I’m In Debt – MTV True Life

Last night my wife and I were flipping channels and we came across the show True Life on MTV. The focus of the show was on three young women that were in debt and how they were handling their debt.

1 out of 3.
Of the three young women, only one of them seemed to have a realistic view on the hard work required to get out of debt. She had a mortgage of about $150,000 and approximately $20,000 in credit card debt. While she was struggling to earn enough money to make her payments, she was working and pursuing additional shifts at her job in an effort to earn more money.

While I would have liked to see her take the initiative to get another part-time job for the hours she was not working as a bartender, she was at least making the effort to increase her income in order to make progress on her debt. Throughout the episode, she indicated that she is living a relatively frugal life where she does not go out partying or spending money. Rather than eating out, she buys groceries and eats cheaply at home.

Are They Kidding?
The other two women really seemed like they were behaving like they just wanted to be featured on television, as I would really hope that people in their early 20’s do not have that distorted of a view on life and debt. Some of the comments made by these other two women really amazed me and made me want to reach through the television and smack them.

One of the women did not have a job and was looking through a pile of job postings when she commented that she did not want any of these jobs because it would take up all of her time. Where did this woman come from? It amazes me that someone would make a comment like this but when you look at her situation, maybe it is not all that amazing. She is living at home with her parents and her mom seems to help her with everything. Later in the episode, it was revealed that her parents were even making payments on her debt. With this type of support, she has little motivation to make her life better on her own.

The third woman was also living at home and did not seem to have a serious mindset to eliminating her debt. It was revealed that she had been meeting with a bankruptcy attorney and was planning to file for bankruptcy. At a cost of $1800-1900 for the bankruptcy, she was paying approximately 10% of her outstanding debt to be free of her obligations.

As part of the bankruptcy, she had to meet with a credit counselor who explained that bankruptcy was not her only option. Based on her income, which I believe was about $900 per month, he explained that they could get her a debt repayment plan where she would pay a little over $400 per month to her debt. The duration of the plan was for 41 months and it would leave her approximately $300 to live on each month.

In my opinion, this seemed like the logical solution as she would be able to repay her obligations and still have money to cover her expenses on a monthly basis. However, it really did not come as much of a surprise when she still opted to pursue the bankruptcy. After all, she was shown receiving a check from her last job earlier in the show for a little over $200.

Rather than cash the check at her bank, she cashed it at a payday loan establishment to avoid the bank holding the money and covering any fees out of the deposited cash. Immediately after cashing the check, she went to the tanning salon and upgraded her service and then went shopping and spent more money on clothes. Well, it is no surprise that she is in debt when she spends her money as soon as it hits her hands.

Moment of Disgust.
After she completed her bankruptcy proceedings, this woman was shown at a restaurant with friends and she actually seemed proud that she was able to discard all of her financial obligations. It seemed like a big joke to this woman and she was already out spending money with friends, rather than learning how to properly manage her money.

This behavior was really disgusting to me as I feel that bankruptcy should only be an option in extremely dire circumstances. This woman used bankruptcy to avoid 3-4 years of hard work to repay the debts that she incurred. She was not willing to make the necessary sacrifices required to eliminate her debt. Unfortunately, I would guess that the probability of her ending up right back in debt is rather high.

Education Required.
Watching this show really made me feel like I want to change my career to be in a position to try and educate the American youth on the dangers of credit card debt and how to be responsible with your money. Right now that is what I am trying to provide with this blog, as I hope to use this as a vehicle to share some of the financial tips and habits that I have learned over the years.

Of the three women featured in this episode, I was happy to see that the one woman seemed to be making progress on her debt and was following a path that would lead her to success. It is unfortunate to see the other two *adults* with their lack of motivation or self-respect to do the work required to fix their mistakes, which will likely mean that they continue this pattern for many more years to come.

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18 Responses

  1. Saman says:

    Honestly, every time I pause on MTV I end up shaking my head – no matter what show is on at the time. I really don’t know what is wrong with the youth of America today (I sound like my dad).

    Is there no accountability for your actions today?! Why are parents not teaching respect these days (whether it’s respecting money, yourself or others). Sorry for the rant, but I am so disgusted by MTV!!!

    • mnc says:

      Well, I don’t really blame MTV for the state of how many people behave today. In addition, I don’t think it is only the younger crowd that is to blame.

      I’ve seen similar levels of disrespect from older people that you would think have learned those lessons. In my opinion, it all starts in the home with how your parents raised you and how you are raising your own.

      Two qualities that I feel are critical for my children to learn from me are to always respect other people and to stand behind your word at all times.

      • Saman says:

        I do agree that parents should be teaching our children, my wife and I are very proud of our kids.

        But I really do have a bone to pick with MTV – especially in the way they portray women in general! That and a lot of children these days think fame is attainable and there is no need to study or work hard.

        Sorry for the rant, but I really think that reality tv – especially MTV – are giving our children a bad example. You are right though, it ultimately is up to the parents.

        • mnc says:

          I’ve yet to really see a *reality* tv show that has an accurate representation of what reality is for most Americans.

          I’ve discussed this with others but I would like to see a reality tv show where a hanful of people have to work 2-3 jobs and live in a cheap, dumpy apartment to cover all their bills.

          Enough with these shows where they live in some mansion and have to work one menial job for a few hours per week and constantly complain about the work they do have to do.

          MTV, or any network, needs to hire me to do a real reality tv show! 🙂

  2. Tech says:

    Great qualities to teach your kids MNC.

    • mnc says:

      Thanks Tech. It is very important to me that we raise our children to be very respectful of others and respect themselves just as much. So far I think we are doing a pretty good job.

  3. Nick says:

    It all comes down to how much effort someone wants to put into it to become debt free – or better yet – to never end up in debt in the first place.


  4. Great Job – You beat me to it, but I found you because I was about to write on our blog about the show last night

    Our thoughts on MTV’s show

    MTV has such a captive audience (the right audience for this subject as well) and completely missed the mark. They had a perfect opportunity to teach something valuable.

    • mnc says:

      You’re absolutely correct. This could have been an opportunity for MTV to offer further education yet they stood by while these young women made mistake after mistake.

      As you mentioned in your post, it did seem like they were glorifying the whole bankruptcy process and that one woman seemed to completely brush off how serious bankruptcy is and the impact it will have on her life.

  5. Well I’m glad you agree. There are so many companies and services out here ready to charge people for a quick fix, and so few actually offering an education.

    PS. Just noticed this post:


    Good job. I’ll write something up about you tomorrow. Good to see people offering solid advice.

  6. jesinth says:

    I was not surprised on seeing your posts because this is what happening in today’s world.Most of the people don’t care about their debts and they don’t realise their responsibility in clearing their accounts.Only god can save this world.


    IVA is a less severe debt solution than bankruptcy. It has less social stigma and it lets you keep your house and your car which you would lose in case of bankruptcy. You might also be able to write off a significant portion of your debt at the end of the IVA.


  7. LinZ says:

    I recently watched this epsiode and I have to say, I agree with you one hundred percent!

    The young woman who bought the house and works almost every night as a bartender to make her house payment is the only one I felt sorry for and at the same time respected. She actually made an investment and is doing what she has to keep it. The only problems I saw with her was that she also had 10-11 credit cards to purchase furniture and whatnot. She also spends money on dance classes; however she wants to be a professional, so I guess it’s the same as someone going to night school to get a degree to further their career. *shrug*

    The other two are lazy young girls who are looking for the easy way out; such as filing bankrupcy. I hated to hear that girl say she didn’t want to pay a debt consoltated for 41 months because she wouldn’t be able to do anything else for 41 months or live at home. That really made me think “wow, you are incredibly selfish and irresponsible.”

    So anyways, great article of the episode!

  8. Amy says:

    If you watched my show True Life Im in debt im the character Amy that said i dont want a job that takes of all my time if you were PAYING ATTENTION i was looking at the correction officer post and they have the wheel 24 /7 shift so yes i would be working day and night so learn your facts before you run your mouth..if you watched the ending of it I did finally land a job and my mother didnt pay my bills just for one month when i didnt have a job.Today i have a great city job in law enforcment and i got out of debt like 3 years ago… so if you hate all 3 female characters so much you go film your own show with your liberal sarcastic ass!

  9. Crystal says:

    I only felt sympathy for the woman who was trying to pay off her mortage but I couldn’t blame the one who decided to go bankruptcy route because she didn’t want to live at home for 41 months, for her decison. I couldn’t stand her family especially the father and the sister. I was waiting for her to tell her sister to shut the hell up and stay out of her business when she went through her papers and started talking to the other people in the room about what she thinks her sister should do.

    If the women in this episode made you want to reach in and slap them, you should watch the True Live: I’m a compulsive shopper episode. One of the girl’s in there will make you want to reach in to the TV and deck her. Her problem put her parents who she treats like crap into about 10 grand in debt but instead of feeling remorse and trying to change her ways, she stole her mother’s credit card and acted like a 3 year old when her father tried to get her to see a therapist for her addiction. She made Amy and the other girl look responsable.

  1. March 5, 2007

    […] week my post discussing the I’m In Debt – MTV True Life episode has been included in the Carnival of Debt Reduction being hosted at Climbing Out of […]

  2. March 9, 2007

    […] article on True Life I’m In Debt that was on MTV was a good write up – I didn’t see the show but mostly because I rarely watch […]

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