Do you consider yourself a socially conscious person? Are you someone who stays up to date on current events, researches what’s going on in the world, and knows which companies are contributing to our world’s problems and which are working to solve them? If you said yes, then it sounds like you are a conscious consumer and understand the power of voting with your dollar and putting your money where your mouth is… but — where do you put your money? Which bank do you use? This is something many of us don’t even consider, but just like anywhere else you put your money, the bank you choose to support with your dollars matters.
This is something that I myself am just learning the importance of now, as I have recently begun researching the best places for storing my dollar bills. Not that I have a lot of them by any means, but still, I want them to be supporting things that I myself would support, which does not include a machine fuelled by greed — no matter the cost.
This idea of taking your money out of the big financial giants really came into my reality around the time of the Dakota Access Pipeline protests, when people were withdrawing their money en masse. Protesters came to understand that, by giving their money to the big banks, they were actually contributing to and supporting the very oil giants t hey were fighting so hard to stop.
What Would Happen If We All Took Our Money Out of the Banks?
This is the thing that is a little scary to consider. When you put your money in a bank, it doesn’t just sit there, patiently waiting for you to decide to spend it. It is being invested at high levels. If you choose to, you can actually get involved in that game and potentially profit from your money rather than letting it collect dust, but again, it is up to you to be aware of what your money is actually going to support if you should choose to do that. If everyone were to take out their money from their banking institutions, the banks would essentially collapse. Those who were late to the money party, moreover, wouldn’t get their money back, because once in a bank, it’s technically under the bank’s control, and they do not hold it all in a safe waiting to be returned to customers.
Now, there are some other options, the most obvious being to keep all your money in cash format, but in this day and age, that is becoming increasingly less practical, as we need credit cards for so many things, and carrying a lot of cash is both inconvenient and risky.
So, Where Should You Keep Your Money?
Enter “Green banks.” Sometimes referred to as a green investment bank, clean energy finance authority, or clean energy finance corporation, a green bank is a public financial institution that uses innovative financing techniques and market development tools in partnership with the private sector to accelerate the deployment of clean technologies. This is one option.
But there are also a number of other socially responsible banks that you can choose from that invest the money they receive into ethical and sustainable businesses that truly have the consumer and the planet in mind.
Consider Credit Unions
You can also consider credit unions, whose model is people before profits. They use a co-operative model, which means any profits they make are reinvested back into the credit union to serve the members better, and some of these benefits are shared directly with their members and the community.
There are a lot of misconceptions around credit unions. People think they don’t have good online banking services, use mobile apps, or offer ATMs, but that simply isn’t the case. Most credit unions have all of these perks and more. Essentially, a credit union can do anything a bank can do, but it all revolves around you as the customer. Check out this cute video from Vancity that describes the difference between credit unions and banks:
Thinking About Making a Switch?
It’s a lot easier than you think. You can walk into your bank and tell them you want to close your account, and that’s that. Of course, if you have any loans or mortgages with your bank, the process becomes trickier, but it’s not impossible. Here are some simple steps, courtesy of GreenAmerica.org,
10 Steps ToBreak Up With Your Mega Bank:
1. Find a new community development bank or credit union. As you research your new bank, be sure to ask about fees, services, and the details about the banking products you need. Make sure the institution you select is FDIC or NCUA-insured.
2. Open your new account with a small deposit while keeping your normal mega-bank account open. Order the products you need such as checks, debit cards, and deposit slips.
3. Make a list of any of your automatic deposits like your paycheck, or auto-withdrawals, like your bills.
4. Move your automatic deposits to your new account. If you have direct deposit for your paycheck, ask your employer to transfer your paychecks to your new account (you will likely need to provide a voided check from your new account to your employer). The same holds true for Social Security payments or other forms of income you receive automatically into your account. Ask for the date on which the payment to your new account will take place.
5. Move your automatic withdrawals to your new account (you will likely need to provide the routing and account numbers at the bottom of your checks). When you know that sufficient funds will be in your new account, transfer your automatic payments so that they are now deducted from your new account. Ask for the date on which the payments from your new account will begin. It’s wise to leave a small amount of cash in your mega-bank checking account for a month after you think you have shifted your deposits and withdrawals to your new bank or credit union to guard against any unforeseen circumstances like checks you wrote that hadn’t been cashed, or payments you forgot about.
6. If you have only online banking through your mega-bank, take screenshots of statements or print them out. Save them for your records and keep canceled checks you may later need.
7. Transfer the final funds from your mega-bank account to your new account – once you have all your automatic deposits and payments transferred and any last checks have cleared your old account. Electronic transfer of these final funds to your new account is usually the fastest and safest method to use.
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8. Close your mega-bank account. Once the last remaining funds in your old account have transferred to your new account, follow the bank’s procedures for closing accounts. Obtain written confirmation that your account is closed.
9. Inform your bank why you are breaking up (You can use our sample letter as a guide).
10. Encourage your congregation, workplace, or alma mater to use a community development bank or credit union if they do not already do so. Also, if you are on the boards of any nonprofits, or live in a condo or housing co-op, you can encourage these organizations to switch too. For colleges and universities, turn to Responsible Endowments Coalition.
If you believe in the power of voting with your dollar and putting your money where your mouth is, then this is the next important step you can take. There are many aspects of our system that aren’t working, and we know it, but the good news is, we do not have to participate in these parts of society that no longer serve us. We can take responsibility for our own lives and our actions and make a powerful impact wherever we leave our money. We always have a choice, and a vote, because every time we spend money, even at a bank, we are casting a vote for the type of world in which we want to live.
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