Unbroke – What You Need To Know About Money: Recap

Did you get to catch ABC’s special Unbroke: What You Need To Know About Money? I heard about this via Twitter from MainStreet.com.  The special advertised it would talk about what people needed to know about their personal finances and it was interspersed with vignettes describing different aspects of money from the celebrity likes of Samuel L. Jackson, the Jonas Brothers (that got my daughter watching), Oscar the Grouch, and the E-Trade babies.

Hey, how to not be broke?  Sounds right up the alley for Free From Broke!  I was game.

So with the kids running around and the computer on my lap on the couch I took note of what the show talked about.

Here are the points I picked up from Unbroke-What You Need to Know About Money:

No driver’s education for your finances: You learn how to drive but school doesn’t teach you anything about credit cards or your finances.

Credit cards are a primary cause for debt: A big culprit for debt in the country is credit cards.

Paying cash makes more sense: Cedric the Entertainer tells us that the old school way to pay for something was to use cash.  This way there’s no debt and no worries.

People have lots of credit cards on average: Random people are asked how many credit cards they have and the answers run from about 5-9 cards.  You really only need one.

The average American family has 10k in debt on an average of 5 cards: Wow.

It takes 58 yrs to pay off 10k if you pay only the minimum.

19 yrs to pay off a laptop if pay minimum for a college student: If a student starts school and buys a laptop on credit it can take them close to the time they’ll attend their 20 year re-union if they only pay the minimum requirement on their credit debt.  The laptop gets REAL expensive!

Why people bought expensive houses – sub prime mortgages: The thought here is that some money people came up with a foolish way to extend credit to people who couldn’t pay it back.

Seth Green shows us how to live within our means: Smaller house with a low fixed rate mortgage; own a modest car; keep your small tv; pla board games instead of getting an expensive gaming system; have adequate insurance; save money with energy efficient appliances; and have a rainy day fund.  Keep you spending tight!

Many people are living paycheck to paycheck: You need a safety net; an emergency fund of  3-6 months expenses.

A system to start building up an emergency fund: Start saving 1 dollar a day for four months.  Then up that to 2 dollars a day.  Now amp it up to five dollars a day.  Before you know it you’ll have $1000 saved.

Definition of stock: A share of ownership in a company.

Definition of bonds: A loan to a company for a set period of time with a set return.

You have to take a long term view when investing: The stock market goes up and down but over the long term the market goes up.

Stock indexes give a measure of how companies are doing: Dow is the top 30 companies, the S&P 500 is the 500 top companies, and the Nasdaq lists newer tech companies.

Oscar the Grouch, the reason I watched: You need a retirement account.  When stocks go down there’s an opportunity to buy.  It’s tough to save for the future (in Oscar’s case a nice dumpster near a garbage dump) without stocks in your portfolio.  Individual stocks can fluctuate but overall markets go up.  The biggest risk is not taking a risk.

One term you need to know to retire: 401(k) – Money goes in before taxes so it grows tax free.  Even though stocks can fluctuate wildly in the short-term, over the long-term stocks have always gone up.  You can invest up to $16,500 a year in a 401(k) plus many companies offer a company match.  Variety is crucial in your portfolio so make sure you diversify.  A 401(k) is automatic savings since it comes right out of your paycheck.  If your company offers a match it’s ridiculous not to meet the match.  For example: if company offers a 50 cent match that’s 50% return right off the bat.  These days saving for retirement is mandatory.

Should I invest in a 529 or 401(k)? – Take care of yourself first then help your kids.

It’s very difficult to blog about a show with your kids awake.  It’s a challenge to keep up and type while your 9 year old and 2 year old are jumping around.  At one point my son asks me what I’m doing and tries to shut my laptop.  That’s what I get for not playing with them on a Friday night.

Samuel L Jackson gives a great take on the movie Network.  He’s a fictional financial guru who tells a TV audience that no one thought they had to follow the basic rules and now they are broke, including himself even though he’s an “expert.”  He tells everyone to get up and yell: I’m broke as hell and I’m not gonna take it anymore!  You want a monologue delivered?  Give it to Samuel L Jackson!  He made some good points though.  Pick yourself up and tell someone you’re broke and you’re not going to stay that way.  Get mad and do something about it.

These aren’t any new personal finance topics, though it’s full of great information. There’s no new “gazelle intensity” or “debt snowball” or “latte factor” introduced in the show.  But that’s not what it was trying to do.  These are all great basic premises for someone to take care of their finances and hopefully it helps to get a few people to take a look at their financial situations.

Did you watch it?  What did you think?

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Published or updated May 17, 2013.


  1. Nice one, I just wrote about this, too! I didn’t see the aired version but watched all the trailers for it – smart writing, indeed. I call it the “celebrification of personal finance.” Overall a positive evaluation, I’d say, even though I’d probably take issue with a few of their assumptions/points. Helps to get people focused, but is it at the price of dumbing anything down?

    MoneyEnergy’s last blog post..ABC’s UN-BROKE: Personal Finance For Dummies, or Useful Infotainment?

    • I think for most people it wasn’t dumbed down. Based on some of the interviews they had it seems this is just the type of info the public needs.

      • I thought it was great and would love to purchase a DVD, I went to ABC and got some lame generic response back that did not pertain to my question. Can anyone help me figure out how to buy a copy of the program?

  2. It was boring. I am mad as Hell that Obama wasted all our money on trying to bail out GM and they still are going to file for bankruptcy. WTF? They should have done that in the first place 6 months ago. Maybe this show should have been shown in the Oval office and in Congress. Tell the government to stop spending! Stop wasting our money on stupid pictures of NY and parties and fundraisers. Tell our Treasury Secretary to pay his taxes before he expects us to pay ours. This show was demeaning and the only reason I didn’t turn it off was because I wanted to see what the public was watching- being brain-washed. It really had common sense info that most people already know and the only one that needs the information on that show in our government and the President.

    • I agree the government really needs to set the example which it’s been doing a poor job of recently. But if this is all common sense then I think we have to say that a lot of people are refusing to listen to it. I think a lot genuinely need this information though and as a start it’s a pretty good place.

  3. J Strickland says:

    This show was insulting. Did you catch the not so subtle subtext that we’re stupid with money, and that’s why we’re in this mess? “The mad as hell” parody at the end was bizarre. No analysis, no advise for the people in trouble, just fluff. The banks and credit card execs are laughing at us…

    • I don’t think they had time to go into in-depth analysis. It was more about awareness (ok, it was about ratings really). The people who need this type of information aren’t ready for exact details yet. Tese are people who need to SIGN UP for their 401(k)’s before they can worry about what funds to put it in.

  4. Christy Z says:

    LOVED it. Warm, funny, well-written and sound basic advice. Wish this could mandatory viewing for students every year of highschool!

    • Hmm, the 45 minutes of the show would be more than most students get about personal finance. I think they need a whole course on the subject.

  5. This was geared to the younger generation which is what made it great. For those who were “offended” that is because you are educated on the subject. Unfortunately, that is not the case for the majority of our college age students and a lot of adults. As a teacher, I felt it was delivered in a way that would keep many interested. I too feel it should be watched in every high school. If it were shown every year of high school, maybe it would sink in.

    • I think we forget that common sense isn’t always so common. I agree that the show did a decent job of keeping people interested. Maybe what schools need is for Samuel L Jackson to come in and deliver that monologue in person! Though that would be a lot of appearances!

  6. Mike Leone says:

    Actually, I’d say that being stupid with money was a very large part of an individual’s moneys that were covered last night. Remember, “we” (collectively) had a negative savings rate for a while. I’d call that stupid with money, wouldn’t you? And there was lots of advice, but perhaps aimed more for people who are not yet in dire straits. Advice to turn direction – pay off all cards, live within your means, etc. While this might seem insultingly obvious to some, it must not be so obvious to others, else “we” wouldn’t have had a negative savings rate, or such high default rates on credit cards, and mortgages.

    This was a mass appeal show, remember. The detailed in-depth analysis is more likely found on CNBC, Bloomberg or Fox Business.

    • Agreed. The people this was aimed for aren’t watching Bloomberg or Fox Business. An you’re right, if this stuff is so obvious then we wouldn’t have the economy we’re in right now.

  7. Very informative. I made my high school aged children watch with me, and it held their attention.

    • Did it sink in for them? I’d love to hear how effective the show was in it’s message! I had my daughter, 9, watching but she was only interested in the Jonas Brothers.

  8. Good point, it will have caught a lot of the kids’ interest for sure.

    MoneyEnergy’s last blog post..May Success Summary and Link Roundup

  9. Fabulous show! Will it be repeated? It should be on for several nights and be required viewing by high school students. Those in college should see it as well. Please tell us if this show will be repeated!

    • I’ll keep an eye out for it. It would be a shame if it only showed once. In all honesty it probably depends on the ratings more than anything else.

  10. Caroline says:

    Thanks for sharing this. I’m sorry I missed it and hope it will be repeated.

  11. Some High Schools across American are teaching Money 101, in Arkansas we have a class called Personal and Family Finances in the Family and Consumer Sciences department that teaches about money. Matter of fact we actually covered all that was discussed on this show and more. Teachers have been trained very well through a program called Family Economics and Financial Education (FEFE), through the University of Arizona. Once teachers are trained they have access to a wonderful website http://www.fefe.arizona.edu it covers all money matters.

    Family and Consumer Science teachers defintly agree that finances should be a class that every student should be required to take before graduating and our Personal and Family Finance course is the one!

    I thought the show was well done, perfect for High School students and a good summary for the semester course.

  12. Marge Johnston says:

    The show was a great way to grab attention out there and should be repeated. We are working to teach financial literacy to kids from 10 to 18 here in Michigan through our Camp Millionaire and Moving Out programs. It was as if “Unbroke” was a lead-in to our curriculum. We are so excited to get this information out to people of all ages. Thank you for getting people talking about it.

    • Those sound like interesting programs! Are those in-school or outside of the curriculum?

      • Marge Johnston says:

        Our financial literacy programs in S.E. Michigan are offered thru Summer Camps for 10-13 yr olds and will be in Community Ed programs this fall for 14-18 yr olds. We are working with the Math Curriculum Directors in our school districts. The classes are fun, interactive and participative. Kids love learning this way and it is fun to teach. We also invite parents and grandparents to come in and share a day with the kids. You can read about them at http://www.themoneywiselife.com in Michigan and thru http://www.creativewealthintl.org in CA. There are also great programs in Ohio, PA and IL.

        • Sounds great! I like that the parents are invited down too. I bet some kids are coming out learning more than their parents knew.

  13. Matt @ My Financial Recovery says:

    I caught a few minutes of it before I was pulled away and thought it was a great idea! I learned a lot of lessons the hard way and would have loved to have seen something like this when I was younger (of course I probably would not have been interested then).

    I hope it ends up on Netflix so we can have it sent out when my girlfriend’s kids need to start learning.

    Matt @ My Financial Recovery’s last blog post..Student Loan Collection News

    • Yeah, I would definitely rather learn from others mistakes than have to go through it myself. And I’ve made my share of credit card mistakes!

  14. Granted people who read and write personal finance blogs aren’t the target audience, but I think they did an entertaining job of getting some basic points across. The key is, did anyone out there get a wake up call from this and take action to get themselves out of burdensome debt? Hopefully there are people out there today chanting, “I’m broke as hell and I’m not going to take it any more!”
    I need that saying on a tee shirt.

    • You know, that is the big question. How many thought Samuel L Jackson was just amusing as opposed to how many really caught the message he was trying to say? I hope it was the message. And that would make a great t-shirt!

  15. I thought the idea of the show is great! We need to spend within our
    means. But I don’t like that it came from rich celebrities who can’t
    identify with being frugal. It’s patronizing! Read more about this at
    my blog.


    taa’s last blog post..Un-broke: You don’t know how to manage your money, so rich people are going to tell you how.

    • It can sound strange from rich folks but who will the average person tune in to watch? They need the celebrities to get the message across. I would have liked to hear from some celebrities who didn’t live rich lifestyles but that could be another show.

  16. Does anybody know where to find the complete show online? Is it posted anywhere?

  17. I missed this special and hope to see it on Hulu or maybe they’ll air it again.
    I like the idea of different personalities talking about finances. I often wonder if shows consider a lot of us are self employed and things like retirement 401(k)s are not really applicable to us as very tiny small businesses or freelancers.
    I like this site and am glad I found you via Bargain Babe

    tammy’s last blog post..The Frugal Musician gets a whale of a deal…

    • I think they were aiming for the largest most general audience possible. But it’s true that not everyone has a company 401(k) available to them. In some cases an employer might not even have that good a plan so you still have to be careful.

      I’m glad you found Free From Broke and hope you enjoy!

  18. The recap is appreciated as I missed the airing. Seems like most of it is basic financial common sense, though based on the financial troubles that many are facing, many of us could use a refresher!

    • For some a refresher, others a wake up call, and others new information. Hope it was helpful to those who watched.

  19. I’m kind of sad I missed this special, but I’m sure it can be found somewhere on the internet. From everyone e;se’s comments it seems like it was a pretty good show and worth a watch even though some of the topics discussed were considered common sense by some. It surprises me how many people think that what is considered common sense to them isn’t necessarily common sense to someone else… but I digress….

    Thanks for the recap though!

    MK’s last blog post..Progress Bars Update, May 2009!

    • Common sense isn’t always so common. Hope you can find the show out there. Let us know if you find it!

  20. Great list .. lots of things to learn ..few of the takeaways for me
    1. Build emergency fund
    2. Cash is better than credit
    3. No drivers school for finances
    4. Build retirement corpus.


  21. A lot of these things are really eye opening. As someone who is self-employed, I thought I knew it all about personal finance, but I definitely learned a few things from this ‘recap’

  22. As a teacher of Personal Finance, this resource was a great activating strategy for 9-12 graders. It held their attention with the celebrities giving advice on money management. I am now looking for a similar resource on insurance – life, health, auto, etc.

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