Un-Broke: Sage Advice, Major Oversights


Christian Slater's abdominal muscles, the son of Dr. Evil, and Oscar the Grouch all did their part for the U.S. economy when ABC’s star-studded attempt at bringing practical personal finance advice to the nation premiered Friday night with breathless anticipation and a lot of skepticism.

Would it be entertaining and educational to hear what Antonio Banderas thinks we should do with our money? Or would hearing the Jonas Brothers explain the stock market seem trivial and mind numbing (but somehow dreamy)?

MainStreet, along with a group of personal finance bloggers and other industry professionals, watched the special, dubbed Un-Broke, (Stock Quote: DIS) while posting reactions in real time via Twitter.

You can view all the comments by searching for the #unbroketv hashtag, but here is a collection of some of our favorites:

  • @Green_Panda: According to Un-Broke the avg. American has $10k in cc debt with 5 cards.
  • @singlema: Buy a house within your means, get adequate insurance & have a rainy day fund = financially secure.
  • @mainstr: Antonio Banderas says he has an emergency fund of 6 months expenses set aside - muy caliente, Zoro!

Some viewers took issue with Seth Green’s percentages for housing spending in the MTV Cribs parody segment:

  • @stephonee: I think 30% of gross for housing is fine if you're relatively debt free. If you have high interest debt, it should be lower.
  • @MMarquit: I really don't like the 1/3 gross rule. Safer to do 1/3 net.

Others took issue with the lack of “tough choices” being demanded from viewers in financial trouble:

  • @MattJabs: I want them to say something outside the box, like "sacrifice something like your cable TV then put difference in savings"

Some disagreed with the constant reminder that you should only have one credit card at the most:

  • @frugalhero: Having 2 credit cards would be safer than just one. Never know when something will go wrong with the one.
  • @singlema: I don't agree with having only 1 credit card. When that CC does something 2 screw you over, what are your options? Bend over?

There were also a few brief moments of high hilarity:

  • @mainstr: Stocks Oscar the Grouch holds: Enron, WorldCom, Lehman Bros, WaMu

One of the most major gripes with the Un-broke was the insistence on purchasing individual stocks with no mention of less risky investments like mutual funds or index funds:

  • @MMarquit: Too corny and not too damaging (but too much emphasis on individual stocks). But maybe it will get ppl thinking
  • @moneyrelation: PLEASE DON'T BUY INDIVIDUAL STOCKS! I bet they are recommending that so you go out and buy Disney!

Christian Slater and Rosario Dawson explaining 401(k)s also appeared to be lacking substantial information:

  • @MyLifeROI: The format shows how the American public is... Christian [Slater] has to show his abs for the public to listen to 401k advice
  • @Matt_SF: Are we really this dumb? Do we need movie stars as eye candy to learn about personal finance & investing?
  • @Nicolosa: What about mentioning IRAs?

Others' pieces, such as the Mellody Hobson advice on college savings for your kids vs. retirement savings and the e*Trade babies segment had a much better reception:

  • @stephonee: Oxygen mask metaphor for college vs. retirement savings is very smart. Secure your own mask first!
  • @MMarquit: I never get tired of those E*Trade Babies!

And it seemed like the program ended on a high note:

  • @MMarquit: "I am broke as hell and I am not going to take it anymore" - Samuel L. Jackson
  • @Nicolosa: Ah! Finally my favorite piece of advice - take personal responsibility!
  • @JeremyVoh: Un-broke may be obvious for those of us who talk about finance every day, but the public needs to hear the message
  • @MyLifeROI: I love Samuel L Jackson! And I think he made a really powerful call to action!
  • @Green_Panda: ABC: Make Un-broke a mini series. One topic per episode.
  • @evergreenminty: watching [Un-broke] for super simplified financial advice from celebrities (and Christian's abs apparently), well intentioned but flawed
  • @Nicolosa: A little light on info, but hopefully got people talking
  • @MMarquit: The real question is this: Will we as a society actually CHANGE our financial habits? I'm not sure [Un-broke] will accomplish that...

Unfortuntely for those who missed the special, ABC has not posted the full special online yet. However, the Free From Broke blog has a great write-up detailing each segment from the show.

Thanks to all who participated and joined the conversation. If you watched, post your thoughts to the comments section.

Related Stories:

Q&A: The Mind Behind ABC's Unbroke Special

Un-Broke: Can the Stars Solve Your Money Problems?

Are You in Denial About Your Money Matters?

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