Bank of Mom and Dad: Could Tough Love Cure Financial Irresponsibility?

A new show named Bank of Mom and Dad just premiered on 9/30/09 on SOAPnet. This show chronicles parents who attempt to reform their financially irresponsible adult children by moving in with them for a week. With the aid of a "money coach," the parents take actions to reform their spendthrift kid. Can this financial intervention really work?

I watched the premiere episode on and I must admit that it was a pretty entertaining show. The indebted child is a 33 year old single woman named Christina who looks a bit like Jillian from The Biggest Loser. She makes about $2500 a month as a bartender and spends around $3500 per month and she has accumulated over $38,000 in debt. Her parents have been divorced for 10 years, but they joined forces to participate in their daughter's financial makeover. They were also given advice by a straight talking personal finance coach who cut to the core of Christina's financial problems. The coach was not the main focus of the show and she had three very short meetings with the family and created a budget for Christina to focus on paying for necessities first.

What I really liked is that Christina's parents tried to teach her that she could enjoy the things she loves without spending as much as she does. For example, her mom Lorraine challenged her to spend less on groceries. Both women had the same shopping list and went to the same grocery store. The mom spent $57 for the items in her cart while Christina spent $193. Christina argued that the things she bought would taste better so her mom set up a blind taste test. Out of six food items, Christina preferred four of her mom's more frugal choices. It was quite hilarious when Lorraine cheered jubilantly when her daughter could not tell the difference between tap water and the expensive bottled water from Italy. I think this is actually a good experiment for those who spend too much on gourmet food. Could you tell the difference between $17 and $7 olive oils?

Christina's dad also showed a bit of tough love when he called the city to impound Christina's car since she owes over $1300 in parking tickets. The dad offered to get the car out of impound, but he also made Christina write him a $500 check upfront, and sign a contract that states that she would pay him back in full in a year. Personally I think this is what every parent should do when they loan money to their adult children.

In the end, it is hard to tell if Christina would keep up her new budget since the parental intervention only lasted one week, but in a blog update she states that the show has waken her up to her messy financial situation. Her parents did admit that they never taught her much about finances when she was young, but the idea of the show is that it is never too late to learn about personal finance and saving for yourself. I think one weakness of the first episode is that the money coach never talked to Christina about how she could increase her income, but the basic money saving and budgeting tips presented were on the spot. I will definitely tune in for the next episode, and you can also watch along for free on

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Guest's picture

Whether its about sex or money, if parents are not open and honest with their kids, kids grow up and are forced to make mistakes to learn on their own.

Goes to show what happens when parents don't communicate with their kids.

Guest's picture

I also thought the show was entertaining and plan to watch it again. I also agree some advice about managing her income could have gone a long way, in addition to controlling spending. All she has to do to solve her financial problems is work another couple of shifts each week (hardly a tall order).

But this woman's problems weren't really financial - at least not at the root. Her laziness and apathy and ignorance are the real issues that are just manifesting themselves as financial problems. Everything about her life and habits is/was totally self-indulgent. Thank goodness her credit is so bad she can't get credit cards, or else she'd really be in trouble.

She accumulated $1300 in parking tickets, which is ridiculous in and of itself (I can just see her rolling out of bed and driving to yoga and deciding a $25 ticket is totally worth it so she doesn't have to walk a block or show up late). But not paying those tickets is even stupider; she could have ended up in jail or at least without her car, and would have had no money to get out. And she spends thousands of dollars a year on international travel, but has just never gotten around to getting health insurance even though she has health problems.

There were also plenty of places she could cut spending without even having to change her lifestyle, as her mom pointed out. But the real thing she needs to do is educate herself and set some goals. I was struck by her lack of ambition or desire for change, especially at her age.

Guest's picture

I agree the biggest problem is lack of income. Her budget only allowed $250/month towards debt.

$38,000 / $250/month = 152 months or 12.7 years at 0% interest.

And the student loans are a huge waste. Why go to school then become a low paid bartender? Getting roommates would be another option.

I'll continue watching this if I remember to watch it. It's amazing how bad people can be with money.

Guest's picture

Based on the opening credits, it seems like this show will focus primarily on women with money issues. I'm not sure why, I'm pretty sure there's PLENTY of spend thrifty men.

Xin Lu's picture
Xin Lu

I think maybe it is because it's on a network about soap operas, so they think their target audience is women.  I think it's pretty bizarre that it's on a network about soap operas,actually.  In the BBC original Bank of Mum and Dad they did feature quite a few young men. 

Guest's picture

Thanks for posting that it's on hulu now! I was hoping it'd be on there, my Mom told me about the show and I've wanted to see it myself, but I don't have soapnet on cable. So thanks for the heads up! :)

Guest's picture

It may be something almost unheard of these days in a society who widely accepts people who live off of (and with) their parents until almost 35 (or older!) but my parents raised me with tough love. I would not be doing so well as a young professional if they hadn't.

Since I was a child, I earned everything. I was a natural born entrepreneur, coming up with savvy and smart ways to earn money to put towards my manga addiction.

As I got older and moved out, I decided to become a writer because it was something I was naturally good at. I am thankful that my parents taught me the value of money at a young age. I am successful and though young, I rarely need their financial help.

Guest's picture

It's really too bad this woman grew up forming such irresponsible spending habits, though I can see how it would be easy to get used to buying only the expensive versions of food. I hope that they worked on a structured budget for her on the show so that she keeps track of where her cash ends up each month.

Guest's picture

I didn't catch the show, but now that it is on, I might have to check it out. The concept seems like it would be very entertaining. It's great that the coach tackles on-the-spot problems and helps the person set a budget through the parents, but I can see where this short-term planning may not last in the long-term.

I also wonder if Christina, the young woman with the financial problems, asked for help from her parents in the beginning. I'm just wondering who is contacting the show initially, if it's not the person in debt, that person may not be that motivated to change their lifestyle.

thanks for the review-
Little House

Financial Samurai's picture

I think people are very rational. If you have parents who will take care of you, you won't be incentivized to take care of yourself. You will take advantage up to a breaking point.

When I was bidding on property, I always encountered kids with their parents. We're talking $1-2 million properties here. I'm competing against not just the kid/child adult, but his/her parents balance sheets.

It is what it is.


Financial Samurai
"Slicing Through Money's Mysteries"

Guest's picture

If her parents are both responsible financially then I wonder how the daughter ended up the way she is? Don't people really learn their financial habits primarily from their parents?

Guest's picture

Nice to see that another BBC series has been transplanted to the USA!