One of my very favorite movies – and I know I’m not alone in this – is It’s a Wonderful Life.
As a kid, my sisters and I would watch this movie every winter. I secretly had a big crush on Jimmy Stewart, and I am sure that he is why I have always had an affinity for the tall, slender, good-hearted type man. (And look! I married me one! Thanks, Jimmy!) Somehow, as I grew up, this cinematic gem was elbowed out of my Christmas flick rotation, replaced instead by my generation’s new “classics”. Two years ago, I learned that my Old Man had NEVER SEEN IT. Obviously, this atrocity could not abide. So we watched it and he loved it and our Christmas Flick List has been rewritten.
I must say that watching this movie in this particular economic moment as a socially conscious adult was a whole lot different that it was as a child in the 80’s. Is this not a movie written for the diminishing middle class of today? I say it is!
As a member of this diminishing middle class, I got to wondering about the Building & Loans of yesteryear and whether such establishments still exist. Since doing electronic transfers from the buried Maxwell House Coffee can under the azaleas has proven to be problematic, I wanted to know if a non-bank, non-coffee can option exists for modern folks. I eventually came around to the revelation that Credit Unions might be the answer. I did a little bit of investigation, and this is what I found:
Since credit unions are not for profit, they are not under the same pressure banks are to impress their shareholders with how much money they have made from their customers… because their shareholders ARE their customers! It’s a We-Won’t-Screw-You-Because-We-Are-You philosophy. And because of this philosphy, credit unions do not generally charge the same type of under-handed fees that banks are infamous for. It’s how it oughta be! As I learned from The Golden One Credit Union, when a member joins and opens up an account, they are charged one dollar – essentially buying one share of the company. When it’s time for company decisions to be made, members are asked to vote, and each person – Joe Broke with ten dollars in his account, and Joe Loaded with ten thousand dollars – gets one vote. And on the occasion that the credit union makes a good investment that pays off, it divides the profits up between all of it’s members! (According to Dino at The Golden One Credit Union in Goleta, several years ago, each member received $40 from such an investment. It’s not an everyday occurance, but it does happen!)
But because we live in a world of imperfections, there are of course drawbacks. These include the fact that credit union ATMs can be hard to find.
The Solution: 99% of credit unions accept deposits from members of other credit unions, so any credit union or credit union’s ATM can be used without fees. Also, ATMs at all 7-Elevens are part of the program and can be used for free.
Another drawback is that credit unions have had the reputation for being slow to modernize.
The Solution: there’s an app for that! The Golden One has an iPhone app with which you can take a picture of your check and deposit it digitally. Boom: modernity.
Yet another credit union shortcoming is the fact that they cannot offer business accounts.
The Solution: There is no solution. Bummer.
As you can imagine, the Old Man and me opened up an account at The Golden One. I haven’t used it enough to rant or rave about the pros or cons of the actual practice of credit unionization, but I have high hopes.
Merry Christmas to you, Mister Potter. (I flip you the partridge in a pear tree.)
Credit union group hug!
(If you’re still not convinced, google “Why choose a credit union?” and you’ll very likely get converted.)