New documentary “Spent: looking for change”

This documentary looks at a complex range of issues that are sapping strength from household resources all over the world today. In my own home town we have noted payday loan stores cropping up all over the city, boasting borrowing rates of 15 to 20% for ‘quick cash”. Given that 5 year mortgage rates are less than 3% in Canada (less than 5% in the US), and conventional lines of credit are charging about 6%, those paying 15 to 20% to live paycheck to paycheck are clearly struggling in a very harsh world. This film offers an inside look.

American Express is presenting this documentary to help improve financial inclusion in the United States. Academy Award®-winning filmmaker Davis Guggenheim is the executive producer of the documentary which is narrated by Tyler Perry and directed by Derek Doneen.

Spent: Looking for Change is a film about everyday Americans without the financial options most of us take for granted and the movement giving them renewed hope. To find out more and take action, visit

Turning to pawn shops, check cashing services, and using payday loans to meet basic financial needs can be costly for many of us, with $89 billion a year going to fees and interest* for using these types of alternative financial services.

It’s time for change. New technology, new ideas and encouraging dialogue around this issue can help make managing money simple and more affordable. Here is a direct video link.

There have always been loan sharks for those who are financially desperate. Ironically in the 1920’s it was Citibank’s Charles Mitchell who led the charge of offering mainstream banking and borrowing services to the “little guys” who had traditionally been forced to pay extortion rates to non-traditional lenders. In its inception the idea of helping people borrow at more reasonable rates was a good one.

Central bank policies and the debt underwriting business started out with a similar train of thought some 15 years ago. However in the 20’s, as in recent times, the harm came when greed took over and bankers saw all the “little guys” as gullible, cross-selling opportunities who could be “advised” to buy a wide range of end to end financial products, while borrowing to “invest”. It was this suicidal leveraging up of the masses that played a large role in the financial crash of both 2008 and in 1929 and the Depression thereafter.

Somewhere between rates near the zero bound that encourage families to gorge on debt and rates of 20% that make bankruptcy highly likely, there is a middle “norm” where lenders are not backstopped by taxpayers, but charge a reasonable rate to compensate for their risk. And debtors pay enough interest that they are incented to borrow sparingly and pay off debt as quickly as possible, rather than borrowing more and more for longer and longer. We have to find our way back to a healthy respect for the finite and powerful resource that is money.

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