Looking for Change

Documentary: Spent: Looking for Change (2013). Sponsored by American Express and narrated by Tyler Perry, this short (39 minutes) documentary is a film about everyday Americans shut out of the finance system most of us take for granted.

Many of these Americans turn to pawn shops, check cashing services; and use payday and title loans to meet basic financial needs. Of course the practice is quite costly. It has been calculated that $89 billion a year goes to fees and interest for using these types of alternative financial services.

According to the Pew Charitable Trusts’ Safe Small-Dollar Loans Research Project, an estimated 12 million Americans take out payday loans each year. On average, these borrowers take out eight loans per year, averaging $375 each. The fees over the course of a typical two-week loan? They averaged $15 per $100 borrowed, amounting to a 391% annual percentage rate.

This film stresses that it is time for change. The idea is that new technology, new ideas and encouraging dialogue around this issue can help make managing money simple and more affordable.

The Unbanked: Offering Small Fees, Banks Cater to Low-Income Customers [NY Times]

In addition to sponsoring the film, American Express is also spearheading several initiatives to drive innovation in financial services to help improve the financial options available to those who are financially under-served.

Payday Loans

The film’s website, SpentMovie.com, encourages viewer to find out more and take action. Suggested actions include hosting a screening, supporting financial inclusion initiatives and advocating for veterans.

Hosting a screening provides an opportunity for family, friends and co-workers to view the movie together and then discuss the issue of access to the traditional finance system.

The Financial Inclusion Initiative will look for start-ups working on solutions such as: providing greater access to capital, developing new credit building models, enhancing personal financial management and promoting savings.

Like many young Americans, veterans receive inadequate support to deal with the new financial challenges that they face as they transition back to civilian life after service. This summer, American Express is working with The Association for Financial Counseling and Planning Education (AFCPE) to design a financial readiness program for transitioning service members, veterans, and their families.

Also available for viewing on the Spent Movie website and YouTube.

Blogger-in-Chief here at RetirementSavvy and author of Sin City Greed, Cream City Hustle and RENDEZVOUS WITH RETIREMENT: A Guide to Getting Fiscally Fit.


  1. Wow. For me, this movie was eye-opening. I just didn’t realize how many people this affected.

    I complain about stupid things like not getting paid enough interest on my checkings/savings accounts, or having to pay small fees with the banking system.

    I didn’t realize how much worse it was for so many people.

    • It really is an informative, eye-opening documentary. While supporters claim they provide services not available to their customers elsewhere, the price is too high. While the loans often serve- or more accurately, appear to serve – an immediate problem, the long-term problem of high interest rate and debts is overwhelming.

      Thanks for taking the time to stop by, my friend.

  2. Good way of explaining, and pleasant article to get facts regarding my presentation subject, which i am going to deliver in school.

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