Act 349

Follow through

It doesn’t really matter what you’re trying to do. Improve your golf game, improve your relationship, master a new skill. It’s not really about talent, it’s about follow through. I started this blog so I could prove to myself that I could follow through on a new year’s commitment. And I’m almost there.

Along the way, I’ve also found myself making some pretty broad and sweeping statements. Most recently, I wrote to my now infamous credit union to say that if they didn’t reverse their decision to offer a third party hosted video game on their website to teach kids financial literacy, I would close my children’s accounts as a protest. My kids are not marketing opportunities and their information will not be shared with a third party provider (which it would be if they’d joined the game). The last thing kids needs is yet more video games. And the number one lesson of financial literacy is to safeguard your privacy. My privacy might be shot, and that was a calculated risk I chose, theirs still has a chance. When I received an e-mail in reply saying that it was a researched and ┬ácarefully considered marketing decision, I got off my high horse in a bit of a huff. What’s the point of fighting those who actually think that a video game adds value to a child’s banking experience? Ugh. Anyway, I left it at that.

But it kept at me, lightly tapping its fingers in the back of my mind. Enough already. Today I decided I would follow through and closed their accounts. “But why?” they asked. “Because my kids are not your marketing opportunities is why”, I said. And what little money they have is safer in their piggy bank for the moment if my credit union is going to be that careless with their name, their age, their birthday and their address in the name of “financial literacy”.

In fact, I got so into the whole follow up feeling, I even closed the teenie tiny RSP accounts that were leftover from when they recommended I cash in my RSPs (which I did, silly me) instead of lending me the money I needed to capitalize my growing business. Those proceeds will put a wee bit of extra money into my Christmas fund. And I’ll keep contributing to my RSP with the independent financial advisor I turned to as a result of the original fiasco.

I’m glad a followed through. It’s easy to take a position. It isn’t always easy to hold it. But try. If something really matters to you, it’s not enough to just say it matters. You owe it to yourself to take action and follow up. And you also know that owe is not a word I take lightly.

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Act 324

Let your custom be appreciated

Today was customer appreciation day at my local grocers. Free cake and coffee (which I missed) and some great specials ($1.00 off 4 litres of milk).

Telus has also been doing some impressive customer appreciation hosting two nights of free movies at the local theatre. Sold out unfortunately but they promise to do it again soon.

You have value as a customer (we’ve talked about this before) – so let them spoil you a bit. The holiday season is full of opportunities like these so keep an eye out and make the best of it.

If you have customers of your own, find a way to let them know they matter to you too. It’s called reciprocity and it keeps us human.

But recognize the difference between having your patronage appreciated and being patronized. My credit union recently launched a “free” video game for kids to help them “learn” financial literacy. If they sign up (mine won’t be), their name, age and location will be shared with the third party provider. That’s not appreciation. That’s creepy. And, let’s face it, pretty dull.

I’d rather have coffee and cake.

Act 94

Sometimes patronage patronizes.

If you’re a member of a credit union, it’s patronage time. They give you money back after they calculate their profits, then make a big splash about how community-minded they are. I’m not one to look a gift horse in the mouth, but in this case, I’m the gift horse. They are giving me my own money back and taking the credit for it.

For a number of reasons I can’t get into here, it’s difficult for me to call out my own credit union. But I am. I ran six figures through my business account and got $32 back.

I’m sorry. Not good enough. A local credit union is an exercise in community building and trust. Around here, more than 50% of us have made that commitment. And $32 doesn’t do my commitment justice. I’ve been a member, a supporter, an advocate and, a profitable source of income. I’d have been better off buying stock in TD. And it pains me to say that more than anyone will ever know.

Sometimes patronage is patronizing. If you’re tired of being patronized, buy bank stock and truly benefit from the cash cow that is Canadian banking. At least the big banks are honest about who they are really working for. It’s a debt defying lesson I wish I’d learned a long time ago.

But since I did get 1 cent (literally) in interest rebate on my personal deposits, I’ll buy the bubble gum and split it 5 ways for any takers. I still know how to share. No amount of money will ever keep me from the importance of that lesson.

Act 57

Make sure the eggs in your basket come from different chicken farmers

Defying my debt is about admitting to mistakes. And I’ve made my fair share.

One of which, I think, was the supposed convenience of keeping most of my financial “stuff” at a single institution. I do most of my banking at a credit union. It’s convenient. I like the idea of being a member owner.

I have my mortgage, my personal accounts, my business accounts, my old (sniff) RRSPs, my life insurance, my mortgage insurance and even my car insurance in the same place. I could be wrong, but I think that cost me.

What I should have done was get a mortgage broker and an insurance broker. I should have placed my teenie tiny “wealth” portfolio somewhere else too.

It’s more complicated and it takes more time but I think I would have been better served by seeking out specialists in each area rather than relying on the admittedly kind and helpful generalists at the credit union. I know, for example, that my life insurance meeting led to a discussion about my home’s value and the “opportunity” to refinance to buy some RRSPs. I also know that my request for a line of credit led to a conversation about cashing in those RRSPs to “simplify” things. Had I been dealing with specialists, I think I would have got well, I won’t say better, that might be rude, but more specialized advice.

And money is a very specialized business. My specialty it would appear, is spending it. I admit that too. But things are changing one day at a time. Saturday I will meet with the credit union again to see about options available to me. And I’ll have my LVC (Lifetime Value as a Customer) tucked firmly in my wallet (see Act 47).