Banking seems to be one of those terms that everyone knows and recognizes but never really takes the time to question. "Hassle-free banking," "next-generation banking," "banking with vision" -- we've all heard the slogans and punchlines.
But what exactly are we all banking on? Are we banking on our local currency and its success? Are we banking on the absolution that we will need money in our future? What money? How much money? Are we banking on the bank institution itself: BMO, Barclays, HSBC, CITI, etc.?
If we are banking on some or all of these things, then what are we using as the measuring stick? I opened my first bank account when I was 12 years old and I didn't shop around for the best bank, account, rates, benefits or feature sets. I didn't discuss long-term savings, currency options or conversion fees with anyone. I took the $50 I received for my birthday and opened the most basic account offered at the bank where my parents banked.
That was the last thought I gave to my banking options for over a decade. After university I was notified that I was no longer eligible for my student account and its benefits of little to no monthly or transaction fees. I nonchalantly asked them to transition me into the account with the least annual fees and most transaction allowances.
I cannot stress how little thought I put into the decision. I have put more thought into which hockey jersey I should buy, where I want to eat dinner and which mugs match my dishes best. And yet, I am "banking" on this decision. Why is it that very few of us actually take the time to sit down and actually assess our savings, spending and banking options until we want to buy a home (if you're one of the lucky ones who is able to make it to this opportunity) or we begin to think about our retirement savings?
It is clear that banks are quick to aid our financial irresponsibility.
A recent article on the CBC's website attempted to shed light on the illusions and misguidance given every day from major banking institutions. This coverage begs the question: Are our hegemonic characteristics of ignorance intentional? Are companies profiting from our ignorance? Are they "banking" on it?
The above article notes banks pushing credit limit increases, lines of credit, etc. The instant gratification of seemingly free, easy money has blinded us from questioning intent or repercussions. While it is clear that banks are quick to aid our financial irresponsibility, ultimately it is us as individuals that are responsible for the individual and societal chain reactions.
Right now, young adults, in the aggregate, are more likely to be uninsured, and therefore rely heavily on the government, social programs or their parents. It's a double-edged sword -- we are saving less and less, but racking up a larger and larger bill. The Global Financial Literacy Excellence Center has done extensive research on millenials and debt. It is clear that no only do millenials carry large amounts of debt, they struggle with it. Partial and missed payments are borderline expected.
Never before has a generation been so rich in financial debt and so poor in financial literacy. On top of all of this debt and decreased earnings, disappearing quality jobs and lack of social awareness, younger generations are losing purchasing power every day with the little money they are able to put away. More focus and austerity must be paid to avoid financial deterioration. Questions shouldn't stop at monthly fees and transaction limits. Question everything from savings options, currency performance, forex, commissions and volatility protection options.
With the election of Donald Trump, Brexit and the Italian prime minister's exodus, it is evident that the entire global economic system is shifting. We need to be personally prepared and aware of all of our options. Canada has never had the plethora of banking options available to it like it historically has. Homegrown FinTech start-ups such as Vuru, Mogo, Goldmoney and NexusCrowd are providing the answers to the questions we haven't been asking.
So, instead of having long-winded debates trying to decide between ramen or tacos this weekend, just flip a coin and spend your time asking more important questions like:
"Is the Canadian dollar my only option for savings?"
"Why does a bank ATM charge me $3 to buy my own money?"
"If my interest rates are lower than the rate of inflation, how am I ever going to get ahead?"
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