There are three things we need to be concerned about when deciding where to spend our money.
The first is obvious: obtaining goods and services of value. We want the product or service to be something good, something we really want or need. We want to get a really good deal.
The second should also be obvious, but many of us rarely think about it: who do you want to enrich? Do you want to do business with good people or bad people? Goods and services of great value obtained from bad people is a moral problem. In essence, you’re enriching and empowering bad people by your purchasing decisions.
A third consideration is also important. Do you want your money to immediately leave your community or do you want it to stay local in order to help build the prosperity of your family and friends? Locally owned businesses have a far deeper positive impact on a community than do franchises. With a locally owned business, that money you spend circulates back through your own community. It’s not necessarily immoral to send your money into a distant investor’s yacht. But it’s stupid.
Now let’s apply this same concept to a credit union and a bank of comparable size. The credit union has 100,000 members and the bank has 100,000 customers. When the credit union makes money, that money goes back into the membership, enriching all 100,000 members.
When the bank makes money, the profits only go to a comparatively small group of investors. Maybe 1,000 shareholders. Maybe just a handful. Maybe just one.
When the credit union makes $10 million in net income, each member roughly gains another $100 in benefits. When the bank makes $10 million in profit, the 100,000 customers gain no additional benefit, but each of the 1,000 shareholder gains $10,000 of benefit. If there are only 10 shareholders, each one gains $1 million. There’s nothing wrong with shareholders making a profit, but why enrich a few when you can modestly enrich a great many?
The CEOs of the five largest banks in the United States make anywhere between $15-$20 million PER YEAR. Where do you think that money comes from? Well, it comes from their customers of course. Credit Unions are careful not to pay such exorbitant salaries because the membership will not stand for it. They’ll pay a healthy salary for quality leadership, but $20 million bucks? Not going to happen.
So ask yourself this question, “What kind of world do I want to create by my spending habits?” Is the world better off when I spread my economic benefit around to my neighbors or with fellow parishioners? Or, is the world better off when I allow all the benefit to accrue to a small number of people who live far away?
If you think it’s better to spread it around, and you wouldn’t mind enjoying some additional benefits yourself, then you ought to leave your big bank and join a credit union. Credit unions create a healthier economy. Catholic credit unions help create a healthier Church.