When I was in my twenties, my idea of ââa good Saturday night was to spend time in my apartment watching Gail Vaz-Oxlade’s âThe Suze Orman Showâ and âTil Debt Do Us Partâ on TV. while my boyfriend was playing video games in the other bedroom.
Super cheesy, I know. It’s no wonder I ended up writing about personal finance for a living.
While I am a big advocate of reading articles and books or courses to deepen your financial literacy, watching money shows and movies is also helpful, especially if you are a visual learner or if television is your medium of choice. .
Some of the money related content on TV and in movies is definitely for entertainment purposes only, but the financial documentaries on this list are designed to inform and educate. They might even change the way you think about money.
So grab a bowl of popcorn and a notepad to take notes. Good viewing!
9 must-see documentaries about money and finance
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1. Play with FIRE
Retiring in your 30s or 40s may seem unrealistic to most, but it is the goal of many who follow the FIRE movement. FIRE stands for âFinancially Independent Early Retirementâ and it is based on the premise that by investing aggressively in your early years, you can reduce your retirement date by decades.
Playing with FIRE presents the journey of a couple to understand what it is to reject societal norms and seek financial independence. It features notable advocates of the FIRE movement, such as Vicki Robin, author of “Your Money or Your Life” and Pete Adeney, creator of the Mr. Money Mustache website.
You can watch this 75-minute documentary on Amazon Prime, Google Play, iTunes, or Vimeo or purchase the DVD.
2. Money, explained
Money, Explained is a Vox and Netflix docu-series that tackles five different topics: financial scams, credit card debt, student loans, gambling, and retirement. The episodes highlight how people’s financial lives are affected by each topic.
Narrated by celebrities such as Tiffany Haddish, Bobby Cannavale, and Jane Lynch, each episode features a mix of interviews studded with colorful infographics, making them both informative and entertaining. They’re pretty succinct at around 22 minutes each, so you can watch the whole series in one sitting.
3. Thinking About Money: The Psychology Behind Our Best and Worst Financial Decisions
Despite our best efforts, we all end up making mistakes with our finances. We indulge in retail therapy after a bad day, or we fall victim to impulse buying after coming to the store to buy something.
We are human after all, and we don’t always think rationally.
Thinking Money, a PBS documentary, gives us insight into behavioral economics – what drives us to make the financial decisions we make. Dave Coyne, the host of this hour-long documentary, chats with experts from across the country to explore the psychology behind why we spend and save.
4. Minimalists: less is now
Minimalism is a lifestyle of living on less – something Joshua Fields Millburn and Ryan Nicodemus are familiar with. They made a name for themselves as The Minimalists and teach others how to let go of consumerism for a simpler life with less financial stress.
The Minimalists: Less is Now explains how Millburn and Nicodemus got into minimalism and what the benefits of this lifestyle are. You can stream this hour-long documentary on Netflix.
Fun fact: Millburn and Nicodemus are also showing in another documentary on Netflix called “Minimalism: A Documentary About the Important Things”.
If you’ve ever had to block someone on social media after receiving too many âpartyâ invitations disguised as opportunities to enlist in a tiered marketing company, this docuserie is for you.
LuLaRich documents the rise and fall of LuLaRoe, a popular MLM famous for its lower leggings. While company executives claimed LuLaRoe was an opportunity for women to be their own boss and work from home on their own terms, many found it drained their savings and put them into debt.
LuLaRich can be found on Prime Video. The story is divided into a four-part series, each episode lasting approximately 45 minutes.
Take this as a caveat to avoid business opportunities that sound too good to be true.
6. Work indoors
Warning: this documentary may make you scream on the screen.
Inside Job focuses on the 2008 financial crisis, exploring what led to the economic collapse and how it could have been avoided. It highlights how the decisions of the rich and powerful titans of the financial industry on Wall Street led to the immense downfall of so many.
This nearly two-hour documentary is narrated by Matt Damon and won an Oscar. It is available for rental or purchase on Prime Video.
7. The American Nightmare
Excuse the self-promotion, but this documentary produced by The Penny Hoarder had to be on that list.
The American Nightmare provides a glimpse into the lives of families 10 years after the 2008 financial crisis. People who once believed in the American dream of homeownership found it to be a nightmare with lasting effects. This film shows what it’s like to rebuild after experiencing a major financial downturn.
This 42-minute documentary was nominated for a regional Emmy Award and is available on YouTube.
8. Expenses: in search of change
Spent: Looking for Change explores what it’s like to be unbanked, underemployed, and depending on check cashing services and payday loans just to get by.
This 40-minute film, narrated by Tyler Perry, follows the lives of ordinary people struggling with the added costs of excluding traditional banking services. It also shows how an event, like a family member being diagnosed with a critical illness, can turn a person’s entire financial life upside down.
This documentary, which is sponsored by American Express, can be viewed on YouTube.
9. The most important class you have ever had
Would you like to have learned about personal finance when you were in school? You’re not alone.
These teachers educate people about making smart consumer choices, understanding key financial concepts, and investing in the stock market. This documentary shows that teaching teens not only improves students ‘relationship with money, but can also have a positive impact on their parents’ financial situation.
It is available on YouTube.
Nicole Dow is a senior screenwriter at The Penny Hoarder.
This was originally posted on The Penny Hoarder, a personal finance website that empowers millions of readers nationwide to make smart decisions with their money through practical and inspiring advice, as well as to resources on how to earn, save and manage money.