Money, Banks, and Trust

Here’s a link to an interesting video entitled “Trust Me — I’m in Finance.” It features Mark Finser, Chair of the Board of RSF Social Finance. The title, of course, is a bit ironic. The topic is the essential place of trust in how our financial world is organized, despite the devastating effect the erosion of that trust has had in recent times.

As I’ve been reading up on what the Transition Town movement is all about, one thing that has stood out is the matter of our relationships to money, investment, and financial institutions. Like most people I’ve generally chosen my banks based on convenience and fees, and I’ve mainly considered growth potential and safety when weighing investment options. I confess that I haven’t seriously added questions of ethics and social responsibility to the mix.

But my thinking has been challenged by some Transition Town advocates who talk about avoiding the big interstate banks and turning to local banks and credit unions for our finacial needs. Using local financial institutions, they point out, helps keep one’s money working for the benefit of the local community.

Supporting local businesses has always made some sense to me, but Mark Finser’s short talk has opened up my understanding significantly. One question I hadn’t asked before is this: what is the money I’ve invested doing? While I am not making use of it, what is someone else using it for? Maybe “return on investment” involves more than the interest dollars I happen to “earn”.

Furthermore, I’ve also been challenged to think a bit about just what money really is. Some Transition Town advocates describe alternatives to using dollars in our basic economic relationships, suggesting things such as time banking and alternative currencies, as well as more informal cooperative activities, and I notice that the RSF Social Finance web site has a blog called Reimagine Money, with articles going back about 5 years. This is a matter of which, I realize, I’ve barely scratched the surface.

And so, partly because of the 11 minutes I spent watching this video, I find myself rethinking some of my assumptions and reconsidering a number of decisions I’ve made over the years regarding my personal finances. The talk doesn’t provide any concrete guidance, but it does nudge one out of one’s comfort zone and stimulate some fresh thinking.

Note: RSF Social Finance’s headquarters are in San Francisco, but it has some local connections, too. Mark’s brother is Temple resident Torin Finser, a leader in the Waldorf School movement, and his father is Siegfried Finser, a graduate of High Mowing School many decades ago (and one of the founders of RSF Social Finance). The two Waldorf schools in Wilton are among several local institutions that have been helped out by loans from RSF Social Finance.

Article written by Mike Anderson

One Response

  1. Michael Conley October 31, 2012 at 9:37 am | | Reply

    What a great contribution, Mike! Thanks very much for posting. Definitely something we need to think about. I’d like to have a conversation with an official at a local credit union and talk to them about the ideas in this video. Do you think we could do something like that this week? I have a little free time.

    Thanks again for posting. i would love an alert when something new like this comes on to the website — I came on because I referred some folks here and found the article by chance.

    Anyway — rock on!


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