The Sawa Reader

The tl;dr highlights of Sawa 2022 

I’m really proud of what we’re building at Sawa — a first-of-its-kind community financial support platform. Sawa is a way to improve your financial stability and protect against your own financial emergencies while helping others in your community address unexpected financial challenges. At Sawa, you’re not alone. 

We’re building something novel, and we’re transparently sharing our thinking and research along the way. For us, these are problems and solutions that, once seen, can’t be unseen. I’d love to share our thoughts, pose a few questions to help imagine what’s possible, and ask you to share your take. My inbox is always open.

Strategic Thinking, Jane Austen, and Game Theory

Have you thought about Pride and Prejudice lately? I have. 

I listened to the Freakonomics episode with Michael Chwe, author of Jane Austen, Game Theorist. His take is that Jane Austen was a game theorist before game theory existed, and I agree. As they put it, “Game theory … is about thinking strategically, making conscious decisions, and making those decisions based on how you anticipate someone else responding to your decision. Think of a decision tree, with a lot of branches.” In most Austen novels, there’s a lot of strategic thinking happening, most of it a matter of economic survival.

The Power of Community to Create Lasting Financial Health

Sawa research in partnership with Common Cents Lab, part of the Center for Advanced Hindsight at Duke University

My sense of community springs from my childhood: I grew up in southern Mississippi. Most of the people in my community didn’t have access to the economic rails that many people take for granted: a checking account, the ability to walk into a bank and get a loan. They would have been denied. 

The Credit Scoring System Deserves an Update

3 ways to improve the way we calculate credit scores

We all have a number on our head assigned to us by a nameless entity impacting our lives without regard for our individual situation that we cannot influence: our credit score. Credit scores are a shortcut to trust for creditors — Can I trust you’ll pay me back? — and as a shortcut, they do some good. But, the scoring algorithm hasn’t changed much since its debut in 1989 and we’re due for an update. 

We can do better than an opaque, overly granular score that divides us. Here are three ways we can meaningfully improve the credit scoring system, so more people have access to credit.

Good Information Crowds Out Bad Information

When I was a senior in high school, I was accepted into Harvard. When the envelope arrived, I thought, This is a lovely piece of paper, but I can’t go. We couldn’t afford it.

On a phone call with my parents and the Harvard admissions counselors, they asked us, “How much can you contribute?”