New Year’s Resolution – Break Up with Your Bank

It’s your money.

Is this the year that you make a New Year’s resolution to stop funding the climate crisis through your bank and then actually do it? It is for me.

In the interest of full transparency, I got a head start on my 2020 New Year’s resolution because I have already started the process of breaking up with my bank. They just don’t know it yet.

Technically, it is not just my bank because my spouse and I have joint accounts. Fortunately, my spouse is amenable to changing banks.

Yes, I am one of those people who enjoy making and accomplishing a New Year’s resolution. Most years I write a New Year’s resolution post in hopes of luring more readers into the process. Completing something you set out to do can make you feel empowered.

One year I wrote about green investing and another year I wrote about restarting a previous resolution. Last year my New Year’s resolution was to research and write about the environmental impact of sugar and determine if I wanted to do anything about my own sugar intake (I did).

This year my New Year’s resolution is to sever all ties with our current bank and put our money in a credit union where it can benefit our local community.

In this post, we will take a brief look at how “too big to fail” banks are funding the climate crisis and I will share my banking transition experience so far. Admittedly the process has not been hassle-free but I believe ditching our old bank will be worth it in the long run.

Is Your Bank Funding the Climate Crisis?

A bank is supposed to be a safe place where you deposit your paycheck so you can access your money 24/7/365 to fund your life. Banks offer loans so that you can buy a car or house, pay for things with a credit card, or run your business. Savings accounts and certificates of deposits enable to you make a bit of interest on the money you set aside for the future.

Banks provide valuable and essential services, right? Yes, they do.

However, there is a dark side, too.

What came to mind when you read that sentence? Did you think about the 2008 financial crisis and how it impacted you personally? Were you reminded of news reports about your bank engaging in unethical and perhaps even criminal behavior? Did your student loan balance flash before your eyes?

If offshore oil drilling platforms, natural gas pipelines, and coal mines did not immediately come to mind, then you are probably in the majority. A few years ago, these images would not have popped into my mind either. But now they do.

By the Numbers Big Bank Fossil Fuel Financing Infographic
Source – Rainforest Action Network. Click here to read the report (it is interesting and disturbing).

Keeping our money “safe” in a bank that is funding the climate crisis and endangering our children does not make sense to me. So, I decided to do something about it.

Bank Transition Game Plan

I am a planful kind of gal so I did some research and planning before we began our bank changeover. If you are interested, click here for a checklist that may help you with your own bank transition. Below are some of the major steps.

Think It Through

I take banking seriously and I am not advocating that you or anyone else change banks unless you want to and doing so fits in your life. I am sharing what we are doing to provide an example. Where you put your money is of course completely up to you. If you have joint accounts with one or more people, you need to get their buy-in upfront.

My unease with our bank began with learning about their unscrupulous business practices which we won’t go into here. I wanted to move to another bank but our financial life was heavily entangled with our current bank. So I did what anyone might do when faced with a daunting task, I did nothing.

What made me finally decide to spearhead our bank transition project?

Believe it or not, it was realizing that our money could be helping people and businesses in our own community if we moved it to a regional bank or credit union.

Do Your Homework

Do some research before you rush to open an account at the bank across the street from where you work or the credit union next to your grocery market.

Research activities include asking friends or coworkers where they bank, looking up financial institutions online and checking out their websites, and talking with the new account representatives for your top candidates.

We had decided we wanted to put our money in a regional bank or credit union so that is where I focused my online research. I narrowed it down to a few financial institutions and then I visited their branches to talk with the people in new accounts. I asked them about their services, fees, ATM network, who they loan money to, and how they support the local community.

My spouse agreed to go with the credit union that I felt would best meet our needs. One of the things I like about credit unions is that they are nonprofits owned by their members so there are no shareholders looking to make money off of using our money.

Get Started
Coffee Cup, Pen, Piece of Paper with Begin Saying on Wood Table Top
Photo – iStock/marekuliasz.

The time required to set up new accounts will be somewhat proportional to how many accounts you have at your old bank and how many new accounts you want to set up. If you have a credit card account and/or use online bill pay, the overall process will be more complex.

At our old bank, we have checking, money market, and savings accounts. We also have a Visa credit card account and I use online bill pay almost exclusively to pay bills and transfer money. Most of our bills are available directly through the online bill pay portal so unraveling this was one of the reasons I had delayed changing banks.

To get started we went to the credit union’s main branch and met with a member services representative.

We had filled out a small stack of forms at home. At the credit union, the member services rep asked a few more questions and then entered all the information into the credit union system while we waited. The rep was friendly and nice but this process was still mind-numbingly boring and more time consuming than I had anticipated.

We paid $5 to become members of the credit union and opened a share account (savings) and a checking account with minimal amounts.

I selected the most basic and inexpensive checks. Unfortunately, when the checks came in the mail, our name was spelled wrong. So we had to go back and repeat some of the previous steps. The credit union sent replacement checks at no charge.

Our new ATM/debit cards came in the mail but activating them required speaking with a member services rep at the call center.

Go at Your Own Pace

Once you have set up an account(s) with your new financial institution, you can decide whether you want to go close out your old account(s) immediately or do it in multiple steps.

I decided to take a phased approach for several reasons.

  • My spouse just turned in a direct deposit change form so I am waiting for the first paycheck to arrive in our checking account at the credit union.
  • Applying for a new Visa card is a separate process that we have not done yet.
  • Stopping online bill pay at the old bank and starting it at the credit union needs to be done carefully because I do not want to end up with unpaid bills or late fees. So far I have set up an online account.

Will it take me a month or several months to complete all the tasks on my checklist? I do not know but I am looking forward to the day I can walk into our old bank, close all of our accounts, and walk out with a cashier’s check. I also intend to send a letter to the CEO of the bank explaining why we are no longer customers.

Birdlike Links Flying to Freedom Through Hole in Chain Link Fence
Photo – iStock/Eoneren.

So what do you think? Are you ready to break up with your bank? If you are, thank you. Soon you will no longer be part of the climate crisis funding machine. My children, your children, and everyone else’s children are relying on us to do whatever is necessary to keep Earth beautiful and habitable now and in the future.

If you do not want to change banks or are not ready to do it yet, that is okay. Check out the resources section below for other New Year’s resolution ideas or come up with your own.

Happy New Year!

06/03/20 Update: We have completed breaking up with our bank. Click here to read the letter I sent to the CEO of Wells Fargo.

Featured Image at Top: A tiny black oil drum sits on top of a bank credit card – photo credit iStock/porcorex.

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Resources

10 Easy and Green Exercise New Year’s Resolutions

No gym membership required.

Making exercise an integral part of your daily life is a New Year’s resolution that is good for you and the planet.

I doubt anyone would disagree that moving about and being active is good for your health and wellbeing. Yet, as soon as you mention the word exercise, some people (like me) begin thinking up excuses for why we cannot join a gym, sign up for a yoga class, or get up an hour earlier each workday to run before work.

If you love going to the gym, look forward to yoga class, and find running at dawn exhilarating, you have my respect and best wishes. In that case, consider reading Green Twist on 10 Healthy Eating New Year’s Resolutions or New Year’s Resolution for 2017 – Hit the Reset Button.

However, if you cringed at the word exercise and are one of those people who enjoy the challenge of choosing a New Year’s resolution and keeping it, this might be just the post for you.

Making a resolution to walk or bike to and from school or work is an excellent carbon-free way to get exercise, even if you do it just part of the time. Nevertheless, you may not be able to or willing to make that kind of a commitment this year. Fortunately, other easy options are available that will help you get more exercise.

For me, and perhaps for you, the key to moving around and being more active is to make it part of my normal day, not something extra to do.

10 Easy and Environmentally Friendly Exercise New Year’s Resolutions

The ten thought starters below are intended to assist you with determining an easy and green exercise New Year’s resolution.

Ten-Minute Tidy Up

Spending ten minutes each day picking up stuff and putting it where it belongs has two benefits. It gets you moving and it is a painless way to tidy up your home. If there is not much to pick up, consider wiping off the kitchen counter or even cleaning a toilet. Once you get in the habit of doing this, you might be surprised at how clean and tidy you can make your home in just ten minutes a day.

This is a good activity to involve kids in, too. When our kids were young, we did a daily ten-minute toy pick up. This not only kept our house more organized it helped our kids learn to be responsible for their toys. Even toddlers can help if you give them a hand.

Walk and Talk

If you normally sit while talking on the phone, consider walking around while doing it (if you can do it safely).

Bring Your Own Lunch

Consider the multiple advantages of bringing your own lunch to work (in reusable containers). You will know what is in your food, you will not waste time driving to a restaurant and waiting for your food to arrive at your car window or table, and you will likely save tens of thousands of dollars during your working life.

Women Walking in a ParkYou will now have time for walking to run an errand, to a park, or around the office or grounds where you work. Better yet, walk to a park or another outdoor space soaking up some vitamin D along the way and then eat your lunch. Help your coworkers get on the move by asking them to join you.

Meet for a Walk

Instead of meeting a friend for coffee at a coffee shop, mix it up and meet for a walk. Bring coffee with you in a reusable travel mug to sip while you chat and walk.

Run Errands on Foot

Chances are that there is at least one place you frequent that is within easy walking distance of your home or place of work like a restaurant, pharmacy, grocery store, post office, or library. Select one place to begin walking to or make a commitment to walk to run an errand at least once a week.

Park in the North Forty

Full Parking LotThe term north forty often refers to a remote patch of land on a farm or ranch but I think it translates well to parking. An easy way you can add more walking to your day is to park in the far corner of a parking lot or parking garage or down the street from your destination.

Take a Commercial Break

There are usually at least three or four commercial breaks during an hour-long television show and a 3-hour football game has even more. These are built-in opportunities to get up and walk around for a few minutes. When you are watching ad-free media, make a point of either pausing in the middle or getting up and walking around between shows or movies.

Hold a Walking Meeting

How many hours have you spent sitting in conference rooms for short meetings with only a few people? Why not hold a walking meeting instead (if you can do it safely). Mobile devices make it easy to look up things and take notes while you are on the move.

Set a Timer

Finger with Red Ribbon Tied Around ItI got this idea from one of my sons. He is a programmer and a gamemaster who spends a fair amount of time in front of multiple screens so he sets a timer on his smartphone to remind him periodically to get up and walk around. Many experts say that getting up and stepping away is not only good for your body but stimulates your brain as well.

The timer method will work for just about any sedentary job that allows you to leave your work area briefly as well as when you are sitting at home reading a book or watching a movie.

Walk with Your Kids

If you have the time and ability to walk your kids to and from school, that is terrific. If you do not, then make a point of walking with your kids at other times to get them in the habit of walking as a means of getting about and for pleasure. You can walk to a store to get supplies for an art project at school or take a hike during the weekend.

When our kids were young, we frequently took short walks before or after dinner. It took about ten minutes to walk around our block and if we were feeling ambitious, we would take a double-block walk. On the weekends, we hiked in the hills near our neighborhood.

My 2019 New Year’s Resolution

Initially, I was thinking about choosing my son’s “set a timer” idea for my 2019 New Year’s resolution, but I have already adopted it. While writing this morning, my smartphone has already dinged quietly 6 times and I have gotten up and walked around, gone up and down the stairs, and unloaded the dishwasher.

Last year I toyed with the idea of a resolution involving sugar but I ended up opting to digitize our financial records, which I did do. Sugar is still on my mind so I decided to write at least one post about the environmental impact of sugar for my 2019 New Year’s resolution. To keep myself on track I established a few milestones.

  • By January 31 – watch the documentary Sugar Coated again (for inspiration).
  • By April 30 – complete enough research to have adequate material for at least one post.
  • By June 30 – write and publish at least one post.

Footsteps Leading to the Word GoalNow, I hope you are ready to pick one of the above easy and green exercise ideas for your New Year’s resolution or come up with your own. Your best chance for success is to choose something you actually want to do and to be specific so that you will know when you have completed your resolution.

Happy New Year!

Featured Image at Top: Two Potatoes Sitting on a Red Couch – Photo Credit iStock/CHRISsadowski

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