Yesterday’s rant carried on about rent seeking one percenters picking our 99% pockets and suggested that . . .
. . . every time those one percenters reach for your wallet to pick some of your hard earned cash, just give ‘em a good hard whack, with a ruler, right across the knuckles, and SCREECH a very loud and emphatic NO right in their faces. We can let the rich be rich, but it’s time to force them to earn their money honestly.
So today, let’s think about how to do that. It is unlikely that any of us would get actually close enough to the one percenters grasping for our wallets so we could use a handy disciplinary ruler on their knuckles, but that’s only a rhetorical metaphor anyway. In real life, there are four simple financial changes we can make that can jump-start the process of extracting those pesky one percenter fingers from our wallets. Less for the one percent means more for us! That’s good.
Avoid plastic when making purchases. Plastic should always be a last resort. Every time you use plastic, ka-CHING goes the bank cash register, and somewhere around three percent of your purchase is siphoned off into the banking system. Even if you use a card from a credit union, the big bank system still gets part of the fee. It’s not free to use names like Visa and MasterCard. If you are shopping at a locally owned business or coop (as you should be doing), using plastic drains money out of the local economy and feeds the greed of the one percenters. The best thing to do is to cut up your cards. Paying cash and writing checks for purchases may take some practice, but people did that for decades before the advent of widespread plastic payment cards. Yes, it’s true, our present dependence on plastic is a fairly recent financial innovation. And we can’t say that that has been a good thing. So pay cash! Write checks!
Move your money out of the big banks and into a credit union. A credit union is a financial cooperative, owned by its depositors. You will have an opportunity to attend its annual meeting and elect its board of directors. Credits unions have cooperative agreements with each other which is helpful if you are in another city and need to cash a check.
Get out of debt. Don’t add any more debt and pay off your existing debts as soon as possible. If you can’t pay off existing loans, as you move your money to a credit union, move your loans there too. You will almost certainly get a better debt deal from a credit union than you will from a bank. Interest paid on credit union loans typically stays in a local community. Consider selling financial assets if you have them in order to pay off debt.
If you are able to only make minimum payments on big credit card balances, or are otherwise in over your head in debt, then run, don’t walk, to a good bankruptcy lawyer. The borrower is the slave of the lender.
Special note for students: If you are in college and borrowing money to pay for it, you should think about ending your financial dependence upon student loans. This could mean interrupting your studies with episodes of work so you can save money for college expenses or transferring to a less expensive school. The cost of a college education is growing much faster than the general rate of inflation, and student loan debt cannot be discharged in bankruptcy. Student loan borrowers are paying high interest rates during an era of extremely low interest rates. Students are graduating with what amounts to a lifetime debt bondage for their college education. Now is the time to think very carefully and do the math about whether or not it really is worth borrowing a big pile of money to go to school. Freedom is better than slavery. It may take you longer to get a degree if you have to work, but you will start your post-college career without a millstone of debt tied around your neck, dragging you down and enslaving you for decades.
The final strategy is one I have written about often: shop local and where possible, go coop. Avoid the big national stores and brands and choose local and independent suppliers of what you need. Keeping your money in your local economy as long as possible benefits everyone in the area. Think globally, but shop locally.
There’s a final point: encourage others to do likewise. Do your missionary work. Help others understand the issues. The 99% haven’t had a real raise in income in 50 years. After adjusting for inflation, we’re working harder but making no more money than we were five decades ago. Get involved with your local Occupy! movement. Start an affinity group Occupy for your neighborhood, profession or other group. United we stand — divided we fall even further into debt bondage, poverty, and slavery.