In tough economic times, keep in touch with your bank

As the plunge in oil prices continues with no end in sight, many Wetaskiwin and Leduc county residents who work in the oil patch face...

Robert Camp

As the plunge in oil prices continues with no end in sight, many Wetaskiwin and Leduc county residents who work in the oil patch face serious financial questions.

As first line and second line oil patch employers face tough choices, many in this region are going to lose their jobs or face serious cuts to their hours, if they haven’t already been forced into these situations.

It’s probably little consolation for those to be told “This isn’t going to last forever. The oil patch will recover.” But keep in mind financial difficulties have financial options connected to them; some options are obvious, some less so.

The Pipestone Flyer contacted two financial institutions which have large rural customers bases, Encompass Credit Union in Wetaskiwin and Servus Credit Union in Leduc, and asked what advice they have for oil patch families facing severe financial difficulties amidst job reductions or job losses.

Servus Credit Union

Assistant Branch Manager in Leduc Tracy Northrup said the slumping oil patch is obviously causing problems for some clients and members. “We’re seeing it on a daily basis,” said Northrup by phone Apr. 27.

“We truly do care. We want to help people with their financial stresses.”

Northrup said those who work in jobs directly or indirectly affected by the oil slump can see their expenses remain the same, while their income drops if their hours are cut. “I can’t stress enough how important it is for them to stay in contact with their financial advisor,” said Northrup.

“We have great working relationships with our external partners, like CMHC, so they’re willing to work with us with mortgage payments,” she said, noting staff can also help clients with a financial plan to adapt to the slump.

Northrup said clients could also consider restructuring their debt load to make it a bit more manageable. She noted that many people carry more than one credit card, so it’s a good idea to keep in touch with credit card companies if you know your work hours are being cut.

She also suggested employees check their benefits or health plans, many of which have resources available to help people with financial stress until the economy turns around.

“We’re going to come out of this,” she said. “We just don’t know when.”

Encompass Credit Union

Robert Camp, VP Operations with Encompass Credit Union understands that homeowners can experience temporary financial difficulties as the result of an unexpected life event he stated in a press release.

“We help provide solutions that can suit their particular financial situation,” said Camp. “The first key to providing meaningful solutions is to communicate with us at as early a stage as possible. Secondly, have a plan that is well thought out. You know your situation the best.”

One of the first calls you should make when you are faced with the loss of a job due to layoff, sickness or just plain bad luck, should be to one of our lending professionals. Early intervention and not avoiding creditors are keys to successfully navigating through these difficult times.

Some of the options that we might consider for you, depending on your particular situation are: Restructure existing debt to suit your budget, sell unnecessary excess assets to reduce debt, if applicable/possible seek alternate employment or job training, supplement your income through a second job, consider offering additional collateral to existing debt to reduce interest costs and defer or skip a payment.

“Losing your job, dealing with family or health issues and not being able to meet your commitments is a stressful time,” said Camp.

“If you happen to be one of those individuals who have recently been negatively affected in some way by the current economy, then the sooner you call a lending professional and work with them the sooner you can work out an action plan together. This can help restore peace of mind and save you money,” said Camp.

Camp explains it can feel like you are alone as you face this economic future. But, you’re not. Financial institutions like Encompass Credit Union offer proactive alternatives available to all individuals with mortgage debt, and recommends considering loss of employment insurance and or disability insurance. “These insurance solutions can help protect your home in times when those unexpected life events happen,” said Camp.

“Remember the economy is always changing, but our goal is to restore peace of mind and cost effective alternatives to help you navigate through the present economic dilemma,” said Camp.