Friday, January 20, 2012

Buck$ta$h.¢r™ Baby Step Workshop Description

Here is my description of the project I began developing in Dec. 2011.
Project Name: Buckstasher™ Baby Step Workshops
Description: Buckstashers are single-sheet cash saving reminders that people carry with them in their wallets. Each Buckstasher is a folded 6.125 x 5.25 inches sheet of paper printed with information about the costs of borrowing on one half of the fold and suggestions for saving money on the other half. They provide a portable, concrete means of separating paper currency a person wants to set aside for savings. People learn what this system is, what is printed on Buckstashers and how to use them to increase their savings in "Baby Step workshops" that last less than five (5) minutes.
Project Lead: John Perkins, PH.D. Perkins relied on his 35 years of experience as a trainer and facilitator to develop Buckstasher Baby Step workshops. He also has a background in economics, market research, advertising, consumer engagement, and policy advocacy. Researchers seem puzzled on how to help people translate what they learn in a peer group, class, counseling or coaching session into permanent behavior change—something I have long experience with. Many materials and presentations could benefit from a healthy infusion of excitement and variety, which I also know something about.
Background: Poor people have suffered the effects of their limited financial literacy forever; it is only within the past 15 years that it has drawn significant attention from foundations, legislatures, and regulators. Recent reports document the egregious effects of the predatory lending industry.[1],[2] About 10,000 un-banked or under-banked adults live in King County. This highlights the success of the Seattle-King County Assets Building Coalition that has helped 47,000 people open accounts in recent years.[3] Having an account is a big step, the next step for many low-income people is putting money in their accounts:  
Generally, focus group participants were interested in financial education that would help them change their savings behavior, that is, that would help them learn ways to save given their income constraints …[4]
Buckstashers contributes to the development and practice of a single yet foundational skill (remembering to save at the point-of-sale) that people can use to gain control of their saving and inoculate themselves to the temptations posed by predatory loans and the enticements of retail marketing. Buckstashers uses emotional appeals similar to the ones that make predatory loans and overspending so seductive for some people. A few of these appeals are presented as "If … Then …" statement pairs:
If … the typical new payday loan account can be opened in less than 30 minutes and customers walks away with cash,           
Then ... workshop participants' experience has to be fast and concrete.
If … predatory lenders cares less about customers' ability to pay,
Then ... we help the customer care more for themselves.
If … the customer responds to immediate gratification,
Then ... we help customers pause to decide before they act.
If … the customers struggles to save money,
Then ... we will provide a tool to assist with that process.
Audience: This project will benefit adults focusing on improving their financial health and literacy or who want to avoid or untangle themselves from debt traps. In Seattle, there are many projects whose clients might be interested in this tool, such as, FareStart students and alums, new credit union members, Real Change vendors, transitional housing tenants, participants in financial literacy classes, etc. My goal is to present Buckstasher to 1000 people or conduct 100 presentations in one year, whichever is reached first.
The "Baby Step Workshop" format: This Baby Step workshop takes 4.5 minutes. To help hold attention and give everyone an immediate success, participants will be paid $1.25 for their 4.5 minutes, as shown in the script. The complete presentation could last 30 minutes to an hour as people linger informally after the Baby Step workshop to discuss the tool and ask questions. Here is the script for the workshop.
__________________________Begin Script _________________________
Opening: Hi, My name is John Perkins and I'm here to present a Baby Step workshop. Good news! I'm going to pay you what a livable wage for a single parent with one child would pay in 4.5 minutes. That's $1.25. And at the end I have an offer for tonight only.
By a show of hands, how many of you know someone who has ever used a payday loan, tax refund anticipation loan, or deliberately overdrew their checking account with no money in the bank?
 [Count hands] That's most of us. There are four legal ways you can get money: from your savings, by working, by selling something you own, and by borrowing it. When we borrow money, or get a loan—the same thing—we are buying money, so there's a cost. Some call it interest, some a fee, other companies call it a charge.
[hold up red side facing group] 

This red side of a Buckstasher shows some of the costs for borrowing $100 for one month. The best, of course, is not spending it. [Point to bottom row] You keep your $100. From savings, if you replace it in a month add a penny for missed interest. The worst is overdraft protection [point to top row]—that will cost you $30 plus the $100 you still owe.
After you've mastered baby step savings, initial one of these boxes on the lower left side when you pass this on to someone else.
When the red side facing up, this is money flowing out because it costs you to get that money [pull a few play bills out of opening]
But, turned the other way, [show green side] …

It reminds you to save! This has over a dozen tips or ideas for how to build your saving muscle. I'll leave you with 2 baby steps ...
You're out, you want something to eat. Don't get a soda, drink tap water instead. Then put $1 of what you saved by not buying the soda in here, and turn it greenside up. [demo this] That's yours. You just saved it.
Another example, and it's also our offer. We have the money to give you your $1.25. You've earned it. And tonight, a Buckstasher™, which costs 70¢, can be yours for a quarter. You can start your savings tonight with your dollar, put in it your Buckstasher™ … turn it green side up and put it in your wallet [demo these actions as you talk] and you are on your way!
Pay everyone. Continue ...  You're welcome to stick around and talk, but this on your own time …
__________________________End Script _________________________
January 2012 Project Status: Since conceiving of small, baby step sized workshops aimed at increasing financial literacy I have refined Buckstashers and reached out to my network of contacts. I have continued my research into the current state of adult financial literacy in the US.
Next Steps: The immediate next step is to conduct one or two focus groups and use the feedback to modify the presentation and tool.
I am looking for sponsorship to pay the salary, overhead and expenses involved in reaching 1000 people or conducting 100 presentations in the first year.
Please contact me to discuss ways you might support this project.

John Perkins, Ph.D.
Keep the Change Consulting (not affiliated with Bank of America)
206 524.4496

[1] Gary Rivlin, 2010, Broke, USA: From Pawnshops to Poverty Inc.—How the Working Poor Became Big Business, New York: HarperCollins.
[2] Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation, 2009, "FDIC National Survey of Unbanked and Underbanked Households," available on 1/16/12 at householdsurvey/
[3] Kelly Gilblom, 2011, "Program Helps 'Unbanked' in King County Live Happily with Accounts," Puget Sound Business Journal, April 8, 2011, available 1/16/12 at
[4] Jennifer Turnham, 2010, Attitudes to Savings and Financial Education Among Low-Income Populations: Findings from the Financial Literacy Focus Groups," Center for Financial Security University of Wisconsin-Madison, available 1/16/12 at…/attitudes-savings-financial-education.pdf, p. 76.