The Road to Financial Wellness: What Happened on a 10,200 Mile Road Trip

This is a guest post from Jason Vitug, Founder of Phroogal, a startup dedicated to helping people live stress-free and richer lives through financial answers and access. Jason will join the NWCUA’s Oct. 29 Marketing, Business Development, and Community Outreach Council. The post was originally published on the Phroogal Blog.

Photo of the Phroogal road trip team. Right to left: Larry Solha, Yaroslav Tashak, Jason Vitug, Austin Strickland, and Julianna Anselmini.

Of all the adventures I’ve had since leaving my senior executive job at a credit union, the epic road trip is by far the most professionally challenging project I’ve undertaken, but also one of the most rewarding. The Road to Financial Wellness combined my love of travel, personal finance and social impact.

As I sit here in front of my computer, I am still smiling on the accomplishment of zigzagging across the United States in an attempt to break the social taboo about money and promote financial wellbeing.

I was joined by an amazing team from diverse backgrounds. Yaroslav Tashak and Austin Strickland of Montville, NJ; Julianna Anselmini of Union, NJ and Larry Solha of Elizabeth, NJ. I didn’t know my team members very well but after 30 days driving together in a mini-van and living in close quarters, I’ve gotten to know them quite well.

My team accomplished:

  • 138 hours of driving
  • 10,218 miles of road
  • 26 major cities visited
  • 11 small cities, towns and suburbs visited
  • 37 events completed
  • 8,000+ people reached

This was all possible with the help of:

  • 4 road trip team members
  • 2 virtual team members
  • 47 personal finance bloggers and podcasters
  • 15 credit unions
  • 12 nonprofit financial education organizations
  • 5 Twitter chats
  • 6 media partners
  • 1 national sponsor, Payoff.

At the peak of the road trip, we had a Twitter Reach of 2,156,446 with 10,062,278 Impressions for #TheRoad hashtag.

With our media partner, Wisebread, on a single Twitter Chat, the results were 120,784 Reach with 5,607,918 Impressions.

I was fortunate to share my seminar, Your Money & Mindset, 30 times in 30 different locations. That also meant my team heard the seminar 30 times. I’m sure they could recite my talk word for word in their sleep.

The event and seminar feedback was overall positive. The attendees connected with the message of evaluating one’s relationship with money, becoming financially aware and using mindful spending to purchase the things and experiences that truly add value in one’s life.

It Wasn’t all Rainbows and Sunshine

Being on the road was much tougher than I had foreseen. There were moments of pure exhaustion and tougher moments when our emotions were tested to its limits. My team was remarkable in pushing through the physical, emotional and mental limits that allowed us to complete the mission.

Part of The Road’s mission was to engage with local people and talk about their financial hopes and dreams. We found many people unable to answer the question, “What is your dream lifestyle?” We also met a few angry people who voiced their frustrations. These emotional outbursts reinforced my convictions to continue the money conversations. Many people we met who chose to speak off camera  shared their financial stories profoundly.

I realized from these conversations how our money situation (mostly the lack of it or the indebtedness) is preventing many from envisioning a life outside of their current financial condition.

From Portland, Maine to Los Angeles, California and from  different socio-economic conditions, people wanted to know where they could find relevant, reliable and actionable financial advise. They wanted to know what products to use and who among the dizzying array of financial service providers are trustworthy.

Ultimately, the vast majority of people we’ve met on the street, in the events and online use Google search results to advise them on what product or service to use. However, an increasing number are breaking the taboo and using social media to ask their network for recommendations.

What Millennials are Seeking

  • Millennials want access to financial information at the right time in the right way. They understand the difference between being educated versus being sold to.
  • Millennials want simplicity in their financial products and services.
  • Millennials in particular want to connect with other financially savvy peers.
  • Millennials want to deal with financial services companies that offer high tech solutions that increase convenience and promote better time management.
  • Millennials seek meaningful relationships and want the comfort of high touch when it comes to personal finances.
  • Millennials seek financial guidance from experts who understand their value system but millennials do not know where to find them.

Planning the Road to Financial Wellness

I’ve envisioned a financial wellness roadtrip for years but I invested the time in planning after speaking with the World Council of Credit Unions who absolutely loved the idea. Planning the road trip involved working nonstop. I averaged 4 hours of sleep per day for months.

I was driven by purpose and my passion fueled my work.

I sent roughly 200 emails and tweets, over 100 phone calls were made. The vast majority of people and companies I spoke with were on board with the road trip. I just faced logistical and budgetary constraints. However, everything came together when Cooperative Center Federal Credit Union in Berkeley, CA became my first local sponsor.

I had a late night tweet chat with Fadhila Holman, CEO of Cooperative Center FCU, and connected immediately over passion for cooperatives. That tweet turned into a conversation on how to promote the financial cooperative movement. In fact, a key takeaway on this road trip is how well cooperative principles resonate with the millennial generation. If credit unions are to learn one thing from this 10,000 mile journey is to highlight the founding cooperative principles of credit unions.

The Support of Dozens of Social Influencers, Bloggers and Passionate People

I enlisted the help of Melanie Lockert of DearDebt.com who managed the blogger outreach. Melanie was successful in gaining support from 44 personal finance bloggers to write about their story on the road to financial wellness. I also received help from Will Lipovsky of FirstQuarterFinance.com who managed the Phroogal blog. Steve Stewart of MoneyPlanSOS interviewed and coached me on giving better podcast interviews and J.Money of BudgetsareSexy.com spent hours on the phone providing guidance and enthusiasm.

I met with Philip Taylor, founder of FinCon and road trip sponsor, who connected me with the local FinCon community. He also did my signature jump after eating at Hutchin’s BBQ outside of Dallas, TX.

Additionally, the help of Ralph Carmona of Portland, Maine who invited Phroogal to be a guest of honor in his Living Wage Forum that kicked off the first day of our roadtrip. Jeff of SustainableLifeBlog.com, Deacon Hayes of WellKeptWallet.com, Katie Brewer of YRLPlanning.com connected me to amazing people who made events happen all across the country.

The Road to Financial Wellness was a success because of the team, community and partner/sponsors that made it all possible.

Check back soon for Part II of Jason’s Journey! And to hear more from Jason, register for the October 29 Marketing, Business Development, and Community Outreach Networking Council

Posted in Events, Marketing & Communications.