In uncertain economic times many companies struggle with the ability to maintain employee benefits without affecting the bottomline. Rising healthcare costs often force many employers to pass along a higher share of the burden to their workers, while other benefits like 401(k) plans simply limp along with less than adequate earnings.

Whether it's controlling costs or increasing perceived value, you and your company are under daily pressure to create a complete benefits package that attracts and retains good employees. Now more than ever, employees will depend on you for solutions and benefits that add value to their lives and their employment with you.

What can you do? Consider offering your employees a benefit that everyone can take advantage of at absolutely no cost to you: Credit Union membership.

While more and more companies today include Credit Union membership as a part of their benefits package because it's free for them, the real benefit is the high-perceived value in the minds of employees. It all starts with "people helping people," the core value that separates a Credit Union from a bank.

At a typical bank, revenue generated from customers is returned to a few minority stockholders who own the bank. Credit Unions, on the other hand; are owned by their customers, or member/owners as they are called. That means, any profits are returned directly to everyone in the form of lower loan rates and higher savings yields. It's a no-cost benefit to you that provides your employees with a low-cost alternative to the big banks. And in good economic times or bad, that's a benefit everyone can feel good about.

More than just adding to the list of your existing benefits package, Credit Union membership can help you add real value to the financial well being of your employees, making them happier and more productive. And it won't cost you a thing. For example, Credit Unions will work with you to provide access to value-added services by sponsoring educational lunchtime seminars on topics such as retirement and college planning, building good credit, first-time home buying and making the most of 401(k) contributions. The best part is, the seminars can take place right in the workplace, giving you the opportunity to endorse an educational event your employees want while ensuring work is resumed in a timely manner.

Credit Union membership is good for life and won't expire no matter what changes occur at home or in the workplace. So it's an employee benefit that has long-standing value for the entire family.

Because Credit Unions exist for the sole benefit of their member/owners and not anonymous stockholders, your employees may notice some other less tangible, yet equally as important benefits. For example, it's no secret that some banks charge for phone calls or simply stepping inside the branch. Not so at today's Credit Unions, where exceptional service is designed to exceed member expectations at every point of contact from toll-free telephone service to 24-hour online banking and thousands of surcharge-FREE ATMs. Sophisticated as any bank, a Credit Union is uniquely poised to meet the demands of today's savvy financial consumer by pooling resources to create a network of shared branches and ATMs.

Once available only for large corporations, Credit Union membership is now quickly becoming a benefit of choice for small and medium-size companies, completing the employee benefits package with absolutely no change to the bottom line. Like the partnership they forge with each individual member, Credit Unions also partner with you to help your employees make the most of their Credit Union benefits. It's a unique approach to the specific needs of your company and how you operate. From lunchtime seminars to individual visits by Credit Union representatives, Credit Unions can craft a plan to add value to the lives of your employees in a manner that fits with your operational structure.

If your company is searching for affordable ways to enhance your employee benefits package, Credit Union membership offers key advantages over other options you may be considering. First, it won't cost you a thing to participate. Second, Credit Unions offer your employees a great value on services they already need and use. Giving them access to financial tools that add value to their lives at home and at work simply makes good business sense. The result is retaining valuable employees through a more comprehensive benefits package you can implement immediately at no charge to you.

This article was contributed by Financial Partners Credit Union (formally Rockwell Federal Credit Union), which now serves many communities within Southern California. The credit union previously provided financial solutions exclusively to Rockwell and Boeing employees. These exclusive programs are now available to people who live and work in Southern California. For more information, please call 800-950-7328.

RELATED ARTICLE: Credit Union Membership Opens Opportunities for Employees

By offering Credit Union membership to your employees, you open up an opportunity for them to:

* Earn higher rates on savings accounts

* Save time by having paychecks deposited directly into no-fee checking and savings accounts

* Apply for low-rate loans including auto, credit card and personal loans

* Get no-cost home loans and home equity lines of credit

* Build long-term financial strategies through free consultations with financial planners

* Save thousands of dollars at exclusive auto sales and auto buying services

* Save time with online banking and bill paying services

* Share the benefit with everyone in their family

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