When numbers are based on real life experiences, people understand.

One million seconds is HOW long?

Most people are lousy with numbers. Especially big ones. Numbers like millions, billions or trillions are simply hazy notions of REALLY big numbers for most people. Add a dollar sign in front and you may actually see their eyes glaze over.

Unless you put those numbers in terms they understand.

For example, everybody knows that a minute is 60 seconds, and they have a good sense of how long a second lasts. What they don’t understand is if you started a timer, one million seconds would take over a week and a half to elapse. Surprised? Then consider this: one billion seconds would take almost 32 years, and one trillion seconds would take 31,688 years (and you would have had to start that timer back in 29,673 B.C.)

While some numbers are too big to comprehend, others don’t seem big enough for people to care.

For example:

  • If the average car loan refinance meant a savings of $20/month, most people wouldn’t bother. Point out that saving $20 every month means saving almost $1000 over the next 4 years, and all of a sudden you have their attention.
  • A small percentage change on a mortgage doesn’t sound very exciting. However, a $50 lower monthly payment means an extra $3000 every 5 years of the loan. Now that’s a big number that might make your members smile.
  • For a member that never has enough money, one less fancy coffee a day adds up to about $1000 in one year.

When numbers are based on real life experiences, people understand.

When a credit union puts the advantages of CU products in $$ instead of %’s, members respond.

It’s simply a matter of communicating on the same level.

Kent Dicken

Email this article to a friend or coworker.