If you want to learn more about money, the easiest way is to pick up a book on the subject. Unfortunately, most books about finance aren’t exactly pleasure reading. Some are very dull and technical, and even the livelier ones aren’t as much fun to read as, say, a spy novel. It would be a lot easier to keep yourself interested if you could get your information in a form that provided entertainment at the same time.
That’s where TV comes in. There are all kinds of shows on traditional broadcast networks, cable, and even YouTube that present useful information about money in a way that’s fun to watch. These shows typically wrap their information in real-life stories about business owners or ordinary people in trouble. Some include an element of competition, some follow a question-and-answer format, and some feature live interviews with business owners and other interesting people.
Here are seven TV shows, available on a variety of channels, that both financial experts and ordinary viewers say are worth a look.
1. Mad Money
Jim Cramer, the host of CNBC’s “Mad Money,” has two main features that have made his show such a success. The first is his encyclopedic knowledge of the stock market – its boom-and-bust cycles, the factors that affect different industries, even the personalities behind some of its most successful companies. He draws on this knowledge not just to provide stock tips, but to educate viewers about how the market works. His goal, as he puts it in his “Mad Money Manifesto,” is to “level the playing field” by helping ordinary people invest on the same level as the pros.
All of that is useful, but it’s the same kind of information you could get from reading books or magazines. What really makes “Mad Money” work as a show is Cramer’s loud, wild, and flamboyant personality. He doesn’t just talk about stocks; he shouts about them, rattling on at the speed of a runaway train, often punctuating his remarks with sound effects like a train crash or the cha-ching of a cash register. His rants, interspersed with guest interviews and calls from viewers, turn investing into entertainment.
Where to Watch It
“Mad Money” airs weeknights on CNBC at 6pm Eastern Time. You can also use your cable provider’s login to view the last five full episodes of the show on CNBC.com. The website also has short clips from the show, written summaries, and a podcast version you can subscribe to via iTunes or Stitcher.
2. Squawk Box
If you’d prefer a less frenetic introduction to the world of investing, check out “Squawk Box,” also on CNBC. This show explores issues affecting the market in a round-table format with hosts Joe Kernen, Becky Quick, and Andrew Ross Sorkin interviewing big shots in the worlds of finance and politics. Former Microsoft CEO Bill Gates, mega-investor Warren Buffet, and former Fed chairman Alan Greenspan are just a few of the leading lights who have taken seats at the “Squawk Box” table.
In recent episodes, guests on “Squawk Box” have talked about a wide variety of issues. The chairman of the Atlanta Fed discussed the likelihood of changes in interest rates, a market analyst talked about the race between the U.S. and China to develop 5G networks, and two economists debated the best ways to address income inequality in America. In short, this show can help you delve into the details of the intertwined fields of politics and investing to understand what makes them tick.
Where to Watch It
You’ll have to get up early to watch “Squawk Box” live. This “pre-market” show airs on CNBC every weekday morning at 6pm Eastern Time before the stock markets open. That allows viewers to take the insights they gain from the show with them into the day’s trading. If you’re not an early riser, you can view clips from the show, including CEO interviews, on CNBC.com.
3. The Profit
If you own or are thinking about starting a business, you could learn a thing or two from CNBC’s “The Profit.” The show centers around multimillionaire CEO Marcus Lemonis talking to the owners of small, and often struggling, businesses from auto dealerships to hamburger joints. After learning all he can about their “three Ps” – people, products, and processes – he decides whether to put his own money into the business in exchange for an ownership stake. He’s already invested more than $35 million in businesses that were featured on the show.
Part of the fun of this show comes from the tension of wondering whether Lemonis will choose to invest in a business. Another part comes from the often entertaining personalities of the business owners he meets, such as the 13-year-old CEO of a company that makes cookies. And part of it comes from the conflicts that can result when Lemonis becomes an owner of a company and proceeds to revamp its business practices in ways that don’t always thrill the original owners. But wrapped up in all the entertainment is a wealth of useful information about what it takes for a small business to succeed.
Where to Watch It
CNBC runs “The Profit” every Tuesday at 10pm Eastern and Pacific Time. You can also watch complete episodes of the show on the CNBC website with your cable login or view them on Hulu.
4. Shark Tank
The premise of ABC’s “Shark Tank” is similar to “The Profit”: real business owners pitch their companies to investors, hoping to secure their backing. The difference is that, instead of dealing one-on-one with a single investor, Shark Tank guests have to fact a panel of wealthy and successful investors known as “sharks.” This team includes billionaire businessman Mark Cuban, real estate tycoon Barbara Corcoran, and hip-hop fashion mogul Daymond John.
This four-time Emmy award-winning show generates drama through the larger-than-life personalities of some of the sharks, as well as the vast amounts of money being thrown around. Over this show’s 10 seasons to date, it has brought over $100 million in investment to business owners. However, to win over the investors, entrepreneurs must offer a convincing pitch, as well as know how much money to ask for and how big a stake they should be willing to offer in return. For anyone seeking to build a business, this show has useful lessons to learn.
Where to Watch It
“Shark Tank” appears on ABC stations Thursday nights at 10pm Eastern Time. You can also watch previous episodes of the show on ABC Go or Hulu.
5. The Dave Ramsey Show
Financial guru Dave Ramsey first entered the American media scene with a call-in radio show. Listeners called to ask him about their financial problems, which he addressed with a blend of common sense and tough love. After a while, Fox Business picked up “The Dave Ramsey Show” as a TV program, which ran through 2010. The format was much the same as his radio show, with the addition of an opening monologue and some questions from viewer emails.
Today, “The Dave Ramsey Show” no longer airs on TV, but it’s found a new home on YouTube. There, you can watch both live streams and short videos of Ramsey talking to callers about a wide variety of financial issues, such as work, homebuying, saving for retirement, getting out of debt, lending to relatives, and sharing finances in marriage.
Ramsey’s persona is folksy, with an overtly Christian perspective and a take-no-prisoners attitude toward eliminating debt in all its forms. He can sometimes get aggressive about people or things he sees as financially irresponsible – as shown by the collection of videos labeled “Top 10 Epic Dave Ramsey Rants” – but for some viewers, that’s part of the fun.
Where to Watch It
Dave Ramsey’s YouTube channel runs live streams every weekday from 2pm to 5pm Eastern Time, which are archived afterward for later viewing. The channel also offers a wide assortment of shorter clips from the show that are anywhere from three to 10 minutes long and focus on specific issues.
6. The Suze Orman Show
Suze Orman is another much-loved financial guru and the author of several books on personal finance. She’s appeared on many TV shows, including “The Oprah Winfrey Show,” but is best known for “The Suze Orman Show,” which ran on CNBC from 2002 through 2015. Like Ramsey, Orman spent most of the show talking to callers and on-camera guests about their personal financial problems.
Orman adopted a familiar, breezy style with her callers, addressing them as “girlfriend” or “boyfriend” and scolding them about financial moves she disapproved of, such as leasing cars or taking out whole-life insurance policies. In one of the show’s most popular segments, “Can I Afford It?”, callers would ask Orman’s permission to make a major purchase, such as a house, a vacation, or a luxury car, and she would give them a thumbs-up or – more often – a thumbs-down based on the state of their finances. Orman is also openly gay and often used her TV platform to talk about the special financial and legal problems of same-sex couples in the years before same-sex marriage became legal.
Where to Watch It
Though “The Suze Orman Show” is no longer on the air – and Orman herself is now happily retired in the Bahamas – there are lots of clips of old episodes on CNBC.com and on the show’s YouTube channel, including her farewell “moneylogue” from her final episode. You can find some full episodes on YouTube as well, but you’ll need to search for them.
7. The Financial Diet
Unlike old-school financial shows that started out on TV and later made the jump to YouTube, “The Financial Diet” is strictly a YouTube channel – one that’s earned more than 43 million views since its debut in 2015. Created by millennials, for millennials, “The Financial Diet” attempts to cover “Everything you wanted to know about money + living better, even for the total beginner.”
This channel includes videos from several different series. The original “The Financial Diet” series, hosted by “Chelsea,” offers tips and nuggets of information on a range of financial topics, from improving your credit to applying for a job. “The Lifestyle Fix,” hosted by “Tasha,” talks about how to live the good life on a tight budget, covering topics such as shopping for groceries or organizing your closet. The “Making It Work” series features real-life success stories from a variety of authors, such as a person who bought a house at age 19 on a $24,000 salary. And “The 3-Minute Guide,” hosted by blogger and author Erin Lowry – better known as Broke Millennial – provides quick-and-dirty intros to complex financial topics, such as paying less in taxes and asking for a raise at work.
These topics are useful, but the videos aren’t all interesting to watch. While the “Making It Work” videos spice up their information with quick-changing images – photos, drawings, and color-blocked text – the others tend to be just a shot of the host talking to the camera, with the only visual variation provided by cuts between slightly different camera angles. You wouldn’t really miss out on anything by listening to these videos while doing something else, rather than watching them.
Where to Watch It
New videos from “The Financial Diet” appear every couple of days on YouTube.
As a learning tool, TV has its limits. For one thing, you can only use it to learn about a financial topic if a show about that topic actually exists. While there are books on just about every money-related subject you can imagine, TV shows about money tend to focus on a more limited set of subjects – the ones that make interesting viewing.
A one-hour TV show also can’t provide the same kind of in-depth information about a specific topic you’d get from reading a book. Videos can’t easily organize material into chapters and headings or provide an index you can use to refer back to the exact section you want. And while it’s possible to “bookmark” a particular video online, it’s not always easy to mark the exact minute and second of a particular section or sections you want to watch again.
But there’s one big advantage to learning about money by watching TV and online videos: It’s something most of us are doing already. According to a 2018 Nielsen report, the average American now spends more than 5.5 hours per day watching some type of video. By devoting at least a portion of that time to shows about money, you can get something more useful out of that time than you would by watching another rerun of “The Walking Dead.”
Do you have a favorite show about money that didn’t make this list? Share it in the comments.