Here’s what a longtime lender is asking Santa for this year.
My closest friends and employees know a few things about my love of Christmas, one of them being that my wife and I open a storage bin of Christmas DVDs on Nov. 1 and don’t stop watching movies (along with those guilty pleasures, the Hallmark ones) until after New Year’s Day.
I also like to believe that there really is a Santa Claus. At the very least, I think he exists in our hearts because Christmas brings out the best in so many people. I also like thinking about a more modern image of Santa. For example, Kurt Russell’s portrayal in The Christmas Chronicles on Netflix (another source of movies for the Vogeney household) is a fun picture of what Santa might be like in 2022.
So clearly, I love Christmas! Here’s my letter to Santa for 2022. A lot of my wishes are related, so Santa, I pretty much need everything!
Please Help the Federal Reserve Navigate Us Through These Inflationary Times
Nothing on my wish list is for me personally. As a lender, I’m all too aware of how inflation is impacting the members of our credit union. It’s an interesting time for our economy, and it sure seems like the division between “the haves” and the “have-nots” is wider than ever. People with money are spending it like mad, buying cars, luxury goods and trips. Those that don’t have it are borrowing at a record pace just to keep up with the cost of living.
Much has been written about how much consumer debt was paid down when COVID-19 hit; what we’re seeing now appears to be a re-leveraging by consumers. I keep my eye on a lot of different metrics from our operation, and what I’m seeing in terms of utilization of personal credit lines (overdraft lines as well) along with new credit card applications and balance growth is truly unprecedented in my 34 years of lending management.
Rising interest rates are on the verge of shocking our economy as well; frankly, we’ve been living too long on cheap money. Santa, just like Natalie Wood’s wish for a house in Miracle on 34th Street, helping the Fed isn’t an easy thing to gift wrap. You may remember how damaging inflation was to consumers and the economy in the late ’70s and early ’80s. The cure to inflation may cost a lot of jobs, which has me worried for my members even more. Santa, this will be trickier than making sure you have enough Xbox consoles for your trip on Christmas Eve.
Please Fix the Supply Chain Issues
Whether they’re impacting food prices or the availability of new cars because of the chip shortage, our world’s supply chain issues feel like a leftover lump of coal you left us in 2020. Personally, I’m hoping as the supply chain settles down, it will have a big, positive impact on controlling inflation--which will make it a lot easier for you to help the Fed! (See wish No. 1.)
Help Us Build More Homes
The housing market has a lot of problems right now. Prices went through the roof the last few years, much of it sparked by the Fed’s cheap money policy during the height of the pandemic. I’ll be the first to criticize the Fed, as they should have been much more active in raising rates once the economy appeared to be in the clear in late 2020. The rapid rise in mortgage rates since last Christmas has created a double whammy for housing. Compared to a year ago, mortgage payments are about 40% higher for the same mortgage amount. While home prices have softened a bit, no one really wants home prices to fall 40% to return affordability to a year ago. Frankly, affordability stunk back then.
While low rates drove a lot of demand for housing, we have supply issues as well. Gen Z is the largest generation since the Baby Boomers, so we simply haven’t built as many homes as we need now and we haven’t done so for almost a decade. Santa, I’m guessing you’ve received a few wish lists from home builders, and they’re probably asking for more people to do the hard work it takes to create housing. Get to it!
Can You Do Something About the Tax Code as Well?
I rarely get into political matters, Santa, so don’t put me on your naughty list. As an amateur economist, I know that over the last 10 years there has been a change in the housing market from big companies and capital management firms investing in single-family homes and renting them out or flipping them. Individuals are also buying second and third homes and turning them into vacation rentals.
Santa, if it’s also your wish that more people could own their own homes, it will be hard to accomplish without lessening the competition. Yet any drastic change to tax policy could have a drastic impact, and a negative one, on the housing market. Help Congress figure out a way to gradually lessen the incentive for corporate ownership and individual investors owning multiple properties over 10 years. Perhaps there’s a way we can provide incentives via lower capital gains over time to bring some of our housing stock back to the market.
Help Me Continue to Give Back to This Credit Union Community I Love So Much
Ok, I fibbed about none of my wishes being for me, but it’s not like I belong on your naughty list because I dipped Suzie’s long blonde ponytail into a bottle of ink or something like that. This wish is only sort of about me. I’ve been writing about lending for more than two decades, and I’m enjoying this more than ever. Help me find new topics to write about, since “people helping people” also means someone like me can share ideas with other credit union executives across the country. See Santa, it’s really about my credit union friends!
I also like giving back by finding opportunities to provide direct assistance to my peers across the country. Recently I facilitated a session on lending and growth ideas for the small credit union group of the Carolinas Credit Union League. One of my favorite employees from my prior credit union, Genice DeCorte, is now a CEO in North Carolina and invited me to speak to their group. Santa, if I can help other credit unions or organizations, send them my way!
Help My Credit Union Friends Help Others Too
This holiday season, it would be great for my credit union friends to “go big or go home” when it comes to giving to others in need around us. We are very fortunate to work in the credit union movement where there’s so much stability. We all have our pet causes, whether it’s toys for kids or stocking up the local food pantries. Let’s give generously.
Bill Vogeney is chief revenue officer and head of believing at $9.6 billion Ent Credit Union, Colorado Springs. It’s no coincidence that one of the local attractions in Southern Colorado is a small amusement park called The North Pole.