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Article Archive >> Community

Daze of My Life: Bank on it

Daze of My Life
Bank on it

I'm starting to worry about the banking system in the Metropolitan Washington DC area. My concern is twofold: First, why are they being so nice to me?
Often I'm met with a "Hello;" by name at my local branch; a smile and a "Welcome to...;" an offer of additional assistance beyond our transaction; a "Thank you for banking with...." It's an epidemic of pleasantry. To tell you the truth, this extra, nearly intolerable niceness, is a bit off-putting. Their behavior has me fearing for my life, sort of. It reminds of the character Clemenza from the "The Godfather" movies.
If you remember, Clemenza was one of Vito Corleone's oldest and most trusted friends. When Michael Corleone (Al Pacino) decided to have his sister Connie's (Talia Shire) philandering husband, Carlo Rizzi, "whacked," he entrusted the task to Clemenza. And do you remember when it happened, in the car, that Clemenza offered Carlo a cannoli just before the deed? That's what I'm afraid of, a loaded cannoli.
And my second reason for concern is, the apparent reduction in many of the fees banks are saying they'll no longer charge us regular customers. Due to
competition, consolidations, new management, Internet banking, non-traditional sources of lending, or whatever, many banks are promoting that many of their former fees for services--checking, savings, credit cards, bill-payer accounts, on-line banking, use of automatic teller machines (theirs and/or everyone else's), etc., and in some offers I've heard, closing costs, points, fees for appraisals for first mortgages and/or for refinancing of existing mortgages--will likewise be eliminated.
Now I have no problem paying less, all things being equal--and divulged.
What really worries me though, is cash flow, or rather the lack thereof. What exactly are all these banks now going to do to replace all this money that they've been charging us all these years? How are they going to make up the short fall? Money doesn't grow on trees, you know, and with the savings rate of the average American declining, and/or not even going to banks, anymore; again I ask, nervously, where are the banks going to get this replacement revenue?
They're already charging record low interest for home mortgages, home equity lines/loans, commercial, personal and automobile loans, and to a lesser degree, even credit card interest. And in some bank locations, branches are open earlier and later than ever, weekends, too, and some banks even have customer service employees working full time in supermarkets and malls. Sure, that's super convenient for the customer but, all those extra employee hours and locations cost money and create additional expenses for the banks. So not only is income (fees, interest, etc.) now being reduced and in many institutions, eliminated, it also appears that many of the banks outgo is being increased, too. And when I, personally, have less money coming in and more money going out; it doesn't exactly make me want to go out and celebrate. Au contraire. It makes me want to stay inside and try not to hyperventilate. So yes, I'm nervous, and I don't know what to expect, death or disability, figuratively speaking. Either way, I'm afraid I'm going to suffer.

Kenneth B. Lourie is a regionally syndicated columnist who resides in Burtonsville, MD.

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