Yes, Virginia, there is a Christmas Club. At the University of St. Thomas, Santa is the St. Thomas Employee Federal Credit Union, and the elves who make it all happen are the 100 or so university employees who set aside money for Christmas with every paycheck.
This year, on Monday, Nov. 5, after making a list and checking it twice, the credit union distributed Christmas Club checks worth $95,316.35 to the club’s 98 members, an average of $972.62 per person. Now that’s nice!
“People watch for the green envelope,” remarked Adrienne Sturm, manager of the credit union for 27 years. That, and the colorful holiday-themed check inside the envelope.
The Christmas Club has been a feature of the credit union for more than 20 years, according to Sturm. “I was just looking for ways to get people interested in the credit union, and I had heard of such a thing, so I decided to try it,” she said.
The advantage of the Christmas Club, Sturm points out, is discipline, which would-be savers often lack with regular savings accounts, where withdrawals can be made at any time during business hours. That money is not so easy to access in a Christmas Club account.
Christmas Club funds are disbursed once a year during the first week of November, with a one-time annual dividend. “But if club members want their money along the way, they can certainly have the money, but they have to actually close the account and they get no dividend,” Sturm said.
The dividend this year is .25 percent, same as the regular shares receive. The credit union guarantees that the Christmas Club dividend will not be less than the lowest dividend paid on regular shares for the previous four quarters.
It’s not the interest, however, that entices credit union members to also become Christmas Club members. Kelly Engrebretsen, University Relations, the club’s 99th and newest member, joined recently because it’s an easy way to save money to buy Christmas presents for her family.
“My family stopped exchanging gifts years ago, but in recent years, a few of us have had kids (including myself!), which means I need to budget for Christmas again,” she said. “Saving just $20 per paycheck through the Christmas Club means I won’t have to be as thrifty or, more importantly, use my Mastercard next year.”
Almost everyone in the club funds their accounts through payroll deductions, but a few stop by the office in Room 209, Loras Hall, to make deposits.
The credit union, with approximately 1,100 members, and the Christmas Club, is open to all employees of the university and their families, and all employees of St. Thomas Academy and their families.
The credit union is “essentially a co-op,” Sturm explained. “It’s a cooperative. It’s owned by its members. It’s not anything political or anything else. Members put money in, and other members borrow it. … I think some people think that we have St. Thomas money. We don’t. The only money we have is the money members have put in. The only money we lend is the money members have given us to lend.” (Accounts are insured by the National Credit Union Administration, an independent federal agency, for up to $250,000 per member account.)
No need to worry about borrowing money, however, when you save over the course of an entire year through the Christmas Club. Just look for that green envelope during the first week in November.
Oh, and Virginia – have a very merry Christmas Club Christmas.