At this point, no one knows what effect, if any, the Occupy movement will have, ultimately, on the American economy. But the effort that was planted in Wall Street has sent off shoots that are bearing indignant fruits in all corners of this country, and even in countries beyond our borders. The determination to catch the attention of those who make things happen clearly manifests a growing undercurrent of dissatisfaction at the bottom end of the feeding trough. Those who have been left devastated by the effects of a prolonged recession are ticked. They’ve watched their own incomes disappear into the unemployment quagmire or get skinnier while some of the huge institutions that came palms-up for taxpayer help chalked up enormous profits and handed out hefty bonuses to those at the top. The protesters are screaming “No fair!” with good reason.
Bankers claim they should not be the focal point for the money-based class warfare that is brewing. And they may be right. Dozens of factors have played into the current money mess in America. But many Americans meet the reality of their tightening circumstances at the door to their banks. And the banks have not done much to give the impression that they are sympathetic to their neediest clients. When Congress capped the amount banks can charge merchants for debit card usage at about 24 cents per transaction, that might have helped, since the average fee had been about 44 cents per transaction. But instead of heeding the obvious direction Congress wanted them to pursue, many in the banking industry responded by adding monthly fees for debit card users. Increased fees for the use of credit cards and ATMs have added salt to the wounds of many. To demand that a client maintain a hefty (for him) balance while his home is being repossessed smacks of Scroogism at its worst, the protesters say. The banks justify fee increases by pointing to the “building a banking stop on every corner” approach they’ve adopted. Ready availability has its costs, too, they argue.
The end of the Occupy movement is nowhere in sight. Spontaneous groups are still emerging to shore up the earliest protesters and there are no signs that anyone is ready to quietly tuck in his tail and abandon the fray.
One of the ways the “have-nots” are showing the depth of their angst is encouraging people to take their funds out of banks and deposit it in other financial institutions. Credit unions all over the country are reporting significant membership increases. Occupy promoters have even set a day – Nov. 5 -– which they have dubbed Bank Transfer Day on which they hope many Americans will do just that. Whether your own concern rises to that level or not, there are things you can do to avoid unnecessary costs related to bank use. Up front, be aware of any fees you are being charged. Avoid triggering those fees whenever you can. Shop with cash and consolidate buying when you can to avoid individual fees on many purchases. Don’t pay the bank for providing personal or business checks. There are companies that will charge you up to 50 percent less.
Over the course of the upcoming election year, the debates will be become hot and heavy. Maybe the Occupy effort will be just a historical blip on the ongoing effort to redirect America. But it has raised awareness that a growing number of its citizens are not happy with the status quo.