We are going to turn McDonogh 42 into another state-of-the-art school, and this is going to truly revitalize this neighborhood."


McD42-9952 - EHOPE is committed to being a part of the holistic revitalization underway in the 7th Ward. "We will not be a passive investor," Bill said of HOPE's commitment. "We will be here in this neighborhood opening accounts for faculty, students, and residents of this community, so that you have access to responsible financial products that you can build on. We want all of you to be members and depositors in Hope Credit Union, and help us rebuild New Orleans."

Javier White, a fifth grader at McDonogh 42, told the crowd, "I cannot wait until my school is finished with construction!"  Neither can we, Javier.  And we cannot wait to find more ways to share in your success and the success of other students, families, teachers and communities. We are proud to be a part of the transformation underway in the 7th Ward of New Orleans, and in other communities across the Mid South.  

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How To Get Your Credit Report

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credit cardTaking a regular look at your own credit report is an important part of maintaining a good financial footing. This is especially true if you are about to purchase a car or a home, or if you are applying for a job.

Lenders and potential employers check credit reports before making loans or hiring, and you want to know exactly what they will find. Each person's credit report is a summary of all of his or her credit accounts: from credit cards, to home loans, to store credit accounts. It also records bankruptcies.

The companies that collect credit report data use each person's credit history to develop a credit score. Banks and potential employers use credit scores to determine whether a person is offered a loan, or a job. In the case of a loan, people with higher credit scores get better interest rates.

Federal law gives you the right to a free copy of your credit report from all three credit reporting companies: Equifax, Experion, and Transunion. There is one official website that you can use to get your free reports. It is AnnualCreditReport.com.

You may order one from each company at the same time, or you may spread out your requests across the year. The Federal Trade Commission (FTC) maintains a page on credit reports that includes a ton of good information.

In addition to knowing your credit scores, there are two other important reasons to check your credit report. First, they often contain mistakes. You are the one who knows your credit best, and errors can be costly. See this FTC page for information on disputing errors on your credit report.

Second, checking your credit report can be your first indication if you have been a victim of identity theft. Make sure your credit report does not contain any accounts that you did not authorize. Identity theft can be difficult to disentangle. Learn more from the FTC here.

 

 

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Innovative Branch Opens in Pine Bluff

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Meet our partners in Pine Bluff as HOPE opens an innovative branch at UAPB's Business Incubator.

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HOPE Widens its Mid South Footprint

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HusqvarnaSouthwest Arkansas is not unlike many parts of the Mid-South. Both places include hard working folk who want the same things out of life….a place to call home and a means to support their family. In this part of Arkansas, Nashville and Husqvarna represent both. Without one you can’t have the other and vice versa.

There have been questions surrounding Husqvarna in Nashville. In the economic climate of 2013, whether Husqvarna was staying in Nashville was on everyone’s mind, including Mayor Billy Ray Jones. Jones at age 14 actually helped build the original Husqvarna plant in this town.

“I was a mud boy,” said Jones in front of a group of dignitaries. Jones mixed the sand and concrete that went in between the blocks for the walls to this plant.

“The bigger picture of it, it solidifies their operation here,” said Jones. He’s talking about the $8 million in New Markets Tax Credit allocation from HOPE to this facility.

HOPE actually worked to create the New Markets Tax Credit (NMTC) under then President Bill Clinton, and was one of the first organizations in the country to receive the NMTC allocation. Ironically, Clinton was born in Hope, Arkansas, just 35 miles from Nashville.

“We know how important Husqvarna is. We know how important it is to talk about new jobs particularly in this economy, that’s a good thing. That’s exciting to me. We are proud to be a part of it,” said Bill Bynum, Hope Enterprise Corporation and Hope Credit Union (HOPE) Chief Executive.

For Bynum and HOPE it goes deeper than just a loan. It’s not about the numbers, but the faces. On the assembly line at Husqvarna, you see black, white and Latino workers elbow to elbow. As he was led through the plant by Husqvarna executives, Bynum couldn’t keep from smiling.

Maybe it was the power tools built here, but more likely, it was the 1200 workers who no longer had to question what’s happening next. He called them the heart and soul of this community which fewer than 5,000 people call home.

“You want them to have good wages, good benefits, be able to support their families and their kids. It’s important to us,” said Bynum.

This is a big deal for Nashville. General Manager for Husqvarna in North America, Todd Anderson put it this way:

“It creates an infrastructure and a core competency around engine manufacturing that creates strong stability for this site as well as the community.” The investment is particularly important in Nashville where one in five people live in poverty.

On the line, they just know their jobs will still be here for years to come thanks to HOPE.

Mayor Jones may have said it best.

NMTC-Event---Husqvarna-Loan-Closing---Factory-Floor---11-21-13---20131121 102000“This just answers one of those question marks. We’re winning and that’s the big thing of us.”

In the mid South, towns like Nashville have to stay open for business. Rural communities need companies like Husqvarna so their residents can maintain their way of life. This is just one example where HOPE has stepped in or is planning to step in and keep the jobs in place or even add more. This expansion will bring at least 22 new jobs to the Husqvarna plant, and when all is said and done, bring closer to 50 total jobs.

There are hundreds of towns in Mississippi, Arkansas, Louisiana, and Tennessee like Nashville. This investment is in their workforce. Workers who have families to support and children to raise. HOPE knows that. Since its inception, HOPE has invested $1.7 billion in economically distressed areas around these states, helping over 400,000 people gets jobs, buy homes and stabilize their lives.

“All communities need jobs. They need investment,” said Bynum.

The good news is, HOPE shows no signs of stopping.

 

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Tailgating with Rainbow Co-op

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We enjoyed tailgating with Rainbow Co-op at the recent Capitol City Classic football game between perennial rivals Jackson State University and Alcorn State University. Among the tailgaters were HOPE CEO Bill Bynum and Rainbow Community Builder Shelby Parsons.

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Habits of HOPE Savers

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Lunch & Learn series

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piggy bank notesbooks apple booksWe are offering a Lunch & Learn series at the Mississippi Coast Branch each of the next four Wednesdays from 11:30 a.m. until noon.

We'd love to see you on:

  • Oct. 30, for "Credit: The good, the bad and the ugly"
  • Nov. 6, for "Steps to improving your credit and addressing credit report errors"
  • Nov. 13, for "Budget Strain: Avoding T-R-O-U-B-L-E"
  • Nov. 20, for "Holiday spending without being the Grinch!"

Classes will be taught by Laura Howe Repp, counseling manager for Hope Credit Union. Lunch will be provided. The Mississippi Coast Branch is located at 188 Porter Ave., Biloxi, MS 39530. Call 228-374-1667 for more information.

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This is the first in a series of posts written by our partners.

By Shelby Parsons

Community Builder, Rainbow Co-op

After several of our employees and board members attended a cooperative conference this summer, we began to think about how we could better connect with other cooperative businesses and expand our community influence. Our local cooperative community is relatively small because there is currently no consumer cooperative law in Mississippi. Hope Credit Union is one of the few cooperatives operating in our state, and we felt that a partnership with them would be mutually beneficial for both of our member bases and for the advancement of cooperative culture in the southern region.

Rainbow and Hope-1Besides running a grocery business, we focus on promoting healthy lifestyles, community service, and the strength of our local economy. Though cooperatives create all types of products and represent many different sectors of our economy, when distilled down they are all focused on the same basic goal – working to address a community’s economic and social needs in a democratic and fair manner.

A cooperative is more than just a business – it positively affects the surrounding area by keeping both money and jobs within the community. As the saying goes, cooperatives “think globally and act locally.” Studies have shown that local businesses (including co-ops) return almost four times the amount of money to the local economy than national chains do, supporting local producers and suppliers and providing more than double the amount of local jobs than a chain business. You can find more interesting studies on the benefits of local business from the Institute for Local Self-Reliance.

Cooperatives value relationships, trust, and teamwork, which is why our partnership with HOPE is so important to us. Our members can feel confident in banking with HOPE because it now holds the ‘Rainbow stamp of approval,’ and HOPE’s members may feel more comfortable in giving Rainbow a try on their weekly shopping trip. Teaming up with HOPE has given us the opportunity to do more for our community than we could on our own, and offers HOPE the same benefit. Employees and members of either co-op now receive incentives to join the other, including reduced or waived membership fees. With the installation of a HOPE ATM at Rainbow, it really pays to be a member of both cooperatives!


Rainbow Annual Members Meeting-0483Rainbow and HOPE have joined the Coalition for a Prosperous Mississippi, which promotes passage of a comprehensive cooperative law in Mississippi. Supportive lawmakers have introduced it in the Legislature for the last four years. Though the law passed both the House of Representatives and the Senate in the last legislative session, it “died” in committee. We are confident that, in the next session, the Legislature will approve a cooperative law enabling innovative individuals to join forces and transform the way that we do business in Mississippi.

When it happens, both Rainbow and HOPE will be ready to foster the growth of new cooperatives all around the state. We are thrilled to have HOPE as our partner and can’t wait to tackle new challenges together.

Pictured at right are Pearl Wicks, who is HOPE's senior vice president for retail administration, and Luke Lundemo, who is CEO of Rainbow Co-op.

 

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Man worried about debtLet's face it, some financial services businesses do not have your best interest at heart. If you believe you have been scammed, lied to, or cheated in a deal involving finances, you can fight back.

There are many federal and state laws in place to protect consumers. If you feel your rights as a consumer have been violated, you can get help from the government to solve your problem.

In fact, there's a brand new federal agency, the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, whose job it is to field complaints from consumers about:

  • bank accounts
  • credit cards
  • debt collection
  • money transfers
  • mortgages
  • student loans
  • vehicle or consumer loans, and
  • credit reporting.

Click here to access complaint forms. In addition to taking formal complaints, the agency also encourages consumers to share stories about struggles in gaining access to financial services.

You may also be able to get help from state officials. In each of the Mid South states, the office of the attorney general has a consumer protection division.

Click these links to find help in:

 

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How To Choose A Financial Institution

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about to insert atm cardChoosing the right financial institution is an important first step to reaching your longterm financial goals. Here are some questions you'll need to answer to get started:

  • What financial products and services do you need now? For example, do you need a checking account? A debit card? Access to ATMs? Money orders?
  • What are the financial services you might need in the future? A car loan? A loan for college?
  • Once you have a good idea of what you need from a financial institution, do some research. Consider banks or credit unions. (The primary difference between the two is that credit unions are nonprofits owned by members, while banks are for profit entities owned by stockholders.)
  • Ask to see the list of fees for the types of products and services you need now, and ones you might need in the future. (Though no one plans to bounce a check or overdraw, find out what you'll be charged if you do.)

Other questions you should ask are:

  • Can I conduct my business at times other than the regular business hours? Do I need to visit a branch or does the financial insitution offer transactions via telephone, online, or through a cellphone app?
  • Is my money safe? Ask about the financial stability of the bank or credit union you are considering, and how long it has been in business. (Remember, the federal government guarantees deposits up to certain amounts at banks and credit unions.)
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Managing the Finances: Christmas

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Christmas gift photoIt may seem early for a post about Christmas; after all, here in the Mid South, we're just now getting a little cool weather. However, from a financial standpoint, Christmas is just around the corner.

If you get paid monthly, there are only two more paychecks before the holiday. If you get paid twice a month, there are five.

Now is a good time to develop a Christmas budget. In addition to gifts, remember to include travel expenses, decorations, entertaining, and charitable giving. Here's a good worksheet from Organized Home.

Once you have a total of all the expenses you expect this holiday season, divide it by the number of paychecks you have coming to you before Christmas. This is the amount you'll need to save per paycheck between now and then.

If you have enough money after expenses, arrange to have this amount transferred from your checking to your savings account on payday.

If not, go back to your budget, and see where you can cut. Here is some good advice on keeping Christmas affordable.

Plan For Next Year

Any planning you do this year will help you prepare for next year. The worksheet I suggested above has two columns for dollar amounts: budget and actual. Keep your receipts, and note what you actually spent on Christmas.

You can use that figure to get a good start on saving for Christmas 2014. Many people find it helpful to open a Christmas Club account, paying into it each month from January through October. That way, you can begin shopping in November and pay with the cash you set aside, giving you the gift of a debt-free holiday.

At HOPE, we offer Christmas Club accounts with no monthly fee. For details, visit a branch or call us at 888-246-6314.

 

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