Save more, get richer: Which genius at my bank crafted this ridiculousness?
Policy on fees shows big banks are out of touch with reality of working Canadians, says Jo Davies
Every day when I come home from work, I do what I've done for the past 30 years or so: I check the mail.
No matter that nowadays more often than not there's nothing there. In this day of emails, electronic billing and e-transfers, there's virtually no reason for me to expect to receive anything via snail mail.
Still, old habits die hard. So I check.
Yesterday I actually got a letter from my bank.
"Great news!" it said in large font. "Your account has been selected for a monthly fee waiver."
You can imagine how thrilled I was at the prospect of saving some of my hard-earned coins on a monthly basis. What stunned me was the next bit of news: In order to have my monthly bank fee waived, I had to maintain a minimum monthly balance of (wait for it) … $3,000.
As the letter put it: "In other words, when you keep more money in your account, you can save more money!"
So let me get this straight: if you're already financially comfortable, (which is what I think of anyone who has thousands of dollars doing nothing on the daily), the bank can make you even better off by giving you a break on the fees that you likely barely notice in the first place?
Nice. I wonder which genius at my bank crafted this ridiculousness.
Are they taking sensitivity training from Donald "Here's Some Paper Towel, Puerto Rico" Trump and his minions?
Yes, I get that it's a form letter, but please don't tell me that in this day and age, with all these newfangled computer thingies, they couldn't have sorted their customers by average monthly balances and saved me the trouble.
Teasing me like that isn't kind, and it certainly isn't brilliant in terms of customer service. It put a bee in my bonnet about the kind of folks who run the place that keeps all my nickels and dimes.
Out of touch with working Canadians
Most of all, it made me wonder how out of touch with the reality of most working Canadians does my bank need to be to send me a letter like that?
Let me be honest: I know darned well that I should have money in savings for emergencies, if nothing else. I'm a grown woman and it's my responsibility to take care of my business. If I don't it's nobody's fault but my own, right?
Well, yes and no.
For the record, like most Canadians, I'm working more than one full-time job just to keep the lights on and food in the fridge.
A 2016 survey by the Canadian Payroll Association suggested about half of Canadians (47 per cent) live paycheque to paycheque. And 35 per cent of those surveyed said they felt overwhelmed by their level of debt (well, hello credit card!).
So it's not just me alone in this leaky boat.
A quick check with Statistics Canada shows that the average weekly earnings among non-farm employees in Manitoba comes in at the underwhelming $909 per week.
Now, I'm no mathematical genius, but I don't see that being the kind of cash that will allow your average non-farm employee to keep 3,000 skins cooling in their account every month, gathering dust.
The reality is there is a whole mass of people in this country who are struggling, working more than one job, having to decide between paying the hydro bill or actually eating meat this week. We make too much for any kind of social assistance, but not enough to do anything more than just get by.
I'm told by older folks that this used to be referred to as "genteel poverty" — the illusion of having a secure middle-class life is there, but the reality is that life is far from comfortable. Stuck between the haves and the have-nots, it's like going through life as Prince Charles, longing for more but resigned to living the rest of your life waiting for a break.
So, who's in charge of the staff that write these ridiculous letters?
An April 2017 Financial Post article took a look at the earnings of the chief executive officers of Canada's five major banks. My bank's CEO was the highest paid of the Big Five, with $11.52 million in actual direct compensation.
I'm betting he doesn't have to choose between paying the electricity bill or buying pork chops very often.
It's obvious there's a disconnect here, but I don't know exactly what to do about it.
I guess a good place to start might be talking to my local bank manager, to express just how I feel about this silly letter. You never know: maybe the bank figures I have a vault in my home, where I do the backstroke through piles of gold coins like Scrooge McDuck.
Which, for the record, I don't.
My backstroke needs work.