Wednesday, November 29, 2017

Here We Grow Again…..

Here’s some breaking news……your Credit Union is expanding again.  We’ve received National Credit Union Administration approval to expand our field of membership to include the Duluth area.  As you know, our current field of membership includes Lake and Cook counties.  It now continues into Duluth and the surrounding communities up to St. Louis County Rd. 16.  The lakes and rural areas from Highway 53 to Two Harbors are included as well.  Now we truly have the North Shore covered. 

Here’s the best part – as part of this expanded membership area, we are going to open a branch office in the new Endi building in Duluth, located on 21st Ave. East and London Road.  We anticipate being open and ready to serve our members in June of 2018.

What? Why?

No, we are not trying to become the biggest credit union in the area.  Rather this is a natural extension of our membership area considering we already have a substantial number of members that live in Duluth.  Plus, this will be an added convenience for all our members as we all travel to Duluth pretty frequently and this location will be very convenient no matter where you are headed. 

Additionally, our young members end up in Duluth in high numbers, whether it be to attend college or pursue career opportunities.  We want our young people to be North Shore Federal members for life and this is the best way we can ensure that this happens.

How much of a financial risk is this to our Credit Union?  Pretty much zilch.  Our Two Harbors branch is already profitable and our new Duluth branch will be an even easier proposition.  It will have a smaller footprint, emphasizing our popular electronic products which are really low cost.   

Most importantly, it won’t be long before people in Duluth recognize what our existing members already know: being a member of North Shore Federal is a great relationship and an organization that we can all be proud of.


Friday, September 29, 2017

So, About that Equifax Security Breach…….

We try to keep the topics fun and interesting around the old Credit Union coffee shop. 
Not this time.
The recent data breach at Equifax, one of the three major credit bureaus (the other two are Experian and TransUnion) is a big deal that could affect many of us.  These three credit reporting agencies are used extensively by financial institutions, insurance companies, employers, heck, even your landlord.
A typical credit file contains much personal information including names, former names, addresses, employer information, birth dates, social security numbers, items of public record and, of course, credit payment history.  In other words, more than enough information for a criminal to steal your identity.
I want to make sure everyone understands that this is a completely different and more dangerous situation than when a retailer gets hacked.  A retailer usually only has information about one of your credit cards.  Fraud on a credit card is a hassle, but you are protected by law so you get your money back, you get a new card and life goes on.
If somebody steals your identity, they could obtain multiple forms of credit in your name (stealing the proceeds) or even attempt to take over investment accounts, etc.  This situation is a substantially bigger deal – more money is at stake and an even bigger hassle.
This process of fraud usually takes time.  The criminals that steal the information don’t usually commit the actual fraud on accounts.  They sell this information to other criminals who are good at committing this type of crime.  This takes time and the fraudsters are patient so you must be vigilant for years to come.
Now for the really bad news: there are approximately 200 million credit files in the United States.  143 million of them were compromised in the Equifax data breach.
What to do?  You do have options, which is the only little bit of good news in this blog post.  There are credit monitoring services that also have tools to prevent identity theft.  These are private, for profit companies so I won’t recommend any in particular (Equifax offers this service which is a little ironic).  Just google identity theft prevention and you will have many choices.
The other option worth considering is contacting the three credit bureaus and locking your credit file.  This means nobody can access your information without you first unlocking the file via a PIN number that only you have.  Doing this prevents any unauthorized credit from being issued in your name.  It’s a little bit of a hassle in that you would need to “unlock” your file anytime you wanted to borrow money, etc. but it may be worth it.  Contact the credit bureaus for this service.
Here is a link provided by Equifax regarding the data breach and some free services they offering:  Be advised that there is a huge back log of people trying to enroll in these services so there are lengthy delays in the enrollment process.  There is also some excellent information at 
It’s easy to dismiss situations like this with the old “it won’t happen to me”.  Please don’t, protect yourself.


Friday, August 25, 2017

What Goes Down Must Come Up……EVENTUALLY, Part 2

Quite some time ago, I wrote this blog post concerning the real estate bubble and the prospects for real estate values in our membership area (Lake and Cook counties).  It’s interesting to go back and read my thoughts and opinions at that point in time.  Market values have rebounded but it took much longer than I obviously thought at the time of that blog post.  It was really an unprecedented event in our economy, both locally and nationally.
While real estate values have fully rebounded in most areas of the country and are actually escalating rapidly again in the Twin Cities and Duluth, our experience has been different.  Property values in all categories bottomed out in 2010.  All property values declined substantially; the most expensive homes, typically Lake Superior and inland lake properties, were hit the hardest.  Bare land also plummeted in value.  All properties in our membership area have rebounded in value but certainly not equally.    
As of the end of 2016, typical family homes (defined as $175,000 or less) have usually regained all their value and are appreciating once again.  Average prices in this category have increased by 36% since 2010.  The number of sales in 2016 increased by 25% over 2015.
Inland lake homes have also bounced back, up 58% from their lowest point, which means they are close to having regained all their peak value.  Even more impressive, the number of sales in 2016 increased by 81% over the prior year. 
Lake Superior properties typically have not fully reclaimed their lost value.  They have rebounded only 18% from their low point.  One bit of good news is that the number of sales in 2016 increased by 66% for this category, which should indicate rising values.
Bare land prices are far from fully recovered, having only recovered 20% of their lost value.  However, the number of sales in 2016 increased by37%.
All of these numbers paint a picture of a recovering real estate market.  Perhaps the best news yet is that the real estate market in 2017 has been even more active across the board.  
Looks like the definition of EVENTUALLY is the summer of 2018………….