06/12/2014 01:54 pm ET Updated Dec 06, 2017

Spent: Looking for Change : The Difficulties of Living Outside of the American Mainstream Financial System

"Three to five days from now (to cash a check) is unacceptable for millions of Americans. If your lights are going to go out tomorrow, you need your check to clear now." - Arjan Schutte (founder, Core Innovation Capital)

I was invited to attend a small screening that marked the New York premiere of Spent: Looking for Change and to be honest, I wasn't sure what to expect. I was contacted by PR for American Express so I was at first, a bit hesitant that this would be more of a sales pitch. I was very pleasantly surprised. After a quick introduction of the film by Dan Schulman of American Express, the film began and I settled in to do what I do best: Watch a movie.

Spent tells the story of four people, all in very different situations in their lives who are struggling to make ends meet; A young handbag designer, a commercial film maker who has begun his own small production company, a nurse struggling to find full time work and an all American family that has fallen on hard times.

We are quickly introduced to the one thing that these four stories have in common, the lack of traditional banking. When living paycheck to paycheck, or as our young handbag designer Debbie calls it "bag to bag," using our mainstream financial system isn't always an option. As the film continues we are taken through the terrifying math of fees incurred when using check cashing facilities, and we witness the frustration of our subjects inability to take out loans for a car or a house.

In a panel led by Arianna Huffington, the film's narrator, Tyler Perry, stated that he was so inclined to lend his voice to the film because it told the story of his former life. He went on to say that "when you see the example, you can really learn." While I may not agree with Mr. Perry on a number of things, this is a statement that I can really get behind.


I find it quite funny that I attended this event, because not long ago I could have very easily been a subject in this film. Living in Detroit during the start of the recession, I found myself taking out "paycheck loans" and withdrawing more funds than I had available... knowing that I would end up having to pay back more than I was taking out.

I found myself in a decent amount of debt, and when I was laid off from my job in 2008, I had to move to my parents home until I could get my finances together. That is an option that I had available to me, that not everyone does. I am heartily grateful that things did not get any worse for me. That being said, credit ratings are not very forgiving and I am still working on getting mine back up. Even so, I still don't have a good enough score to get an AmEx card...

Spent: Looking for Change is an important documentary for all Americans to see. We need to find a way to make banking and living more affordable, and to do so we need to start the conversation.

Spent premiered on YouTube on June 4th and is already at over 7 million views. Let's help to get those numbers up. Visit the website and watch the film. Write about it. Talk about it. Share it. Let's get the dialogue going.