The issue of debt is the most pressing problem that unites the subjects of Spent: Looking for Change. The first subject of the documentary, a young man named Justin reflects on his poverty-stricken childhood and discusses his aspirations of having a successful production company and building a life with his girlfriend. However, he does not have access to the traditional financial system and is forced to cash checks instead of being paid on his bank account.
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Justin then puts his cash on a debit card, which is convenient, however, it implies additional taxes and expenses for every purchase and transaction he makes. It was estimated that throughout Justin’s career, it can amount to $40,000 just to transfer checks into cash. This is challenging as he wants to buy a house, and sellers often look at credit history rather than income history.
The second subject of the documentary, Tiffany, teaches her daughter the importance of hard work and paying out what she owns. The single mother put her daughter into a private school to ensure a bright future for her and offer opportunities that public school could not have presented (The Young Turks). Working as a nurse, Tiffany managed to collect some savings and live a good life, lived the ‘American Dream,’ as she said.
The woman’s life turned around when her mother was diagnosed with cancer, and Tiffany decided to leave her job to focus on her mother’s treatment. Depleting her accounts and borrowing from friends, Tiffany used a cash loan company on her car and experienced the adverse impact of the interests and reoccurring fees.
When Melissa and Alex described their financial situation, they reflected on Alex’s past successful musical career that brought him enough money. With having two children and two incomes, they managed to live a happy and fulfilled life. However, their reality changed when their son was diagnosed with autism and Alex was diagnosed with multiple sclerosis. The amount of money necessary for managing the diagnosis was large, and the family did not have any savings for this purpose. The family relied on banks that abused the situation and imposed fees on overdraft projections and high-low check sequencing.
This was straining on them, leading to the decision to live off cash (The Young Turks). Also, the family stuck in the cycle of cash loans (payday loans), borrowing money from such organizations, paying them off, and borrowing again. While it was a long-term solution, it quickly became a burden. The system allowed to pay a fee to extend the loan, which was lower than the borrowed amount. Although, the loans can pile up and become more significant than the original amount loaned.
Reading the comments under the video, it becomes evident that the public sympathizes with the participants of the short film. Many of the commentators were outraged by the financial situation that the government had imposed on the subjects of the documentary. There was a shared opinion that the government is fooling the people by only getting wealthier with the help of tax money, leaving the underserved and the impoverished alone and without support. Additionally, concerns were raised regarding the benefits of a college education as many people spend the majority of their adult life working to pay off the debt.
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The Young Turks. (2014). Spent: Looking for change (documentary) [Video file]. Web.