Khan Academy: a sign of changing times?

I’m not looking for a conspiracy theory or anything, but some things just make you scratch your head.  I’m sitting here, having a quiet, loan-paying, no-money-spending weekend, and something odd appears on my screen when I go to check my bank balance:

Bank picture

Why, I wonder, would Bank of America be offering to show me how to cut costs?  And what do they have to teach me?  And what is the Khan Academy?

If you are also a customer of this bank, this promotion should be readily available to you on the splash screen before logging in.  Check it out.  It leads you to a video whose advice points are half yawn, half laughable, and even another half eyebrow-raising.  Buy store brand, use coupons, skip the lattes, blah blah.  I checked the timestamp and saw that only one minute of this 5-minute video had gone by.

Then it plunges awkwardly into Get Rid of Cable (which just seems like a very odd thing for a major bank to suggest..).  But then it says if you cannot part with cable, you should “save money” by bundling it with internet and phone.  To which I say a) who doesn’t bundle already?  Does anyone actually ask for separate phone and internet accounts?  and b) of course it is a scam and does not save money.  We all bundle but not because it is cheaper.  It is just easier via force-feeding.  But non-bundled is not cheaper either.  With cable, the House always wins.

I actually stopped the video at the point to go find out immediately who/what the Khan Academy is, and what BoA is doing teamming up with Khan.  It seems to be a genuine non-profit about financial education.  I have heard of these before, but only recently.  I guess this is a good thing.  I have wondered how many people Suze Orman would have to shout at on TV until society starts realizing that debt is bad.  Having no money is not good.  But I still wonder why my bank is telling me this, and at the expense of other major companies which will probably get upset.

Some residual skepticism in my wiry and sour mind makes me assume that BoA wants me to keep more of my money in my account, preferably my savings account, so that BoA can play with it.  Or is it really a public service announcement?  Are things really so terrible that America has bank execs going “It’s madness out there!  We have got to shake some sense into people or else they might start going to check-cashing places rather than doing proper banking! We’re heading for a social neurosis like China’s Opium Wars except the opiate now is social network updating…”?

You don’t expect a bank to tell you to save money, but why not?  They stand to gain from more money being on the books.  I would sooner expect a bank to encourage me to spend all my money, so that I will apply for credit cards: the other way banks make money.  Maybe the credit card market is saturated, and people are themselves finally going “this is insane, even for me.”  That would be a satisfying community self-correction actually, causing banks to fearfully stop trying to sell us things.  Or maybe the banks are having a cash flow problem from getting us all hooked on Debt.  Either of these possibilities I find amusing in my total ignorance.

What do you make of this advice from BoA?  Anyone else notice this ad?

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4 thoughts on “Khan Academy: a sign of changing times?

    • Yeah that’s what I was wondering/thinking. I believe in the power of self-correcting ecosystems, even if humans seem glacially slow at this. I have been seeing more and more CNN headlines about how “loan debt has exceeded credit debt” etc. and I wonder if people are finally feeling… decadent?

  1. In addition to the reasons you mentioned, I believe many banks offer financial planning advice as one of the free services they provide. It helps keep their customers happy, and leads them to stay with the bank and to encourage their friends to join the bank as well. So I’d say it’s mostly just a low-cost effort to keep the customers happy.

    • Dave! I think you are right. I forget that sometimes companies offer a bit of value-added freebies. My 401K plan has been promoting this investment advice tool that I was sure was going to be a for-pay application, but it turned out to be free and pretty detailed. I guess I don’t always need to be so wary – the 401K for example is already a benefit, so I am not sure why I assumed I would need to pay extra for a related service. Thanks for reading and leaving the note!

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