Monday, October 31, 2011

Seven Cool, Almost Funk-Free Alternatives to Banking Institutions…

[1] Try the Filipino group money lending concept called PALUWAGAN, a sort of a community-based or neighborhood mutual fund or small informal cooperative. I found this concept to be very effective, useful, and fun when I was in grade school. “Paluwagan” is a Filipino word—rooted from “magpaluwal” or simple money lending, and “nakaluluwag” which is synonymous to giving. This system has been so popular in the Philippines especially in the rural region. The “paluwagan” fund doesn’t go directly to a broker. The concept is to pool the participants’ money—by means of daily, weekly, or even monthly collections to be collected by a leader. The participants will cast lots to determine who will receive the total pooled money. There are other ways on how “paluwagan” system works. It’s up to the participants on how they should plan on what kind of rotation they will implement.
     Bottomline, in case you’d like to apply for a loan, you don’t have to beg a Wells Fargo or Bank of America and offer your soul as collateral—you can easily borrow the fund in the “paluwagan.” This, however, entails a lot of trust—hence, a fluid and solid community relations is imperative. You don’t just sign up a participant via a Tweet or Facebook email or an application from Klingon Planet… You need to first hang out and forge friendships, face to face, with people to be able to make this work.

[2] BARTER or trade. Ever wonder if there’s no money or what they call “legal tender” passing through hands after hands? When people just offer: “Hey, want me to repaint your awning in exchange for a sack of potato?” or “I will give you a ride to and from Westville Pub but can you look after my pet pterodactyl and boa constrictor tomorrow?” Or even simple transactions like, “I’ll give you foot massage, will you rub my back?” But, uhh… I think that’ll only work with a girlfriend or wife, right? But you get the drift… At least, you don’t have to go to a Citigroup bank and trade: “Mr Bank Manager, could you loan me some money to buy a new car so I can go to work—in exchange for my soul and my babedawg’s paw and my koolcat’s hair?”

[3] Explore the feasibility of microfinance in your community. What immediately comes to mind is GRAMEEN BANK—a community development bank in Bangladesh that makes small loans (known as microcredit or "grameencredit") to the impoverished without requiring collateral. The word “Grameen” is derived from the word “gram” which means "rural" or "village" in the Bengali language.
     The system of this bank is based on the idea that the poor have skills that are under-utilized. A group-based credit approach is applied which utilizes the peer-pressure within the group to ensure the borrowers follow through and use caution in conducting their financial affairs with strict discipline, ensuring repayment eventually and allowing the borrowers to develop good credit standing. The bank also accepts deposits, provides other services, and runs several development-oriented businesses including fabric, telephone and energy companies.
     The Western world recognizes this banking system yet it doesn’t endorse it, for obvious reason. But Grameen Bank can be duplicated in the US, especially in small towns—where small, independent entrepreneurs could bond together to build a prototype.

[4] INVEST in your friends’ independent business. Help him and then he helps you—everybody happy, have a backyard barbecue! I mean, why entrust your money to so-called professionals or experts, ie Edward Jones or Charles Schwab—those names sound like New Wave singers high on Epoxy, anyways… Try someone that you actually know.

[5] COOPERATIVES. A cooperative is an autonomous association of persons united voluntarily to meet their common economic, social, and cultural needs and aspirations through jointly owned and democratically controlled enterprise. A cooperative may also be defined as a business owned and controlled equally by the people who use its services or by the people who work there. I turned to Wikipedia to defined cooperatives—but you get idea, right? But then, with so many reasons for people to sever ties or fight (“Hey, I didn’t know that you’ve been using aluminum foil?!” / “Damn, you just chugged in a corporate Bud, I thought you’re an organic PBR dude?!?”)—how could this work? It will… just try forming one. If it doesn’t, I don’t know anymore…

[6] SURRENDER your money to your wife or girlfriend. I mean, I am sure this is not going to fly in this culture—but maybe some may agree. Back home, men are primarily tasked to provide livelihood through steady employment or business ventures to the family; women or housewives mostly control financial decisions—from small household/open market purchases to the children’s educational exigencies. In case hubby couldn’t earn enough or barely enough money to cover bills—sorry, dude! “No prime ribs tonight, sorry honey—we need to pay Netflix first!” / “What about my weed, sweety?” / “Www-what???? With this money and you still got the nerve to ask for weed money???” BLAM! “Now, you are sleeping in the babedawg house!”
     In fact, there is an existing labor law that specifically applied to overseas workers (mostly husbands who work in the Middle East). Their salary directly goes to a national bank (ah!) that only honors withdrawals transacted by the legal or common-law wife, none other. The hubby couldn’t even withdraw a cent from his pay… So it’s common practice that whenever men desire to, say, hang out with the boys on a weekend—he first has to try to apply for a little loan from wifey… Dig?

[7] Use CASH as much as possible, if you can help it—don’t use credit. Simple. Self-explanatory. Don’t spend money that you haven’t earned yet—especially when you don’t even have a job. But how the hell you got the credit card, anyway? Beats me…