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Scared Straight: For Finances?

One of my favorite shows on A&E is Beyond Scared Straight, where problem teenagers are brought inside of a prison and shown how life is on the inside and the kids get a chance to get a feel for what real prisoners are like.

Scared Straight
The Movie That Started It All

The show is quite raw and unapologetic about things (and usually says that most of the kids, in the end, don’t take advantage of this chance and end up in prison), but it is a show about redemption (or the hope of redemption), and I think that is why I am fond of it.

This got me thinking about the Financial Redemption shows that are on TV, shows like:

  • Gail Vaz-Oxlade and her various shows where she attempts to pound home financial common sense to Troubled Financial Adults, who seem not to understand that no fairy godmother is going to pay their bills (but then Gail gives them $5000 so maybe that is the wrong message).
  • Our friend Preet sounds like he might be cooking up a similar type of show, we shall see (he is looking for folks to be on his show, I hear).

There are other shows like this out there, trying to help people understand what their Financial Misdeeds will do to their lives and to their families if this behaviour continues. Many of these shows seem to show that, in the end, even the worst of us can learn from our mistakes, but I suspect this may not really be the case.

That got me thinking that if I were producing a show about Financial Redemption, I would want it to be a lot more raw and maybe show that this kind of change is not as simple as most folks think.

What Would This Look Like?

If the show had some of the following, it might be a little more believable (and maybe more educational for the viewers):

  • Have an actual collection agency show up and repossess something from the debtors house, even if it is paid for, to understand how it feels to have something repossessed. Point out that this will happen if they don’t clean up their act. Get the guys from Operation Repo to show up, they are a very scary bunch.
  • Have them live in a shelter for a few days or in public housing? This could easily scare many folks straight, I am stealing this from the BBC show Secret Millionaire, but it would be good for folks who don’t realize where they are heading.
  • Make people live for six months without their cars, and no cabs either, only a bus pass. This would be an interesting way to show folks where their bad habits could lead them (i.e., without a car or the ability to come and go whenever they wish).

I wonder whether these folks who claim they have repented (financially) will stay on the straight and narrow financially.

Feel Free to Comment

  1. I recently saw a documentary (in french) about middle-class people who volunteered to live on welfare income for a short time. One was in Montreal and one in Moncton. I’m sorry but I don’t remember the name or many details as I was only half watching.

    I don’t think there was any redemption or scared straight element. These folks were socially conscious and trying to make a point about living in poverty. But even though they were already motivated to understand how the other half lives, they were still quite surprised by the extent of the challenge (e.g., finding a place to live in Montreal).

    I like Gail Vaz-Oxlade’s show, but I don’t relate to any of the scenarios because most of the people featured have poor spending habits and lots of debt. I would like to see something that helps people deal with personal finance, though, because I have made some poor decisions about investments. But I suppose responsible/frugal people don’t make great TV.

  2. You raise some interesting points. I have watched a few episodes and it seems like some of the participants are simply going through the motions to get their $5,000. You can tell they do not care one bit about changing anything, they just want the cash to buy some more crap they don’t need.

    The entire set up seems to attract the wrong type of people. Maybe the idea is to show us what not to do.

  3. Love it! My favourite parts of Gail’s show are when she tells them how much debt they’ll be in if they keep up their habits and then at the end how much they’ll have for retirement if they save X amount.

    It would be interesting just to focus on those elements i.e. show people what will happen if they continue to wrack up the debt, then show them what they could have if they cleaned up their act.

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