In this uphill battle of the working class to take back their financial freedom, it's important to know who dictates the oppressive nature that our current financial system looms over us. Insurance agencies, pharmaceutical companies, financial advisers, and the big banking industry often work together to maximize their profits, with no thoughts of their customers as people, just accounts. This further widens the gap between corporate heads and the employees that make their companies run on a daily basis. In recent years the big banking industry ran their business so horribly it nearly crumbled our entire economic structure. Whether it was greed or lack of business sense, it's unacceptable. After the billions of dollars spent by the tax-payers to bail out these banks, the CEO's gave themselves millions of dollars in bonuses and continue the same practices as before the bailout. How would you rate that customer service?
Which brings us to the question, "What as an individual can I do about it?" Like any corporate crime you can follow the money trail to the culprits, which we have done. Secondly we need to hit them where it hurts, their wallets- instead of yours for once. This is the most effective way to bring down this corrupt system. Not participating in the big banking is easier and more secure than some might think, one answer is your local Credit Union. Credit Unions offer all the same services as any bank, ATM's, online banking, savings, checking, loans, all insured, all within your community and here's the beauty; they are non for profit institutions . Many people are unaware that alot of "smaller" bank branches are part of the same giant conglomerates that threaten to spiral our economy again. This chart from the federal reserve shows some of the tie-ins. (Click to enlarge)
The next logical question might be "What's the difference between a bank and a credit union, and why is one better than the other?" Here is the breakdown. The Webster dictionary defines a bank as an establishment for the custody, loan, exchange, or issue of money, for the extension of credit, and for facilitating the transmission of funds. A bank is a for-profit institution owned and run by shareholders. Banks are regulated (obviously loosely) by federal and state mandates and insured by the Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation (FDIC). As for-profit companies, their top priority is to use their vast resources to maximize their profits as efficiently as possible. This corporate structure leaves you the "customer" as little more than a means to that end. Priority one of every board meeting is how to better extract profits from their customers without driving those that are most profitable to other banks. Despite the "We care about you and your family" ad campaigns, they are nothing more than corporations and you and your paycheck, are their product. In the past decade banking conglomerates have become so "efficient" with your money, that they break their own profit records year after year.
Now, some facts about Credit Unions (CU's). The Webster's Dictionary defines credit union as a cooperative association that makes small loans to its members at low interest rates and offers other banking services. A credit union is a non-for profit organization that offers all the same services as any bank but is owned by it's members, if you have an account you are a member as well as an owner. You have the right to both vote and run for the board of directors, each member gets one vote regardless of the amount of money in you account. Each director runs on a volunteer basis with no compensation just the desire for stability and a solid financial group within their community or organization. This system creates a lateral interest for all members, not just a small group of stockholders. Credit Unions are also regulated by Federal and State mandates depending on their charter, and are also insured by a federal program called the National Credit Union Share Insurance Fund (NCUSIF). All profits made by a credit unions is held as the liquid reserve that insure the financial stability of that union, and are returned to members in the form of lower loan rates, fewer fees and better services. The reserves also guard against economic downturn and loan losses as well as slow economic growth. A common goal among many unions is to not acquire more reserves than the board (which you a free to vote on or run for) feels is necessary for long term stability.
Another important difference between the two systems is membership. A bank is open to the general public, whereas with a credit union you are required to become a member. People feel connected in group memberships which are often obtained through employers, schools, universities, churches, and even hometowns. There are also general community based unions widely available in areas across the country, easily found through a simple internet search, although they generally do not advertise. Here is a link from the Credit Union National Association (CUNA) that will give you information about CU's in your area by a simple zip code search http://www.creditunion.coop/ . Switching from a banking conglomerate to a CU is a great way to support the Occupy movement for those who can not be physically present or just anyone who would like better service and lower rates.
Let's explore our options and shift the paradigm. - Chris Hensley