If you have kids, have ever babysat kids, or were ever a kid, you know how acute a child’s sense of fairness is and how fiercely they will fight to keep things fair.
As adults, we like to think that we’ve outgrown those tendencies – that we’ve finally come to terms with what our parents always reminded us, that “life isn’t fair.”
But even as adults, we still want things to be fair. I once read about a study where two adults were given 100 dollar bills. One person divided up the money between the two and the other was told they could accept or reject the offer. If they accepted the money that the first person had allocated to each of them, they both got to keep the money. If the second person rejected the offer, both got nothing. In cases where the first person split the money equally, the second person always accepted the offer. They usually accepted it if it were 60/40 and even if it were 70/30. Above that, things got dicey. Most people would not accept the offer if the first person gave himself $90 and left the other with $10.
Logically, you are still better off, even if you only get $10. You are still walking away with $10 more than you had going into the deal. But that is the point where the idea of fairness kicks in. It’s not fair if one guy gets $95 and you only get $5. Most people would rather things be fair and walk away with nothing than have things be unfair and walk away with a little.
I believe that it is human nature to want things to be fair and that is the major factor fueling the Occupy movement and for that matter, the Tea Party movement. It isn’t fair that some debit card providers are charging me a new fee while the bank executives get big bonuses. It isn’t fair that my neighbor bought a house he couldn’t afford and his foreclosure caused the value of my house to plummet. It isn’t fair that the public services we need most are being cut. Credit unions are even lamenting that it’s not fair that big banks are causing all of their customers to open deposit accounts with us while they keep their loans – essentially giving us the costly accounts while the banks keep the profitable accounts. In this economy, there are a lot of things that are just not fair.
It’s this sense of fairness that makes credit unions such an attractive banking choice for consumers. At a credit union, nobody is making unseemly amounts of money. Credit unions are governed by middle-class working types. Credit unions charge fees that are reasonable. Credit unions never got any government bail out money. Credit unions attract employees who are community minded and drawn to bettering their world.
There isn’t a lot to feel good about in this unjust economy. I can understand why moving accounts to a credit union is making people feel like they are evening the score, if only by a little.
Shari Storm is Senior Vice President and Chief Marketing Officer of Verity Federal Credit Union and is the author of the book “Motherhood is the New MBA”, available here.