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Credit unions should focus on their members' retirement needs

Credit unions should focus on helping their members prepare for retirement.

Retaining current members at any credit union is just as important as pulling in new ones. One smart way unions can get their current members' attention and potentially sell more financial products is to focus on helping people plan for their retirement.

People nowadays retire at anywhere from 60 to 70 years old depending on their career trajectory and savings. Most need to begin planning ahead far in advance, but particularly 10 to 15 years ahead of the big day. Credit unions should focus on their members between the ages of 45 and 55 to ensure these people will be ready for retirement when the time comes.

Essential education
The first step to truly helping members plan for retirement is offering them not just products, but educational services. Many people aren't aware of the cost of retirement and that their savings, Social Security and pensions may not be enough to cover their living and medical expenses after they stop working.

Credit unions should help their members calculate the estimated retirement savings they'll need to live comfortably for 15 to 20 years after retirement. If the organization doesn't have its own paperwork, it can use the U.S. Department of Labor's worksheet, which is available online.

Create a plan
Once members understand the amount of funds they'll need to maintain their lifestyle and possible medical expenses during retirement, credit unions can help them set up a strategy to meet that financial goal. The plan should not only set out goals to hit year by year, but also specific actions to meet those numbers. These actions could include new products and savings vehicles, diversifying the members' current investments and more.

Think of the future
Another essential aspect of retirement credit union advisors should speak with members about is the future loss of a spouse. Some members may rely on their partner's Social Security or pension heavily and not plan for what they'll do if those payments stop. Women in particular are more likely to be caregivers and face loss in their income after retirement, which can leave them with a severe financial strain.

Encourage family discussion
In addition to providing financial guidance and products to help members save for retirement, credit unions should also encourage their older members to discuss this part of life with their families. Planning for retirement is often a family affair and children and grandchildren should be prepared for the future as well.