Occupying Pennies

Ah, corporate greed. Its all around us. It always has been of course. Napoleon, Henry the VIII, Czar Nicholas, Caesar – all early 1 percert-ers. Still, none of them fared as well as today’s 1%.  Our system is broken, really broken, and I don’t know if there’s a way to fix it. I am quite happy with the Occupy movement, though. As noted below, I even logged a bit of time in Zuccotti Park myself.

I can’t spend as much time as I’d like fighting unjustice. I’d spend all day with a picket sign in my hand if there wasn’t a mortgage to contend with and a feline mouth to feed (not to mention my own), so as I toil away in my 9 to 5 life, I cheer for those boldly trying to smash the patriarchy.

But over the past several years, I’ve been launching my own private battle with Merrill Lynch, specifically with Merrill Edge.

My mom died in 2007, five years ago. At that time, my sister and I settled her estate (such as it was) and closed her accounts. A few months later an account update arrived from Merrill Edge indicating that there was 96 cents in a retirement account. I called to find out what we could do about it and they told me they couldn’t send me a check for the $0.96, which is fine with me, but they were happy to close the account for me. What, asked I, would happen to the money – yes, I’m aware that the amount is negligible, but its the principle. The associate I was speaking with couldn’t give an answer, so, rather than allowing my mother’s money fatten the Merrill coffers, I opted to keep the account open.

It is five years later and Merrill spends about a dollar a quarter, so four dollars annually, to send me an account update. Still 96 cents. Every quarter I call, every quarter they tell me that they can close the account, but will not specify what will happen to the money.

I called again yesterday. Apparently, I’m not the only one who is unhappy with the nebulous destination of my pocket change and now folks are able to earmark money from closed accounts to charity. What charity, ask I. Ah – another question for which it is remarkably hard to get an answer. I told the very well-meaning associate from the legal department with whom I spoke, that I would be fine with practically any 501 c 3 in America, I just wanted to know which one it was. He said he couldn’t answer that in my specific case, but he himself was doing a walk-a-thon for the United Way. While I applaud him, and would even have donated the $0.96 to his efforts, were I able, it still didn’t answer my question.

And so I keep my account open for another quarter and ask Merrill to spend another dollar to let me know I still haven’t incurred enough interest to hit 97 cents.

I know its not much, but it is my small tribute to the 99%.

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