Survival Guide for Holiday Hospitality

Regular readers will recognize this post from last year around this time. I’m bringing it back for new readers…and for those who wish they had bookmarked it last year!

First, a quick primer…

There are so many people with dietary restrictions these days, it can be mind-boggling to figure out who eats what.

  • Vegans eat plants only. Nothing produced by animals (cheese, milk, cream, butter, eggs, honey) and of course no meat, fish, or poultry.
  • Vegetarians eat plants plus food produced by animals (dairy products and eggs). No meat or poultry. Some eat fish, though most don’t.
  • Gluten-free means eliminating wheat, rye, barley, and oats (unless the oats it is labeled gluten-free). This also translates into beverages made from these grains—think  beer and rye whisky, for example. Someone who is celiac has a severe gut reaction to gluten and can be in agony from eating even a very small amount. Some people experience non-celiac gluten sensitivity, though this diagnosis is not yet accepted by mainstream doctors. People affected by gluten eat non-gluten grains—e.g. rice and quinoa.
  • Grain-free means no grain of any kind—wheat, oats, barley, rye, rice, quinoa and corn being the main examples. The issue isn’t gluten, it’s carbohydrates and their effect on blood sugar. This is sometimes referred to as a low-carb diet. In practical terms, it means avoiding corn chips, crackers and breads, along with sweets, juices, and most alcoholic beverages (alcohol acts like sugar in the body).
  • Paleo is a broad category describing what is sometimes called ancestral eating. The idea is to mimic the dietary proportions and unprocessed nature of food that was eaten by our long-ago ancestors. There is considerable variation, but these are a few of the common practices: No grains or refined sugar. Moderate amounts of animal protein. Plenty of healthy fats. Emphasis on real food rather than processed. Lots of vegetables.
  • Allergies and sensitivities mean the person’s body over-reacts when a particular food or food category is eaten. Common allergies are dairy, nuts, peanuts, wheat  and shellfish. Mild allergic reactions are uncomfortable to varying degrees. But allergies can be life-threatening if a person goes into anaphylactic shock. A lot of children have this sort of reaction to peanuts these days, which is why peanut products are not allowed in schools any more.

Coping when you’re the host…

Think: Does this need to be a sit-down meal?  It’s much easier to accommodate variations if you have an open house with a buffet of snacky foods and beverages. Some suggestions and good recipes follow. But buffets don’t always work and you might find yourself organizing a sit-down dinner despite the complications.

Guests have a responsibility to give the host a heads-up. “Thanks so much; I’d love to be there. A lot has changed since we last saw each other and it’ll be good to catch up. I’ve become a vegan recently so I only eat plants. I’m perfectly happy eating just the veggies, so don’t feel you need to make anything special for me.” The guest can have a protein shake at home before leaving, and all dietary bases will be covered. Another option is to ask, “Can I contribute my favourite casserole or salad to the menu?”

The host can ask. Sometimes guests don’t mention their food preferences because they mistakenly think they’ll sound rude. As the host, ask directly when issuing the invitation. “Anyone have allergies or preferences I should know about?” This opens the door for the guest to say something, and avoids any awkward surprises at the event.

The Host’s Survival Guide…

The rest of this post is a guide to drama-free ways to accommodate health-conscious guests. Some key principles:

  1. Serve good food that you can present to anyone without explanation or apology. Gone are the 1960s when the granola crowd served some concoctions that were just plain weird. I admit to making some of them myself! But today there’s an abundance of very good recipes for real food, and I’ve included links to several of my favourites.
  2. Put out foods in their whole form as much as possible. This makes it easy for people with sensitivities to choose what works for them without having to find you and ask what’s in everything. In this spirit, you might decide to put cheese on a board rather than incorporating it into several dishes.
  3. Alert guests to ingredients they might not expect to find.  For example, almond flour is not a usual ingredient in crackers. So someone with a nut allergy could inadvertently eat them and have a reaction. From another perspective, a wheat-sensitive person might pass by the Rosemary Crackers (below) without realizing they are grain-free and perfectly suitable. A simple strategy is to make small tent cards. Those in the photos were easily made by folding business cards in half.

Go here for specifics—scroll down the page for more ideas and recipes.

Preparing for the 2018 Holidays

None of us wants to feel like this woman, but many would admit that we do, at least to some degree. That’s what makes an effective parody—we recognize elements of truth in an exaggerated scenario.

I don’t think I’m the only one who’s ended up in a situation thinking:  Right. Now I remember why I decided never to do this again!  Of course, by then I’m in the midst of it… and the cycle perpetuates.

The holidays intensify things that aren’t working in our lives, and it’s distressing at the time. But it also provides teachable moments if we are paying attention.

Breaking the cycle…

It’s so easy to be propelled along by expectations and circumstances—especially at holiday time. By now, one week into December, the momentum has likely reached a point where things will play out as usual. Enjoy every moment of this month, if you can. If not…

  • Pay attention this time round. Note the sticky spots. Write them down.
  • Revisit your notes in January. Read through all your notes at once. This is a good way to see the big picture. Sometimes you’ll make surprising connections that weren’t obvious in the midst of the situation. Ask yourself these questions:

—What didn’t work for me?

—What would I have preferred?

—What would it take for me to have a different experience next time?

—Am I willing to do that?

  • Regroup, and revise your practices.This is where you interrupt the cycle by making a plan of action based on what you learned.

Start with your mindset…

Willingness is often overlooked, yet a lack of it is the one thing that sabotages the rest of the process. We can usually figure out a plan for making things better, but it will not work if our unconscious mind is not on board. And if we are unaware of the unconscious elements at play, our plans for improvement don’t work.. We can’t explain why…and that is so frustrating! More about that another time.

Since we have been looking at credit cards the past couple weeks, let’s use overspending as an example of holiday angst.

Living in a consumer culture puts us under enormous pressure to spend mindlessly. And our ready access to credit cards is the marketers’ dream, fuelling the attitude they want us to have: What the heck, spend beyond your current capacity because you can.

How we think sets the stage for how we act. Our thoughts shape what we do. So, if you think there has to be a better way, you will find one. What if you decide to be a conscious consumer instead of a mindless one? As a conscious spender, you would…

  • think for yourself to make the life you want.
  • decide freely, without being influenced by unconscious emotional factors.
  • trust your common sense and gut feelings as part of your decision-making process.

A common-sense perspective…

The issue of holiday indebtedness can be examined from a common-sense perspective. Consider these questions:

  • Does it make sense to go into debt over gifts?
  • If the recipients knew, how would they feel?
  • Would it detract from their pleasure in the gift?

A clever system for getting ahead of the game…

Make a practical plan to avoid paying interest on gifts. Save for gifts instead of buying them on borrowed money. This moves you from mindless consumption to conscious spending.

  1.  Decide how much you’ll spend in total for holiday gifts and entertainment in 2018. Then divide that amount by 10. For example, if your total is $2500 and you divide it by 10, you’ll get $250. This is your monthly amount to set aside from February to November.
  2. Open a separate bank account for holiday spending. Starting in February, have the bank automatically transfer $250 each month from your pay into this account.
  3. Use this money only for holiday gifts. If you find yourself tempted to take some out for emergencies, set up a different account to accumulate emergency funds.

Building a holiday account saves you money in two ways…

  • You are able to pay cash for gifts. This means everything you buy only costs you the purchase price, not the price plus 20% interest.
  • You’ll have money available to take advantage of good deals throughout the year. Suppose in May you see a half-price sale on the perfect gift for your brother. With cash from your holiday account, you can buy his gift on sale now rather than paying full price in December.

The real holiday fun

When you save ahead for gifts and don’t pay interest to the banks, you have the pleasure of knowing you’ve been in the driver’s seat—a conscious spender rather than a mindless consumer—and have beaten them at their own game. Well done you!

Why I don’t care about the interest rate on my credit card.

For me, credit card interest rate is a non-issue. I use my card as a convenience and for the cash-back feature. I never use it as a means of living on borrowed money.

The paradox of credit cards…

Credit Card Paradox

Why you can’t win when you pay interest on a credit card…

As long as there’s a balance on your credit card, you are in debt. The lender requires you to pay interest for the use of that money. Credit card companies are happiest when you pay the bare minimum, because that extends the time you are making payments. The longer the time you are paying, the more interest they get from you. The table below illustrates the effect of time using two different credit card balances. In each case, we see that the higher the monthly payment, the shorter the time to repay the loan.

Card Balance$ Paid MonthlyTime to Pay It Off in FullInterestPrincipalTotal $ Paid
$421.14$15.003 yr 2 mo$151.37$421.14$572.51
$30.001 yr 5 mo$62.59$421.14$483.73
$100.005 mo$19.33$421.14$440.47
$1170.60$25.007 yr 8 mo$1,120.72$1170.60$2291.32
$50.002yr 6 mo$325.41$1170.60$1496.01
$100.001 yr 2 mo$142.46$1170.60$1313.06

Seriously? That much?!

To understand why we pay so much interest, we need to think about the compounding of money. Somewhere back in a math class, we all learned about the magic of compounding interest—taught in the context of saving and investing. The “magic” is that the amount of our investment increases exponentially over time because our interest is added onto the principal, meaning that year after year we are paid interest on our interest. The longer this process keeps repeating, the more “magic” we experience. Financial Mentor has lots more about compounding, including a calculator.

We like it when we’re on the receiving end of interest payments. But few of us make the connection that the same compounding principle applies when we have borrowed money instead of invested it.

When you have an outstanding balance on a credit card, compounding is working in reverse. You are paying compounding interest rather than receiving it. The lender is the one being paid interest and benefiting from exponential growth. That’s why small monthly payments and long loan repayment times are an advantage for credit card companies. For us, the borrowers, not so much.

Debt load

The way to avoid the debt burden is to pay the balance in full each month by the due date, no exceptions. If you’re in a spot where you’ve gotten into debt beyond what you can pay off every month, there are good strategies to help you get out from under the debt load.

What to do if you’ve been carrying a credit card balance…

  1. Stop using the card. Additional purchases only increase your debt load and the time it will take to pay it off.
  2. Tighten your belt. Commit to living on less than your income. Make a list of places where you can cut back spending.
  3. Look at your income and expenses. Figure out how much you can find to add to the payment on your card each month.
  4. Use a debt repayment calculator to see when you will pay off the balance with that amount (from step 3) added to your monthly payment.
  5. Repeat steps 3 and 4 until you have found every possible extra bit of money to put on the card each month, even if it means taking lunch to work, not buying fancy coffee, etc.
  6. If you receive any extra money such as birthday cash, proceeds from selling used items, or a GST refund from the government, immediately use those amounts to pay down the card. These extras will significantly shorten your repayment time

How we got into this mess…

I’ve lived long enough to remember the days when banks asked a woman to bring in her husband to cosign for her credit card. True story. It happened to me.

That was the early 1970s, when Visa cards first came along, called Chargex back then. In those days, banks were cautious about issuing credit cards unless they were confident the person had the financial means to cover it. Things changed when the lenders discovered what a money machine credit cards are.

When I started teaching consumer economics, college students could not get a credit card until they were at least in their second year, and then there were some pretty strict conditions. Somewhere along the way, credit cards began being pushed at first-year students. At my college, it became common to see a bank kiosk in the main hall promoting sign-up for credit cards, and one day there were credit card applications on all the desks in my classroom. As I pointed out to my students that day, it was very clever of credit card companies because, as all pushers know, the younger you get them hooked, the better.

Shortly after that, cards began having additional perks to induce us to use them more. Insurance on items you buy with the card. Insurance on you when you use the card while traveling. Points for all of your purchases so you can get more things or trips. And then they started offering a small percentage of cash-back on some purchases.

In terms of credit mindset and behaviour, credit cards went from something that was used with careful thought to a means of paying for everything we buy. The problem is that credit card use has got out of hand for many, and the resulting debt becomes a downward spiral that keeps people evermore indebted unless they figure out how to extricate themselves.

There’s an important distinction that has been lost—and it’s at the root of over-indebtedness. This is the distinction between using a credit card as a method of payment and using it as a means of borrowing money. The difference shows up in how you manage your payments.

If you pay the balance in full every month, you are using the card simply as a method of payment instead of cash or a debit card at the time of purchase.

If you pay less than the full balance, you are borrowing money because you don’t have enough in the bank to use cash or debit for your purchases. In that case you are using the card as a means of borrowing money.

That’s the basis of the paradox of credit cards. A credit card is completely free when you choose one with no yearly fee and use it as a method of payment. It’s very expensive if you use it as a means of living on borrowed money and paying an interest rate of 20% for the use of that money.

Credit Card Paradox

Beat them at their own game…

Until the lenders change the rules of the game, here’s what you can do:

  1. Use your card as a means of payment if you want the convenience, points, or cash-back.
  2. Keep track of how much you’re spending on the card so you don’t exceed the amount of cash you have available to pay it off.
  3. Pay the balance in full by the due date each month.

Loan consolidation is another big trap…

If you have several cards and other loans that you pay off in small monthly amounts, do not consolidate them. It can sound tempting to lump all your debt together and make one smaller monthly payment. But this is usually a recipe for disaster.

People who consolidate typically end up paying even higher interest rates than they were on their individual loans. And that “smaller monthly payment”? Smaller payment = longer period of time required to pay it off. As we’ve seen, that means paying a lot more total interest before the loan is paid off.

A consolidation loan is only an advantage if the interest rate is lower than on the original loans, and if the monthly payment is at least as much as the combined total of all the monthly payments on the individual loans. Only consolidate your debt if you have expert guidance from a trustworthy person who is in no way profiting from your consolidation loan.

Resources…

Snowballing is a much better option than consolidation because it’s a plan to help you get ahead, not fall behind. Snowballing is a method of quickly paying off individual loans by adding extra money to your monthly payments in a planned way. You’ll find lots of snowball calculators if you do an Internet search.  Some are easier to use than others. Undebt.it received lots of good reviews. Here’s how the company describes it.

“Undebt.it is a free, no-strings-attached service that will use the debt snowball, avalanche or your own custom payment method to finally get you out of debt. My main motivation for making this site public (and free) is that I wanted to make the tools that work for me available to everyone. Interest paid on consumer debt is wasted money, plain and simple. The sooner you get out of debt, the sooner you can start enjoying life a little more. Have some fun and live debt free!”

Gail Vaz-Oxlade spent more than a decade handing out no-nonsense advice to Canadians about family finances and unmanageable debt. Though recently retired, she has left behind a website, several books including Debt-Free Forever, a blog, and lots of videos on YouTube.

All of these resources are worth exploring if you want some ideas about what’s possible. Then it’s up to you.

The Big Reveal – Credit Card Interest

The consumer culture has become a complicated and complex place to live. Dealing with money is no longer simple and straightforward, and it’s easy to make financial mistakes that haunt us for years. Despite the focus on finances during Financial Literacy Month in Canada, insights to help us navigate through the system are fragmented and inconsistent.

Credit Card

For many years I taught a college course in consumer issues and economics. Early on, I discovered that most students thought if they made the minimum monthly payment on their credit card, they weren’t in debt. They used their credit cards freely and paid the required minimum each month. They thought they were doing the smart and adult thing. Sadly, they weren’t.

After reading a recent report about the financial literacy of Canadians, I decided to pose a question about credit card repayment on social media. It included a link to a one-question survey where respondents could register their answer. Here’s the question…

Chris has returned from a fabulous 27th birthday vacation. The entire trip was paid for with a credit card intended for that purpose only. The vacation cost $4268 and the card will never be used to buy anything else. Chris has vowed to make the minimum payment each month, without fail. The first payment is $43 and the annual interest rate is 20%. How old do you think Chris will be when the last payment is made?

So…how old will Chris be?

The choices were 35, 40, and 49 years old. If you haven’t answered the survey, take a moment to think what you would have said.

Drum Roll

The answer: Chris will have just turned 49 when the last payment is made. It will take 21 years and 11 months to pay for that birthday trip.

How do I know this?

Canadian legislation requires the lender to include a section on monthly credit card statements that indicates the estimated time to pay the balance in full. It’s usually in small print and not always as easily found as the one shown below.

Credit Card Estimated Time to Pay

This image is a scan of part of the  monthly statement used in Chris’s story. As you can see, when making only the minimum payment each month, it will take Chris 21 years and 11 months to fully pay off the balance.

What the statement doesn’t tell us…

  • The estimated length of time assumes there are no further charges on the card. If there are, that will increase the minimum payment and the length of time to pay off the balance.
  • Their estimate assumes that the payment is always received by the due date. If it isn’t, there will be various late fees and interest penalties, depending on the lender. Even one late payment can cost a lot.
  • They are not required to tell the card holder how much money will be paid in interest over that time period.

Finding out how much interest you will be paying…

How much interest? It’s an important question, so I found an online calculator and entered the numbers from the statement. I got a message back indicating it couldn’t be calculated with those inputs. I went to another, and another, and another, and yet one more. Each came back with a similar message, usually in red or highlighted in yellow. Here are two examples.

  • Sorry, but the minimum percentage of balance paid must be greater than 2.68% in this particular case, otherwise it will not be paid off in reasonable time.
  • It is unlikely that you can pay off the balance with a monthly payment of $43. You will need to pay an amount higher than $71.10.

When I eventually found a calculator that actually did the calculation on the basis of the statement details, it reported that it would take 50 years to pay off the debt and total interest paid would be $565,595.10. But that wasn’t helpful either, because this length of time is more than double what the credit card company estimated on the statement.

In the end, I resorted to a manual calculation of interest.  I used the basic formula for simple interest. This is accurate enough to give us an idea of what the interest would be for the first month. However, since credit card interest is typically compounded daily, this wouldn’t be accurate for calculating the final total amount over almost 22 years. In the formula below, APR is the Annual Percentage Rate, and was 19.99% on the statement I used.

$ balance   x   APR/100  =  $ interest per year

$4268  x 19.99/100  = $853.17 interest per year

To calculate interest per month, simply divide by 12…

$853.17/12 = $71.10 interest per month

How can it be that Chris owes $71.10 in interest and is only asked to pay $42.68? Chris is underpaying by $28.42.

Call me cynical, but I seriously doubt that the credit card company is going to overlook that amount. More likely, it will be added to the balance. So the next month, Chris will owe $4296.84 (i.e. $4268.42 + $28.42).

And the cycle of adding unpaid interest to the principal (balance still owing) would continue unless Chris increased the payments substantially beyond the minimum they are asking for. No wonder the online calculators said that this debt could never be paid off!

Other examples of estimated times

Since calculators weren’t a lot of help, I made a chart showing estimated times to pay off varying balances. These are all taken from existing credit card statements in 2017. Interest rate is 19.99% in each case.

BalanceMinimum PaymentEstimated time to pay off in full
$421.14$15.003 years and 2 months
$263.71$15.001 year and 9 months
$2,782.08$27.8218 years and 4 months
$1,170.60$10.009 years and 4 months
$4,268.42$42.6821 years and 11 months

The big takeaway

It’s a waste of time to try to figure out how to manipulate credit card charges to your advantage. The deck is stacked against you.

Below are a couple of places where you can fill in the information gaps and learn as much as, or possibly even more than, you really want to know. Both of these are sites built by people who have experience to back up what they are saying.

They are American, so some terms and legal details may be different for those of us outside the US. One is regarding credit scores. In the US, FICO is the name for the most well-known credit scoring system. In Canada, your credit score is reported by TransUnion and Equifax. Nevertheless, basic information usually applies everywhere.

Credit Card Insider has an in-depth section called “Learn.” To understand minimum payment and interest calculation in detail go here.

Financial Mentor is more about overall strategy than specifically credit cards. There is a section of calculators for all sorts of situations including mortgages, car loans, compounding interest, and so on.

Next week: Why I don’t care what the interest rate is on my credit card. Until then…

Are we financially literate?

November. Financial literacy month in Canada. The time when we are officially reminded of information and strategies we can use to improve our financial health.

Financial literacy refers to the set of skills and knowledge that allows an individual to make informed and effective decisions with all of their financial resources. It’s a term that was introduced fairly recently, when governments began to focus on the need for consumer education in this area.

A recent newsletter from the Financial Consumer Agency of Canada reports that Canada is near the top of the charts for financial literacy in a global survey published in spring 2017 by the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD).

Canada tied for second worldwide…in the financial literacy component of the Programme for International Student Assessment, a global survey of 15-year-olds.

This report was followed by… [one] on adult financial literacy… [in which] Canadian adults…tied for second with Norway.

As a Canadian, I was feeling proud… and perhaps even a bit smug. Then I remembered a Statistics Canada report, also from last spring, telling us that the debt-to-income ratio of Canadians was at an all-time high of 167%. This means we owed $1.67 for every $1 of disposable income. The fact that Canadians have a lot more debt than income seems at odds with the assertion that we have high levels of financial literacy. How can this be? Continue reading

It’s Financial Literacy Month

This week I’m sending out an extra post in case you aren’t on social media and haven’t seen this. I’d love to have you participate in my 1-question survey.

Credit Card

 

November is financial literacy month in Canada. I just read something that got my attention. Now I’m curious—and am doing a one-question survey. I’d love to know what you think. Go to bit.ly/2zu7pyR to record your answer.

Here’s the scenario: Chris has returned from a fabulous 27th birthday vacation. The entire trip was paid for with a credit card intended for that purpose only. The vacation cost $4268 and the card will never be used to buy anything else. Chris has vowed to make the minimum payment each month, without fail. The first payment is $43 and the annual interest rate is 20%. How old do you think Chris will be when the last payment is made? 35, 40 or 49 years old?

You’ll be entered in a draw for an autographed copy of my book Conscious Spending, Conscious Life. And if you’d like to share this blog-post with people you know, that would be awesome!

Unprocessed.

Last week I introduced Michael Pollan’s concept of establishing personal policies about what we eat. Today I want to explore the idea of a personal policy that eliminates processed foods.

Why pick on processed foods?

As one nutritionist aptly put it, start with the “big rocks.” Removing them first leads to visible progress in short order. Processed food, junk food, and fast food are big rocks. It has become clear that the Standard American Diet (SAD) creates poor health in people eating it. If you have any doubt, remember Morgan Spurlock’s experiment in his documentary Super Size Me.

Big and small rocks

Removing processed food cannot help but make a difference. Without doubt, you will be eating better if you eliminate packaged and processed items from your food choices. And there are many other benefits to you and your community when you choose fresh, real food instead.

But really, is it possible?

Continue reading

Conscious Consumption in Everyday Life

As I pointed out last week, the consumer culture is structured to propel us to buy, buy, and buy even more, without thinking. From the consumer side of the equation, it’s so easy to react mindlessly to the demands of the culture and then find ourselves dealing with the consequences of excess.

Why does overconsumption matter? Because there’s too much collateral damage when purchase decisions are dictated by businesses that have a vested interest in getting us to buy more than we ever thought we needed.

Collateral damage from the profit-at-all-cost paradigm

  • Over-indebtedness, which leaves us with no capacity to cope with emergencies such as interest rate increases and job losses. In March 2017, Statistics Canada reported that the country’s average household debt-to-income ratio hit a record high of 167%. This means that Canadians owed $1.67 for each $1 they generated in disposable income, In everyday terms, this suggests that many Canadians are living beyond their means or, at best, are just making ends meet.
  • Environmental impacts, in more ways than most of us can imagine. Air pollution, climate change, and overpopulation are familiar issues, but a list of 25 on Conserve Energy Future reminds us about others such as light and noise pollution, urban sprawl, and medical waste.
  • Chronic health issuescaused by stress on many levels. Overconsumption leads to the emotional stress of over-indebtedness, the physical stress of eating food contaminated with pesticides and heavy metals, and the mental stress of trying to sort through overwhelming amounts of information in an attempt to figure out what to do to remain financially and physically healthy.

What can we do?

We can start by taking responsibility for our part in this dysfunctional system. As long as we continue purchasing what corporations sell, we are reinforcing their bad behaviour and they will continue doing what they’re doing.

We get the products we deserve. Continue reading

Simplify and Civilize Your Food Shopping

Last week I wrote about dealing with too much information when researching health issues online. Unfortunately, for those of us living in a consumer-oriented culture, the Internet is not the only place where we have to deal with too much to choose from. Think supermarkets. Finding good food and not being distracted by everything else is challenging.

Overconsumption is not an accident… 

Overconsumption is built into the consumer culture, where the story is based on beliefs that “big is better” and “more is best.” Many people buy into that viewpoint with no discernment as to whether it’s in alignment with their values.

Overconsumption, literally, is a major concern with regard to our eating habits. Eating too much and eating the wrong things can cause chronic complex conditions that are debilitating for the person and a major cost to the health care system.

Being aware of our tendencies and habits is useful in helping us manage ourselves, our spending, and our appetite. Self-awareness is a huge asset, and one worth cultivating. to counterbalance  the mindless consumption encouraged by the consumer culture and most  players in it. Continue reading

Cutting Through TMI

For a long time, consumer educators believed that people make the best choices when they have plenty of information. Consumer education programs taught us how to locate information so we had enough to make good decisions.

That was before the Internet.

These days, the challenge is not in finding information. It’s in learning how to manage an over-abundance of it. There are two issues here:

  1. Discerning what has integrity in a medium without gatekeepers, one in which anyone can say and publish whatever they want to.
  2. Coping with the volume so that we don’t shut down from information overload.

A previous post featured Dr. Barry Schwartz speaking about the paradox of choice. His research discovered that people actually make worse decisions when overloaded with information and choices. Continue reading