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Solving Financial Literacy’s Goldilocks Problem

How I plan to help solve the "just-in-time" financial education people need. And the "just-right" financial products consumers want.

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Solving Financial Literacy’s Goldilocks ProblemAfter years on the road, I’ve discovered that many in the financial literacy space avoid discussing products and services. And it’s often the lack of access to financial products and services that compound the financial distress of consumers.

In my previous post, I wrote how just-in-time financial information can support financial capability. Today, I want to share how addressing financial literacy’s Goldilocks problem may be a solution to improve financial wellbeing.

Financial Literacy’s Goldilocks Problem

There is a financial literacy crisis in the United States but so far the responses have been to create more seminars and offer more counseling sessions. And in some circles, the solution is to create more budgeting apps or free credit score services.

In fact, there are just too many product options to choose from and it’s the lack of access to the right product that compound financial issues.

In the fairytale, Goldilocks was looking for the “just-right” stuff that fit her personal needs while at the bear’s home. So, how can we help consumers find the “just-right” product that meets their financial needs?

I call this Financial Literacy’s Goldilocks Problem.

We need a better way of finding the “just-right” financial product for any given situation.

Search Engine Results Skew Financial Products Used

After months on the road, it became clear that consumers wanted the best products and tools to help them improve their financial wellbeing. And they are relying on Google search to discover them.

What they find are tremendous amounts of information that overwhelms. So they search for products that start with the best this or the top that. And what they get are articles skewed to favor products that offer affiliate commissions. Or product comparisons sites that only compare products offered by those who provide affiliate payouts.

For example, if you’ve tried looking for the perfect credit card, you might find credit card comparison websites that all “recommend” the same credit cards.

Ever wonder why the majority of “best” products are similar across major financial media outlets?

Or why credit union products rarely show up on best banking lists?

Now, I don’t have an issue with companies that make money with affiliates. In fact, phroogal generates revenue from affiliates too. The income helps us continue our financial wellness mission.

As online media companies, we get really good at mastering SEO. We spend a great deal of time and resources to rank well on search results. It pays off with more traffic, more conversions, and more income.

But, then I got to thinking.

How can I improve financial accessibility?

There are, in fact, many great products, helpful resources, and tools that already exist but unable to surface on top of search results. This is mostly due to a company’s inability to master search engine optimization.

I see an opportunity to provide even greater access to the wide array of financial products that are available.

Products that are “just-right” not “just-discovered”.

So how can I help people find the “just-right” financial product?

A Big Part of the Phroogal Mission

After speaking with thousands of people across the country, I’ve learned how my efforts, although worthy, would be ineffective if I didn’t provide the resources people needed to live financially well.

I purely wanted to focus on sharing knowledge of budgeting, credit use, debt payoff strategies, and creating wealth. My knowledge is definitely well received but the questions always came back to what product, resource or tool are helpful.

I speak with impartiality to products when providing financial education. But I realized it was a big disservice by not providing the actual answers they seek and need.

If I don’t share the tools, then chances are they’ll go on Google to search for product solutions. And then they are left to choose among “just-discovered” products instead.

What’s going to happen next?

Last year, I did some soul searching and realized I needed to make a drastic shift in my financial wellness strategy. I couldn’t simply just offer content. To help others live financially well, I needed to provide a better way to access products.

Access to financial products and knowing how they worked is how I learned to master money. By creating a more open marketplace to discover, filter, and shop for the “just-right” financial product may be the much-needed disruption in the financial services industry and support the effectiveness of financial literacy efforts.

This is not an easy feat. But I will try.

I’ve started by creating the financial marketplace. By giving access to a marketplace, I may be able to offer consumers more control over the products they see and when they are in need of it the most.

The goal is to have consumers easily shop for the best products with the best providers. A marketplace where you can truly compare products and companies compete for your business. Think of an Amazon or Kayak for financial products. Consumers will have the ability to shop, filter, and research products as if they were shopping for a pair of jeans.

Ask yourself, why is it so much easier to shop for the right pair of jeans then it is to find the right checking account?

This is how I hope to solve the “just-in-time” financial education people need. And the “just-right” financial products consumers want.

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Jason Vitug

Jason is the founder of phroogal, creator of the award winning project Road to Financial Wellness, and author of the bestseller and New York Times reviewed book, You Only Live Once: The Roadmap to Financial Wellness and a Purposeful Life.

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