A Bailout From the Bank of Mom and Dad
If you were a young, single woman living on your own, what would be your worst nightmare? How about your parents moving in with you to help you get your finances under control? That’s the premise of the new SOAPnet reality show Bank of Mom and Dad (Wednesdays at 10 p.m., ET). This being the soap-opera network, you expect lots of drama, tension, anger and tears. But solid financial advice? I tuned in to find out.
The premier episode features Christina, a 33-year-old New Yorker who owes $38,000 -- including $25,000 in student loans and $1,300 in unpaid parking tickets -- and is overspending her income as a part-time bartender by $1,000 a month. To add to the drama, Mom and Dad (Lorraine and Henri) are divorced and haven’t lived together for ten years.
Short on details. To start the ball rolling, “budget coach” Farnoosh Torabi showed up on the scene to offer some financial advice. Unfortunately, I found Torabi’s contribution somewhat sketchy and less than helpful. For starters, she recommended that Christina slash her monthly budget for food (both groceries and restaurants) to $200, hold her transportation costs (assuming she sells her car) to $100, and allocate $250 a month for debt repayment (which debts were left unspecified). But a starvation budget is just as impractical as Christina’s current overspending -- and just as unsustainable.
I suspect that a single woman would find it tough to cut her total food expenses that much in New York City, or get by on $100 a month for transportation, even on the subway. And frustration often leads to failure. Christina could have used more realistic goals, with specific savings strategies.
For example, Torabi could have told Christina how to tackle the $25,000 in student loans. Or advised her to bring in more income by getting a full-time job. Or suggested that she sign up for a debt-repayment plan for her credit-card balances and a personal loan. But I guess that kind of stuff isn’t sexy enough for SOAPnet. Instead, Torabi tossed the ball to Mom and Dad to do the heavy lifting.
Torabi’s best advice was that Christina get rid of her car. To teach his daughter a lesson about those parking tickets, Henri had the car towed -- but then paid off the tickets himself, making her sign a contract to repay him. To cover Christina’s $165-per-month membership in a yoga studio, Lorraine arranged to have her daughter work five to eight hours a week cleaning rest rooms at the studio and washing dirty towels. Mom also showed Christina how to substitute cheaper alternatives for gourmet groceries (she was spending close to $20 for a bottle of olive oil) and slash the cost of a trip to the grocery store from a mind-boggling $193.57 to $57 (a 33-year-old woman couldn’t figure this out for herself?).
What’s next? All was sweetness and light and group hugs when the three parted company an hour later, in TV time. Even Mom and Dad were still speaking. But you have to wonder what will happen next. As they say in soap-opera land, Will Christina repay Dad for those parking tickets? How long will she be willing to scrub toilets? Will she sell the car? Tune in for the blog and the follow-up videos.
The verdict isn’t in on Bank of Mom and Dad, but it doesn’t look too promising. For a star-struck Christina, paying off her debts seems to take a back seat to appearing on The View and meeting Harry Connick Jr. and Whoopi Goldberg. She says she has saved $200 a month by cutting back on fancy food, and she’s paid off one of her parking tickets. But then she backslid by buying an iPhone and a computer.
Some SOAPnet fans don’t seem to be impressed, either. “Why are viewers having to put up with these trashy shows that have nothing to do with the soaps?” grouses one viewer in a comment on the site. “I want to be able to catch up on my favorite shows after work.”