Marine Credit Union (MCU) Consumer Loan Officer Cassandra Sears was born and raised in Marshalltown. At the time a single mom, Cassandra explained that she wanted to give her daughter “the best life,” so she returned to school and earned her bachelor’s degree with a triple major in accounting, finance, and business management. She explained that she thought she wanted to be an accountant, a CPA, but soon realized that wasn’t her role in life because she said she didn’t get to help people as much as she had hoped. “I realized I wanted to impact people’s lives,” she said. “I always voted for the underdog. None of my family went to college. No one had a college degree.” Cassandra said that no one thought she could do it either. “I’ve always been involved. Always helping everyone I could,” she shared. “People went through even worse situations than I had. I chose MCU because I want to impact people’s lives.”
“MCU’s mission to moving people from financial need to ownership and giving back,” Cassandra shared, is important to her and is the reason she wanted to work at MCU. Cassandra fell on hard financial times herself in the past even being turned down for school at one point because of a low credit score. “I was the only one who worked, and I made $600 a week. I questioned how I could even get formula.” But Cassandra was motivated. “I raised my credit score 120 points in one year and reapplied,” she explained. “I worked a lot of overtime and paid off all my debts and collections.”
“It comes from my daughter,” Cassandra said of what motivated her to get into a better financial situation. “I wanted to give her the best life. She doesn’t have to struggle like I had to.” Her daughter Ruby, named after her great-great grandmother, changed everything Cassandra did in her life. “I thank my daughter for saving me,” she shared.
“I had a rough childhood. My grandma died when I was 13.” After a while, Cassandra said she, “didn’t see any point. I lived paycheck to paycheck and was struggling.” But after having her daughter, Cassandra said she stopped going out and “hunkered down.” She said she felt it was time to change her life because she explained, “I had another person depending on me.”
Cassandra worked as a telemarketer and in recruiting until she started her career with MCU. In the beginning, she drove 1.5 hours each way to La Crosse to work. But she said it was worth it to her. “It was more than what I expected,” she shared. “I get to help people every day.”
Cassandra shared a story of an MCU member, a disabled veteran, who was helped with his first home loan. “The impact we make is real,” she said. “These are opportunities I wouldn’t get anywhere else. He was so happy about his new home that he cried during his loan closing.”
“It’s why I wake up and go to work,” Cassandra continued. “Those are the people we are able to help. We really get to change the course of their lives just by listening to them.” She added that, of course, it has to make sense for the credit union and the members. “It’s really a motivational thing for me.”
Helping members and her family are what she said are her motivators. “She saved me,” she said again of her daughter Ruby. “The day I had her. We grew up together. I learned how to be a good human with her.”
Outside of work, Cassandra and her fiancée keep busy raising Ruby and her three “bonus kids,” Elizabeth, Sebastian and Gabriel … and Cooper, the family’s six-month old puppy.
One of her favorite things to do is to read and/or watch murder-mysteries. “My grandpa was big into Halloween,” she explained. “We watched “Dr. Giggles” when I was only four years old. It’s the psychology behind it. What drives someone to do it. In another life, I was going to be a psychologist,” she added.
Her love for psychology, perhaps, is what makes Cassandra so compassionate in her work life. “I know what people go through. People don’t default on loans because they want to. Having walked in their shoes helps,” she said because she can personally understand what they have been through.