Like many Americans, John Corbin racked up credit card debt purchasing small splurges that were just outside off his budget. "I kind of spent money that I didn't have," says Corbin, who works as a supervisor at a manufacturing facility in North Carolina. Eventually, Corbin's credit card bills hit $2,500, with a 30 percent interest rate. That rate seemed like a massive headache (not to mention an added expense)—that is, until Corbin discovered that he could refinance his credit card loan through a local credit union and pay a much lower interest rate of 8 or 9 percent.
It took Corbin about a year to pay off the $2,500 plus interest. The slow, steady payment schedule not only bolstered his credit score, but it also paved the way for him to apply for an even bigger loan: a home mortgage. Now, Corbin owns a place in Canton, just outside of Ashville and near the mountains. And his mortgage? Well, that came from the same North Carolina credit union, called Self-Help.
Self-Help, founded in 1980, is a community development lender that tries to help low- to moderate-income people build up wealth and assets—whether through bolstering credit scores, securing auto loans, or obtaining mortgages. Headquartered in Durham, N.C., the credit union network has provided more than $6.4 billion in financing to roughly 87,000 businesses and individuals that traditional banks and financial institutions often ignore. Self-Help works in North Carolina, California, and Chicago to offer financial products and assistance for people trying to get ahead.