A New Year's Revolution: Move Your Cash, Green Your Stash
Posted December 30, 2013 in Living Sustainably
Do you recycle? That’s great, thank you. Compost, too? That takes some commitment; you have attained Level 2 of environmental actions. Have you also signed an online petition? Wait you’ve actually showed up to a public meeting in person to support a cause you care about? Very admirable! Our planet & environment need more proactive people like you. Now, I ask you: does your money share your values?
If you have an account at Chase, CitiBank, Bank of America, Wells Fargo, or another major institution, your money is cheating on you. These corporations draw their power from people who trust them with their savings, credit, and loans. Corporate banks use your money to make investments that benefit their executives, often at the expense of the climate, the environment, and the health of the population. We know that large banks were at fault for collapsing the economy by criminal mortgage-lending, and that one recently admitted to gender discrimination, without much fanfare. This message is to inform you that they are also responsible for funding the destruction of the planet.
Let me share one of my most satisfying experiences of the past couple of years with you. It was a fresh and sunny winter morning in Santa Monica, two years ago. I walked in to the local BofA and asked for my money - all of it, in cash. The teller looked confused.
“I’m sorry sir, you actually have to carry a non-zero balance to keep your checking account open.”
My reply was gleeful: “That’s ok! I’ll just close the account.”
The teller understood, but she still looked confused, concerned even. She looked down at her screen and began typing away. A supervisor came over in a panic.
“Is everything all right over here?” He had overheard.
“Everything’s fine, I’m just closing out my account.” I was really hoping he would ask.
“Can I ask: why are you closing your Bank of America checking account?”
Yes! He asked! I had prepared a speech. It would start mildly, and crescendo with righteous indignation at the challenge to my desire to control my own savings. For the grand finale, I was going to jump on a desk and rally the folks standing in line at the window and the ATMs, leaping onto their shoulders and flowing out into the street on a wave of social revolution.
The execution just wasn’t there. I choked. The teller and supervisor seemed like such nice people! I didn’t want to embarrass them. I think all I said was, “Um, I don’t really agree with the investments that this corporation is involved in.” I’ve always appreciated understatement, though never mastered it.
The wad of cash representing my entire life savings was pathetically small. I didn’t care, I felt free. Managing my finances with a credit union has been pretty much the same as when I used a bank. I do almost all of my banking online, ATMs are everywhere, and I can always get someone on the phone when I need to. But now I am confident that when my paycheck is deposited, it is used only to benefit the co-op, and mostly just sits there, waiting for me to pay my bills, sometimes accruing a modest interest. It is definitely not being used to fund the destruction of beautiful places and important natural resources that I care about.
Moving my money was a simple move that continues to give me satisfaction. Lots of people are doing it, and you can do it too. This site can help you find the right credit union, and this one has a simple set of instructions for how to move your money. Revolution doesn’t always involve Molotov cocktails. Sometimes the power of self-governance is available, and you can just choose it.
(Image courtesy of Urgewald)
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