What was once a front page story has now become an afterthought in the minds of Americans. Occupy Wall Street, the movement that spread all over the world, has faded from the spotlight since the initial group was evicted from its Zucotti Park home. Vowing to regroup, the Occupy movement may not be dead, but it is struggling to survive.
Looking back, did Occupy Wall Street have an effect on the investment markets? They may not have found their way in to the New York Stock Exchange (NYSE) but big companies and their investors definitely took notice.
Move Your Money
The "move your money" project was Occupy Wall Street's attempt to urge consumers to move their money from the large commercial banks like Citi, Bank of America and JP Morgan Chase, to local community banks and member-owned credit unions. In an attempt to make up for money lost from new banking regulations, large banks were planning to charge customers a monthly debt card fee, which, according to consumer advocates, would penalize people for not using credit cards irresponsibly.
It was originally estimated that as a result of these efforts, more than 650,000 people moved their money from large banks to credit unions. Later, that number was revised down, but because of this outrage over the fee, the large banks abandoned it. Some credit the Occupy movement for empowering people to speak with their wallet. Not only have consumers taken a better look at their banks, but also their insurance companies, financial advisors and investments. (For more information, read Tired Of Banks? Try A Credit Union.)
The Old Fashion Way
The Occupy movement reminded all of us that the best way to make money is to not lose it. As a result of Occupy's emphasis on avoiding fee laden big banks, investment advisors used this as a way to remind their clients that trying to beat the stock market in funds that charge large fees will likely make less money over time than investing in funds with low fees, like index funds that attempt to track or mirror the market. Whether the founders of the Occupy movement know it or not, they may have helped consumers return to the basics of investing.
Wall Street and Washington are closely tied together. Washington sentiment can have a profound effect on the global investment markets and there's no doubt that Washington has taken notice of the Occupy movement. Not only has President Obama taken a more populist tone, but the battle for the Republican nomination has used buzzwords like inequality more frequently, along with attacks on private equity and big business.
What happens on the campaign trail may not affect the investment markets any time soon, as investors aren't comfortable with attacks on big banks and investment firms. However, the Occupy movement has successfully put a spotlight on the nation's wealthy.
The Bottom Line
Some believe that because the Occupy movement has not returned to prominence since the nationwide eviction of the encampments, the movement might be dead, but others say that the movement is reorganizing and will return to what it once was. Whatever the future holds, the Occupy movement made a lasting impression on the nation in 2011. (To learn more, check out How To Occupy Wall Street With A Main-Street Agenda.)