Friday, January 01, 2010

Steal This New Year's Resolution

Hey, B&E readers! Do you remember how at the end of the aughts (aka the Jack Bauer years, aka the 9/11 years, aka the fuck-the-public years, aka etc.) the United States government totally gave like billions of dollars to the very institutions that caused the financial crisis and then those institutions went right back to behaving exactly how they wanted? Yeah, that was a good time.

In general I'm not the biggest fan of New Year's as a holiday. I think I've said before that my birthday always feels like more of a well-defined marker for looking back on the year and setting some goals and doing all that other reflective stuff (yay, reflectors!) people do when they want to assess the general state of their lives.

So yeah... New Year's resolutions... I don't really make 'em. And although the Huffington Post is touting this as a New Year's resolution, I just think it's a Very Good Thing To Do.

It's called Move Your Money. And it makes a lot of sense to me. Read the essay and watch the movie (Look! It's a Wonderful Life!). The moral argument is pretty clear.

The missus and I are putting our money into a credit union. The missus has kept the minimum amount of money in there for a bunch of years, just so that she wouldn't lose her standing as a member. She never really knew why, but it just didn't seem like a good idea to give it up. How fortuitous!

When I first moved to Sunnyside, I put my money in Greenpoint Bank. I did it mostly because it was on the corner. Greenpoint was a large-ish community bank. It got eaten by a larger community/regional bank, North Fork, which had barely changed the signs before it got gobbled up by Capital One. Capital One isn't exactly the beast that Wells Fargo, Citigroup, Bank of America, and JP Morgan/Chase all are, but it's close, and I certainly can no longer call it a community bank.

My biggest concern about moving into the credit union was convenience. Do they have online banking services, cash cards, etc? Yes. They do. And yes, a community bank or credit union is insured by the FDIC, which means if the bank or credit union fails, the government still guarantees your deposits up to $250,000.

The only thing that will change in our everyday lives is that our credit union's ATMs are somewhat less ubiquitous. And most of their ATMs are located within McDonald's restaurants. I haven't been inside a McDonald's in New York for more than a decade, I would guess. So that'll be weird.

It'll probably be a month-long process to change everything over. I'll need to fill out a new direct deposit slip at my job; we'll need to reorganize all the bills that come out automatically, etc., etc., but a little bit of footwork (particularly footwork largely being done by the missus) seems worth it.

The fact is, our tiny amount of money doesn't make much difference to a bank that doles out millions of dollars in bonuses to the employees that screw us hardest. But it could make a difference if large amounts of people get involved. I mean, those monsters will always have the big corporate accounts, but then they'll be taking all those risks with corporate money instead of our meager savings.

Plus, those big banks wouldn't spend so much time and money advertising for our business if they didn't need a whole lot of us.

But meanwhile, our meager savings can actually make a real difference at a community bank or a credit union that, say, serves your neighbors.

Best of all, I feel like it's the most satisfying way to give the finger to the financial institutions that have fucked us right in the ear. The finger in exchange for getting fucked in the ear isn't much, but it's a start.

The HuffPo article doesn't (yet) discuss credit unions. Credit unions have different rules regarding disclosure that I admit I don't completely understand. But you can read more about them here. And I think we can invite a few locals to ours, if you're not already qualified to join it.

I need to give credit (unions) where credit (unions) is due. It was the missus who fully engaged with the idea and explored options. I sat by, shouted out a few concerns, which she mostly shouted down, while taking care of the logistics.

Thanks and Happy New Year, missus. You are, as always, tremendous.

And Happy New Year to my six faithful readers. You are the best readers in the world.

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At 12:17 AM , Blogger Tony said...

Except for the atm problem, I've been a very happy user of a credit union for more than 20 years. I use the McDonalds atms, which alas the one nearest us on Queens Blvd in Sunnyside doesn't have. sincerely, one of your 6 readers, Tony

At 12:15 PM , Blogger Carrie said...

I broke up with Citibank a year and a half ago. I had been a customer for 18 years. They assigned me a mortgage agent in India, who asked me if I could spell Wisconsin. The answer is yes. Yes I can. Now when I go to the bank the tellers greet me by name and the bank manager comes out to chat, asks after Matt by name, etc. And Citibank? Damn near folded. It has been my best break up ever! Side note: the only fuck up was my student loans people turned off the auto link to my citibank account without turning on the link to my new bank. It took a few days to clear up. SL provider? Citibank, of course.

At 1:20 PM , OpenID zerospfskinned said...

Six readers? I only count 3... :)

We're in a credit union down here in FL, only problem was when we first went back to NY, the ATM use there set off their security protocols and canceled our debit cards. Fixed it right over the phone (no NY branches, of course....)

Happy New Year to you and yours!


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