Trigger warning: This is about politics. Yes, Moneybites is first and foremost about money, but money often entangles us in other matters. Here goes...
This political climate is giving me a serious ailment. Dewey Finn (played by Jack Black in the highbrow film School of Rock) dubbed this sickness “Stick-it-to-da-man-niosis.”
The symptoms include sleeplessness, nausea, rage, and a looming fear that the planet is going to explode. Also my brain may explode.
A lot of you have the -niosis too. I know I'm not the first to propose this, but I believe the best way to treat our collective illness is through strategic action.
Ending our relationships with big banks is a great way to stick it to the man!
I’m embarrassed to admit this, but I banked with Citibank for over 15 years (doing the research for this article helped me finally end the relationship).
I set up accounts with them as a young adult who had no concept of how big banks impacted the economy, or what kind of environmental projects they financed. After gaining some knowledge of the issue I was was still too too lazy and overwhelmed by my options to switch to a credit union/community bank.
A few months ago I read that several big banks are financing the efforts to build the Dakota Access Pipeline (DAPL). A quick primer for those who aren't up on current affairs: the DAPL would destroy sacred sites and burial grounds of the Standing Rock Sioux, and potentially endanger the fresh water of 8 million people.
The shit storm that’s been unleashed since the inauguration may have pushed this issue to the sidelines, but it still needs our attention.
Some Important Facts
Turning over both public and native land to private interests is a priority of our new administration.
On Donald Trump’s fourth day in office he signed a memorandum meant to expedite the construction of the DAPL.
Additionally, Trump has nominated Texas Governor Rick Perry for Energy Secretary. Until last month Perry sat on the boards of two companies funding the DAPL (Energy Transfer Partners and Sunoco Logistics). Neither Perry nor Trump have divested their stocks from companies that stand to benefit from the pipeline's construction.
Let's Stick It To The Man!
Citibank is not the only bank that deserves to lose your business. Wells Fargo, Bank of America, JPMorgan Chase, and US Bank are among the many others that are funding this project. Want to see how badly your bank is behaving? Look up their scorecard here.
Please know that changing financial institutions is a low-to-mid level pain in the ass. Kicking big banks in the groin is worth the trouble. If you follow the five simple steps that I’ve outlined below it can be done with minimal stress.
You'll need to decide where you want to move your money first. You may be tempted to start this process by closing your bank accounts, but be sure to do a little research first. If you close your current accounts before setting up new ones, your cash and transactions will spend a few days in limbo.
Overwhelmed by your options or short on time? the quickest way to tackle this step is to simply find a credit union or community bank in your area. Here are two great resources to help you narrow your search:
For those who have more time and the will to do this thoughtfully, here’s a checklist:
A disclaimer: Overdraft protection is not on my checklist. Why? Because you will never, ever overdraft *does Jedi mind trick.* You will keep a cash cushion in your accounts to cover any incidents or miscalculations.
I keep a cushion in my checking account that is equivalent to my largest monthly cost (rent) so that it will still be covered even in the event of a major error.
Open your new accounts. You’ll need to start by depositing some cash at your new institution. I recommend depositing at least enough to cover all of your transactions for the subsequent 5 days. Once you've done this you'll get your swag - debit card, checks, etc.
Update your account information. You'll need to update your banking info so that all of your automated activities are now directed to your new accounts. This includes updating your paycheck deposit info (talk to your employer) and any bill payments you have set up. And don't forget to arrange for automatic deposits to your savings!
Once all pending transactions with your old bank have gone through, transfer the rest of your money. An electronic transfer should be the most convenient option.
Close your old accounts. Be sure to get a written confirmation from the bank, stating that the accounts are closed. You don't want to risk having an account re-activated without your knowledge (yes, your old bank will do you like that) when a deposit or bill unexpectedly comes in.
Tell your old bank where to find their belongings.
Optional 6th Step: Go Out With a Bang!
Maybe you want to give your old bank a piece of your mind? Consider writing an open letter (here's a template) to let them know why you left. Post your letter to social media (or a photo of you flipping off a big bank) and tag me @sarahcbrady #bigbankbreakup. First one to post gets a free credit consultation!
Should I close credit card accounts with my big bank?
Yes! I’d be amiss if I didn’t warn you that closing a credit card can have a negative effect on your credit scores. I could write a separate, very robust article to explain that, but I’ll keep it simple: you won't lose enough points do destroy your scores -and there are many ways to regain the points that you lose. Don't let this stop you from sticking it to the man!
If you’re applying for a loan within the next 6-12 months, or will otherwise need your credit scores to be stellar during that time, you may want to wait to close your credit card. Don't take the hit until you've accomplished the goal you're working towards.
In the meantime, keep the balance as low as you can (this will help reduce your interest payments to the stupid bank). If you’ve been a good customer you might even consider requesting a reduction in your interest rate. Then, once you've achieved your goal, apply for any new card you may need. And finally, close the old account.
Image courtesy of pbs.org
If all of this seems like too much work, remember the bigger picture. Every moment that you entrust your money to big banks you’re allowing your cash to continue financing their bad behavior. Dumping them asap is one of the most powerful ways you can channel your Stick-it-to-da-man-niosis. Now go forth, and Stick It To The Man!
Have you broken up with your bank?
I’d love to share your story!
PM me about your experience or tell us about it in the comments below.
And remember, I’m available for consultations if you need a helping hand.