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 TV series 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.
Carmer 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 use your cable provider’s login to view the last four 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 on Apple Music, Stitcher, Google Play, Spotify, or Amazon Music.
2. Squawk Box
If you’d prefer a less frenetic introduction to the ways of Wall Street, 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 CEO of mattress company Casper discussed the company’s initial public offering, entrepreneur Ken Langone discussed social media’s crackdown on posts that incite violence, and New York City real estate developer Bill Rudin talked about the likely impact of new COVID-19 vaccines on the business world.
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.
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. If the owners agree, he takes charge and starts doing whatever he considers necessary to make the business profitable.
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
Currently, “The Profit” is available only online. You can watch both past and current episodes on CNBC.com using your cable TV provider’s login. Clips and older episodes are available for free on the CNBC website, and you can view all past seasons on NBC’s Peacock streaming service.
4. Shark Tank
The premise of ABC’s “Shark Tank” is similar to “The Profit”: real business owners pitch their startup companies or products 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 face 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 12 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 teach about entrepreneurship.
Where to Watch It
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 offering financial advice to callers about a wide variety of 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 4pm to 6pm 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 old clips and full episodes on CNBC.com, including her farewell “moneylogue” from her final episode.
You can also plenty of old clips on the show’s YouTube channel. There are 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 76 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 Financial Diet. Host Chelsea Fagan offers tips and nuggets of information on a range of financial topics, from improving your credit to applying for a job.
- The Lifestyle Fix. Host Cochran talks about how to live the good life on a tight budget, covering topics such as shopping for groceries or organizing your closet.
- Making It Work. This 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.
- The 3-Minute Guide. Host Erin Lowry (a blogger and author 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.
Other series focus on career, budgeting, and financial advice for college students.
These topics are useful, but the videos aren’t always 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 the host talking to the camera. The only visual variation comes from cuts between slightly different camera angles and occasional flashes of a text the presenter is quoting from. 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 a couple of times each week on YouTube. You can also binge the entire collection of past videos there.
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 nearly six 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.”