The Digital Skeptic: What Do Banks Do With a Generation That Doesn't Bank?

RYE, N.Y. ( TheStreet) -- Evan Paul is not surprised by the confusion over bank stocks such as Bancorp (USB) , Citigroup (C) and Bank of America (BAC) .

Because it's not just that he has no need for banks. He has little need for the money inside banks.

"I live on what many would consider below the poverty level," the spry, late-20-something told me as I shopped at the craft bread stand where he works Sundays. "But my standard of living is first-rate."

The way Paul sees it, he doesn't need the kind of high-powered banking or media job others at this weekly, tony greenmarket hold down. He eats top-quality, fresh, organic vegetables and meats that he barters working at places such as this. He trades casual labor for rent in a perfectly nice house. He landscapes to get outside and get his exercise. And he works part time in a community center -- "because I like helping people," he says.

I assure you Paul is not down and out. He's fit and vigorous. He uses his cellphone like a pro to trade for clothes and other hard goods and meet up with his friends.

About the only thing he says he can't barter for is gasoline. But that, too, should change.

"As soon as I get a diesel vehicle, I will be able use vegetable oil," he says. "I'll never have to go to a gas station again."

What should scare bank investors is that Paul is clearly no outlier. He says he knows plenty of people just like him who live very well without very much money. In fact, he is just part of a flock of young, digitally fluent consumers who barter rather than buy.

"You have to get right with the idea that you are living in a world of abundance," he says. "Once you realize that, it's super easy to arrange your life to get exactly what you want without the hassle of dealing with so much cash."

In others word, Evan Paul and the people like him are not underbanked. They can't be bothered to bank.

Can't be bothered with a bank
When I asked other young people, particularly fellow nerds, about this notion of a nouveau cashless economy, they absolutely agreed with Paul. Take Alon Gilboa. He's in his early 20s at the University of Missouri studying computer science and journalism. He is no slouch, and in his view digital tools such as cellphones and tablet computers make it so easy for the young to get their needs met that money and the banks that manage it play less of a role. 


"For kids today, everything is so digital that you just get stuff," he says. "And when you're on the iPad, everything is just sort of there."