Talk is Cheap, Move Your Money

My very first bank when I was a teenager was BayBank. A few years later BayBank merged with Bank of Boston, to form BankBoston. So then I was a BankBoston customer. Then came along Fleet Bank, who acquired BankBoston. Then I was a Fleet Bank customer. In 2005 Fleet was merged into Bank of America, and since then I’ve been with them. What started for me as a couple of nice local banks with roots in Boston going as far back as 1784, later became one of the banks that were and are, as it’s been so well put by Andrew Ross Sorkin, Too Big to Fail.

The past 24 months has been a total nightmare for the every day American who trusts some of these Too Big to Fail banks with his/her hard earned income, who trust them with their home loans (otherwise people to for the services like – need money for basic stuff even), who trust them with their 401(k), their mutual funds, their CDs, portfolios, wealth management, and on and on.

In late 2008 the US economy, along with most of the other economies across the globe, froze in time. Credit was frozen and we just saw the tip of the iceberg in what became the Global Financial Crisis. Along came the Emergency Economic Stabilization Act of 2008, which then resulted in the Troubled Asset Relief Program, or TARP as it’s more commonly known. Under this program the federal government literally had to step in and purchase assets and equity from these banking institutions to prop up our economy and avoid a total economic meltdown. Money was simply frozen in time – it wasn’t flowing for quite a while, as we all shudder to remember. And the only reason this happened is because of something that we all know of now as the Subprime Lending Crisis.

These massive, and I mean massive, financial institutions were bailed out by you, and your brother, your sister, your children, grandchildren, your mothers and fathers, your friends. How many of them are struggling to make ends meet? How many of them are working their asses off to pay for the home or tuitions? Unless they’re employed by one of these massive companies, I bet there’s a lot of them. It was your money, and their money, that bailed these companies out! Our tax dollars, instead of going to other causes like fixing our educational system, or fixing homelessness, disease, poverty, space exploration, fixing our nations highways and infrastructure, environmental causes, or any cause that you might feel passionate about, your tax dollars didn’t go there – they went to these massive institutions. Why? Because these banks are too big to fail? I call bullshit!

What all this boils down to for me and millions of other people like me, is that there is clearly something fundamentally wrong with our economic system, and this is just the beginning. I’m not a student of economics but I pay attention. I think I’m like a lot of people, whereas until something affects my wallet I tend to ignore it most of the time. But some politics and some economics just can’t be ignored anymore, some things have totally earned my outrage, my disgust, as opposed to my usual state of apathy. And I know I’m not alone.

This past Friday evening I was watching Bill Maher on HBO, as I often do late Friday nights (am I a liberal? gasp!). Arianna Huffington was on, and I really enjoy her. I learned about this new movement that she, and others, kicked off a little over 2 months ago called Move Your Money. Here, Arianna explains how it came about, and talks a bit more about the fundamentals behind it, but the idea is a simple one – move your money from the financial institutions that are “Too Big to Fail” to institutions that aren’t, and move your money to more fiscally, socially, environmentally responsible ones. Wow, what a notion huh? Not exactly rocket science is it? And the result is a website called Move Your Money. Move Your Money is about exactly that, moving your money from these institutions to a local community bank or credit union. Who’s too big to fail?

Most people are trying to avoid the six largest banks that engaged in casino-style financial practices (credit default swaps, derivatives trading, etc…) and that are largely to blame for the financial crisis — Citi, Bank of America, JPMorgan Chase, Wells Fargo, Goldman Sachs and Morgan Stanley. The banks and credit unions we encourage people to look at largely avoided these kind of financial tricks, and then did not reward their executives with massive bonuses.

Today, March 8, 2010, I made my pledge to move my money. And I started the process. I opened a bank account a very well respected, very socially responsible, community bank called Wainwright Bank. Look at these guys – look at what they do! And this isn’t something new, because it’s the popular thing to do, they’ve been at it for nearly twenty years. It’s banks like Wainwright that have earned my business, but only now that I’ve learned my lesson! It’s a bank like this that I can be proud to bank with! The effect on my bottom line? Zero effect. Sure, they’re online banking may not be as swanky as BofA, but I have Quicken and Mint and I know how to balance my checkbook and stick to a budget. Sure they may not have locations all over the nation, but I like that, and they’ll refund my ATM charges. The fact of the matter is, I just feel better by making this change. It’s better than sitting on the sidelines, shaking my head and saying “what a shame, what a shame” and wondering how we’re going to get out of this mess. Oh, and I’m not alone. According to HuffPost…

More people are reaching the same conclusion. A new poll found that 9 percent of Americans have already moved their money out of a big bank as a protest. And the Los Angeles City Council voted unanimously to require any bank doing business with the city to reinvest in the community. It’s about time citizens and local governments inject some much-needed competition into our increasingly oligarchic banking system.

Thomas “Tip” O’Neill, a longtime Speaker of the House in the U.S. Congress, from Boston, once said, “All politics is local.” What he meant was that the problems and troubles within our towns and cities around the country have a major affect on the actions of their representatives and senators at the capitol.

Please join me and Ali as we move our money and take action! It’s easy. Start by finding your new bank, here, then follow these basic steps. When you’re done, spread the word on twitter, on Facebook, and even log it here!

Read about what people are saying at Timethe NationNewsweekSalon and all around the web.

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    […] is a post originally posted at My very first bank when I was a teenager was BayBank. A few years later BayBank merged with Bank […]

    uberVU - social comments
    March 10, 2010 at 21:31

    Social comments and analytics for this post…

    This post was mentioned on Twitter by bsaren: Talk is Cheap, Move Your Money! I ask all my friends to at least learn about it…

    Michael Ferreira
    March 11, 2010 at 05:32

    Other tangible benefits include
    Community based-many credit unions are located within communities and support the residents and local businesses. They have a vested interest in the success of their community.
    Attractive rates on deposits coupled with generally more favorable rates on loans. Credit unions do not seek to maximize the "spread".
    Credit unions have the same features as banks, such as:
    Online banking services
    ATMs (they have a network of "no-fee" automatic tellers
    Convenient branch locations-for employer Credit Unions they are typically located within the business location.
    Many provide financial services such as insurance, investments and wealth management.

    December 22, 2010 at 20:40

    I agree with this blog and the notion of "moving your money" for many reasons but I would like to take it a step further. "Move your money"; not just to local banks, but to local businesses. Support the individuals and businesses in your communities.

    "Mom and Pop" shops are called just that because they are owned, staffed, and run by someone's Mom and/or Pop. Unfortunately, these businesses are soon to follow the path of the dodo bird. The locally owned hardware store, diner, and/or bakery are seen less and less. They are often replaced; sometimes acquired by or merged into a larger company. BayBank knows that story all too well. Larger companies see smaller companies, which are profitable and look to incorporate them. The larger companies inherently eliminate competition and gain financial strength…addition by subtraction at its best! The smaller companies viewed as being less profitable are basically forced out and have to shut down because they can't keep up with the larger companies, which have more resources at their disposal…addition by subtraction once again!

    Small cap or smaller companies are essentially the amino acids which make up the DNA of the economy. I apologize for the science reference, but the smaller cap companies help to spawn economic growth. It is their success that allows for our economy to grow. These are the companies that need to borrow money to expand providing business to lenders. As they expand they bring on more staff who can spend those earned wages. As they expand in staff size they may need to expand in office size and build out their infrastructure. A contractor is hired to perform the renovation/remodel but must buy tools and supplies from…I think you get the picture. In many ways it is wise to support community organizations and businesses. Let's look past the selfish reasons of community enrichment and relationship building. And let's focus on slowly but surely continuing to play an integral part in building and growing our nation through the support of local, smaller companies and businesses.

      Ben Saren
      December 22, 2010 at 20:40

      Hey Garfield, thanks for the comment. I could not agree more. That very sentiment is what drives my company, It's all about helping the small business, these small brick and mortars, compete with the big boys online and attract qualified local consumers to THEIR business instead of the national chain across the street. Consumers mostly shop with their wallets, and SMBs can compete, they just need to do a better job of reaching these consumers where they are – online.

      The numbers are staggering. Something like 70 cents on every dollar spent at, say, Wal-Mart, leave the community. Yet if you shop locally, that amount stays within the community, and in some instances even more. I'm 100% with you, I preach this every day, and do my best to demonstrate it with my consumer behaviors.

      We can't complain about potholes, broken streetlights, lack of community policing, crime, etc if we cant also be responsible with where we, as consumers, spend our money. If you shop locally, that money is used locally and eventually goes right back into the neighborhood. I think you and I even spoke about this a few months ago.

      Check out this post from my other blog:

      And check out this video about the Multiplier Effect.

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    Ben Saren
    December 22, 2010 at 20:40

    Check out the welcome letter from Wainwright Bank. I haven't received my debit card yet, havent even started using the account, but a nice personalized welcome letter just says so much already. And the contents of the letter are equally impressive. <img src="; width="386" height="500" alt="Wainwright welcome letter" />

    James Robert Lay
    December 22, 2010 at 20:40

    We have joined the fight and encourage people to move their money to a local owned credit union.

    Credit unions are all about the community and giving back to their member owners. They are owned by the people and for the people… not just an elite few shareholders.

    There is a great video contest in the voting stages right now to complement the Move Your Money campaign and show the power of credit unions and people helping people:

      Ben Saren
      March 10, 2010 at 17:04

      Pretty awesome James. Can you explain the big difference between a local bank and a credit union? Some people think that credit unions are exclusive, as you eluded to. But how are some credit unions open and available to the public, and others are not? For example, DCU (Digital Credit Union) used to be only for Digital employees and families. Now anyone can bank with them. How does that happen and how can they still call themselves a credit union??

        James Robert Lay
        March 10, 2010 at 17:14

        Thx for the kind words Ben and apologies for the confusion. There is a big misconception that credit unions are exclusive but quite the opposite as a majority of them are now open to the communities they serve. Unlike the old days, many credit unions offer membership to those who work, worship, live or go to school in a particular region. Some may be city based while other extend to counties or even state wide. However, there are still some credit unions that serve a specific group as you had noted above.

        It really all depends on the charter that the credit union has. However, one thing is constant regardless if membership is closed or open to the community, the credit unions are still owned by the membership and are not for profit.

        Check out where you can do a zip code search to find a credit union near you and the requirements for membership.

          Ben Saren
          March 10, 2010 at 18:20

          Awesome again, thanks for the great info! Its really valuable information for those who dont know anything but big banks. And thanks for the comments!

    December 22, 2010 at 20:40

    I have embedded two articles that compare the virtues of credit unions and banks.
    Credit unions are not well understood by the public and surely disliked by the banks.
    In a nutshell, credit unions are:
    Owned by its members (the depositors)
    Credit Unions are not-for-profit organizations.
    So, if you want to walk into your financial institution and be treated like an owner, join a credit union.

      March 10, 2010 at 21:34

      Oh very cool Michael! More great stuff. Seems to me that a CU is more personal than even a community bank. What are the other more tangible benefits though?

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