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Why Occupy Needs to Work With the One-and-a-Half Percenters

11/28/2011 10:27 am ET | Updated Jan 28, 2012
  • Don McNay Author of Brand New Man: My Weight Loss Journey

"You don't know me but you don't like me"

-Dwight Yoakam and Buck Owens

Occupy Wall Street and I share a unique kinship.

On the same week that Occupy Wall Street became a worldwide social movement, I released a bestselling book, Wealth without Wall Street: A Main Street Guide to Making Money. I didn't know about them and they didn't know about me but we have common goals and points of contention.

We are both opposed to how Washington bailed out Wall Street in 2008. We both want to reduce the power of Wall Street in Washington and over our daily lives.

My book, Wealth Without Wall Street, advocates the Arianna Huffington concept of Moving Your Money from Wall Street banks to Main Street banks. Occupy Wall Street put rocket fuel behind the Move Your Money movement. I'm hearing from throngs of people who did it.

Every time someone from OPW gets pepper-sprayed, has a tea gas canister shot in their head, or gets rousted by police directed by New York 's Mayor Michael Bloomberg ( a billionaire dilettante), thousands of others quietly move their money in protest.

That "silent majority" inspired by the demonstrators will be people who help make the impact everlasting.

Wealth Without Wall Street said that economic protests, like those organized by Gandhi and Martin Luther King, are far more effective than protesting.

If Americans set up their lives so that we depend less on Wall Street and Washington, both entities will notice. We will be hitting them in the place where it hurts the most: their wallet.

There are several ways to hit Wall Street in the wallet. Moving your money and your investments away from Wall Street is the movement that is picking up steam but cutting up your credit cards, where Wall Street makes of its profits, is another one. My idea of looking to start your own business is going slow but the idea of supporting small business has gotten far more attention since Occupy Wall Street started.

A lot of attention has been given to the 99 percenters. That label has been a dilemma for me. I've qualified for a financial services honor called the Million Dollar Round Table for twenty-five consecutive years. That means that I'm in the top one percent some years and in the top two percent in other years.

In other words, you can call me a one and a half percenter. Although my heart and beliefs are with the people getting pepper-sprayed in the parks, my income is closer to the people who are ordering the police to roust them.

As a person sitting on Main Street, I can see how the protesters are having an impact. Bank of America backed off its plan to charge five dollars a month for using debit cards after a protest fueled by OPW knocked it down. I see reference after reference to how OPW is changing the debate in Washington.

I need OPW to keep doing what they are doing and know it. OPW may or may not know that they need the "one and a half" percenters when they translate their protests into long-term success.

I've studied social movements academically and see we are at a turning point. Violent crackdowns, like those are taking place in major cities, can either result in dissipating a movement or angering a nation to take its side.

People are angry at Wall Street and that is not going away, no matter how many times Bloomberg and like-minded cronies bash on the people who are peacefully protesting.

The anger needed to be channeled into economic action. Where the protests should go next is not against the big banks, it should go against the large institutions placing billions in those banks. When alumni and significant givers protest their alma maters placing money in Wall Street banks, which will make a huge impact. The same will hold true if business pension funds are managed by people not affiliated with pension funds. If voters start throwing out politicians who place taxpayer dollars in Wall Street banks, real change and real reform will be possible.

I'm like a lot of "One and a half" percenters. Neither of my parents finished high school and I worked to get a number of advanced degrees. I think Wall Street is putting out average Americans, like the people I grew up with. The financial and political systems are extremely unfair and Wall Street has gotten out of control. I'm glad someone is protesting as it has taken from 2008 to get from anger to marching in the streets.

On the hand, Americans are a nations of strivers and achievers. Someone, somewhere, we all want to have access to the American dream and have that legacy for our children. Financial success may be improbable but it should never be labeled as impossible. To propose limits and impeding a rise to the top will never be bought into by those who seek upward mobility.

Those sleeping in parks and those who make reasonable high incomes look different, dress different and live in different neighborhoods. The line from the song, "you don't know me but you don't like me" holds true and needs to be overcome. Once all sides realize they have common goals and can help each other, those goals will be achieved.

Don McNay, CLU, ChFC, MSFS, CSSC is the bestselling author of the book Wealth Without Wall Street: McNay, who lives in Richmond Kentucky, an award-winning financial columnist and Huffington Post Contributor. You can learn more about him at www.donmcnay.com
He is the Chairman of the Board for the McNay Settlement Group (www.mcnay.com) which provides structured settlement consulting for injury victims, lottery winners, and the families of special needs children.
McNay founded Kentucky Guardianship Administrators LLC, which assists attorneys in as conservators and setting up guardianship's. It is nationally recognized as an administrator of Qualified Settlement (468b) funds.
McNay is a Life and Quarter Century Club member of the Million Dollar Round Table


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