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Can a good coach help level the playing field?

I’m the kind of person who re-watches and re-reads the things I love.

I’ve seen The Big Short at least five times.

Even having seen it that many times, and having Margot Robbie explain sub-prime loans and Anthony Bourdain run through ‘collateralized debt obligations’ (CDOs) I still couldn’t define most of the film’s terms for you off the top of my head. I’d have to think it through carefully.

I was reminded of this listening to Michael Lewis’s Against the Rules podcast yesterday. It’s back for a second season and it’s the kind of podcast I wish could broadcast as often as Freakonomics. It’s the best kind of storytelling, which is exactly what you’d expect from the author of The Big Short: Inside the Doomsday Machine and The Fifth Risk: Undoing Democracy (which has been on my reading list for a long time now).

Yesterday’s The Invisible Coach delved into the ways the credit card (and finance industry more broadly) exploit their excellent understanding of human foibles and behavioural science to ensure that they can make billions from our weaknesses.

Lewis interviewed Jason Brown, the creator of US-based Tally, which is working hard to coach consumers to better financial circumstances – and with their 99% retention rate they’re clearly successful.

While the problem of credit card debt and financial hardship seems particularly acute in the US, Great Britain is currently home to £119 billion in financial debt.

These numbers stand out to me having written about money in last year’s Feminist Fact Friday series. Women are doubly, triply penalised by their gender and coaching women to financial success seems like a particularly important move. As we head into a recession and very difficult circumstances post-COVID-19 I hope we’ll see more and more companies move to help those in financial difficulty, rather than exploiting them.