Early this spring, I was contacted by Gregg Jackson, who introduced me to the new public service website he authored, which uses “parody, with eye-catching graphics and humorous text, to warn people about the hype and traps of consumer debt. It offers branded credit cards for every delusion; limitless student loans; big debt for automobiles, adult toys, and elephants; and a frank ‘no-privacy’ policy.
Through humor and memorable images, the site reveals what the industry thinks of its clients—that we are stupid, gullible, and impulsive; how it profits from selling clients more debt than we can afford, despite that appearing to be self-defeating for the industry; and how its business model is similar to that of drug cartels, although without the risk of jail time.”
One ironic advertisement for Naked Truth Bank encourages readers to “live your dreams with extravagant debt.” Another states, “We don’t give loans, we sell you debt.”
In direct opposition to the mercenary aim of this hypothetical bank, Greg isn’t looking to make any money off of this—only to be of some help in the battle against imprudent personal debt by alerting readers to the various ways the consumer finance industry tries to dupe them into imprudent and even disastrous debt, with the hope that when readers are subsequently exposed to these ploys, they will recognize the intent and resist the solicitation.I invited him to write a guest post and followed up with some questions. Here’s the story behind this shrewd tongue-in-cheek website from the founder himself:“The NakedTruthBank.com site began as two images for another website (Simple101.org, the Finances page). It was for that website that I first developed some visual humor to counter the consumption ethos of our culture.The first cartoon was of a credit card as bait on a rat trap, then a few more came to mind, and finally it occurred that I could create a whole satirical bank website.
I have never been a shopaholic, but family irony and trauma probably made me super-cautious about debt. At age 7 or so I asked my parents for a bike but they gave me a piggy bank and explained that when I had saved half the cost, they would chip in the other half. It took me a several months of shining dad’s shoes at $.25 a pop but I got a good used bike.
Several years later, however, my parents inadvertently taught me a darker lesson about personal finance. When my father developed a chronic illness and couldn’t work, it became apparent that my parents hadn’t accrued a “rainy day fund. We were forced to sell our comfortable 3-bedroom home and move into a one-bedroom basement rental.
Ever since, when I watch other family members, friends, and even acquaintances spend every cent they earn or go progressively deeper in debt, I dread that an unexpected setback with similarly unravel their lives.
I have been a borrower a few times (modest student loans for grad school), and a mortgage for a condominium apartment and later a house, all paid off as quickly as prudent. I am grateful for those loans but I disdain the way banks, retail chains, and also credit unions, are constantly encouraging people to borrow and spend more than they can afford. It galls me, and I hope the NTB website helps some people to avoid the trap.
I asked Greg what the response to his website has been.
“Several personal finance bloggers have mentioned NakedTruthBank.com and send traffic the site. The hope that it would be used in the personal finance courses offered in some high schools and colleges does not yet appear to have been realized, perhaps because many of those courses—scandalously but not surprisingly—have been developed with the sponsorship of banks and credit unions.
All the site’s materials, text and images, have been placed in the public domain and may be used without permission. Please alert people and organizations that might be able to make use of them. The site’s ‘Contact Us’ page welcomes comments about the consumer finance industry, its customers, and the website.”
NakedTruthBank.com can provide both a humorous distraction from impulses to overspend and a straight from the hip shot of hyperbole to penetrate even the thickest wall of denial.