I recently spoke with the Director of the Pro Bono Committee for the Financial Planning Association of New York, and we shared some stories on volunteering. The Pro Bono committee is a fantastic group of people who go out into the community to help support the vulnerable by providing financial education to them. It has long been a belief of mine that restriction of financial knowledge is a form of domestic violence and control within a relationship, and many of the people are fearful to break free of abusive relationships because of this fear of the unknown.
I really like the work of the committee in this area, since they conduct outreach projects at shelters and refuge locations around the city and really help empower these women to take control of their family situation. It resonated with the work that both my wife and I have done with at risk teens and homeless families, in the past we have focused on other areas of their lifestyle. I worked with the teens on Career guidance where my experience in headhunting executives taught me a lot about the HR process and how to present well on paper and in person, and Allison’s experience in children’s education proved a great platform for bringing a little light into these kids lives.
The next step for me will be to be a part of bringing financial literacy to these at risk families, but in doing so I know that I have to face personal hurdles, such as my own predilection for efficiency and perfection. I think that this manifests itself in some of the articles I write on Saverocity, where the concepts are so convoluted in the pursuit of the perfect deal that they become more of a fictional read than a plan that is implementable. It is somewhat sad that many of the concepts here are frequently too esoteric to offer the value that I would like. As such I plan to introduce an easy to follow ‘beginners guide’ to the subjects of finance and travel, and I would welcome your feedback on things to include and if the things I write make sense or not to a person outside of this niche.
Ideally, it would be great, in my opinion, to be able to direct a person to a section of this site and say – read this if you are in debt – read this is if you want to travel hack but have never left the State, etc.
It leads me to think that this small victories concept, where bringing in what might not be the best advice overall, but is the best advice to get a person in motion, and improving, may be a better approach than the ‘perfect model’ and I wonder if perfection can be a detriment to achievable goals. What do you think, could it be better to take a persons understanding and literacy forward enough to reach the next goal, using simplicity and achievability at the expense of perfection?
I wonder too about this concept of perfection over simplicity also from a blogging perspective. There is a fair amount of pressure in the blogging world to include ‘perfection’ in links, in that if you put up something that is an affiliate link (paying the blog revenue) but there is a better link out there that you are somehow abusing your readership, but if you are going for simple, pure message bringing in reminders that links pay revenue, or that there are better links if you do XYZ appeases the blogging police, but confuses the reader.
I was looking recently at Frugal Travel Guy for this and I thought they have a good set up in terms of keeping it simple for both the reader to do something, and for the site to make money – and I wonder if such an approach is better for both the blog and the reader. I understand there are people out there that might think I am bonkers for thinking like this, but FTG actually impressed me on several levels recently, I used their step by step guide to learning, and I gamed their ‘credit card’ recommendation tool. I deliberately put in a low credit score around 550 and their advice was to not take any new cards out. That is solid advice and they get a +1 from me on that.
I guess the counter to this is that we could write posts that only have the best credit card links inside them, but that is too much hassle to maintain, since with 3-4 posts a day coming from this site keeping up with what links are still the best is not possible, and our desire to link to a generous 50,000 mile AA card could now be directing to a 30,000 version.
Another guy that is getting a lot of flack from the blogging police is MileValue, apparently he posts including inferior links which offer 30,000 rather than 35,000 points or something, since the inferior earns him cash. One view is that he is deliberately stealing 5000 from the pockets of his readers for the sake of his commission, but the small victories view is that he taught a person how to achieve something beyond their understanding -the reader got an experience of a lifetime, the blogger got compensated, is it therefore OK to let the 5K points deficit slide? I personally strive to ‘do no harm’ in such matters and do not present inferior links, but at the same time, I have no problem with MileValue doing this, I think he is helping people make small victories. Can he do the same thing using non-affiliate links? Probably not since it wouldn’t provide income and he couldn’t spend the time on the site that he does, the content can be created due to compensation, and the content can help take someone clueless and help them achieve a life goal in travel.
Once those readers go from being complete newbies to the Travel Hacking game and start to increase their confidence and savvy, they may no longer decide to take the inferior link, but in many ways the education that he has provided has brought them to the level where they can make such a choice – the price of the education is that they didn’t get quite as many free points as they could in perfection, my view is becoming, that is a fair price to pay.
Another one to consider is someone like Dia the Deal Mommy, she spends the time to bring you deals, sifting through the plethora of information out there to find some real diamonds, for doing so her model is to suggest that you use her links and forgo the shopping portal bonuses, so as a beginner, or as a lazy person, you are paying a slight premium on the price for the deal for the work that is provided for you. Once you become savvy, you could decide to look at her deals and then start using the portals, but by then your education has increased, and you have become a more discerning shopper, the price for the education, what you left on the table by clicking her links. A fair price in my opinion.
In fact, I believe that the hard work that people like this put in and the impact that they make means that many people might well continue to support them through the links even when they know there is a better way to do things in a truly perfect system. Small Victories, helping people elevate their knowledge, even at a short term price, for a long term benefit.
Is the price of a perfectly optimized deal too high, in that it loses its ability to change habits, educate and elevate, or can it be done?