Fitness tracking devices have been around for decades. When the Fitbit came out in early 2013 it changed the game for wearables. In recent months however, many Fitbit owners have come forward claiming that they are gaining weight. How is this happening? While gamification is a hot way of boosting engagement and shaping habits, if the metrics are based on averages it will ultimately fail. This is much the same for personal finances and gamifying savings.
The complaints coming forward mention how the users are not eating any more than the calories the Fitbit says they’ve burnt off, but are somehow still gaining weight. The system assumes a perfect gain and loss calculation with only those two variables, while most of us have numerous fluctuating factors that determine our weight. Users are actively putting their health into the hands of a predetermined system that was calibrated for the average user.
Many of those same people are using a third party service to help them budget as well. A number of these applications are also based on local averages. While they still require user input to suggest a plan, those users are getting watered down vision of what they really need. This is not an attack on finance apps (I am a user of some myself), but a look at their ability to properly prepare users for the future.
These tools are fantastic for those who understand and can use them properly. They can provide a plan based on inputs from the user and create a well-informed sophisticated financial strategy to pay off debts, create budgets, and save money. The problem lies with those who decide to follow these guide blindly. Just like with the Fitbit, those that take a single number as the gospel and base their entire diet around it might have a hard time. Think about those Fitbit complaints for a moment. I gained weight and it’s your fault. When you really think about this in context it’s effectively saying, I blindly trusted your system to help and it failed me, but you’re to blame.
When you willingly turn over all responsibility to monitor yourself, you are still accountable. If you surrender your attention to your financial well-being entirely, it could drastically impact your financial health by more than a few pounds. Stay in-charge of your decision making, even at the planning level.