Would You Feel Obligated to Share $100K Windfall? Why CBS’ ‘The Briefcase’ Disturbs & Excites Me

Have you seen or heard about CBS’ summer reality-tv series “The Briefcase?” Here’s the premise: Each week the show features two families experiencing a financial setback. The families are presented with a briefcase containing $101,000; a windfall that will solve a multitude of problems and give each family some much needed financial breathing room. They can do whatever they wish with $1,000. But there’s a catch with the balance and this is where the social experiment element comes into play: they can keep all of it; give all of it away to another family in need; or a combination of both. Over the course of three days they learn details about the other family’s circumstances. The presumption being that this insight will help them make an informed decision about how much of the money to share – if at all. The cost of charity is… And this is why the show both disturbs and excites me! When I watched the first episode, I really did have low expectations. However, they dive into some meaty social issues regarding money that go well beyond the numbers. Values Everyday life The fragility of our economy and our emotions The role of empathy and guilt Faith vs. anxiety Being selfish vs. selfless Judgment Generosity Action vs. results Vulnerability The windfall effect is one of the reasons I find the show disturbing. Unexpected cash will certainly resolve most (if not all) of your financial struggles in the short term. (I could think of a lot of things to do with $100k I wasn’t expecting!) But only a strategic plan will ensure the benefits of...
The Dark Knight Rises, Economic Dystopia & Your Wallet

The Dark Knight Rises, Economic Dystopia & Your Wallet

I loved, Loved, LOVED “The Dark Knight!” In my opinion, Christian Bale is the ultimate Batman (sorry George) and the late Heath Ledger was phenomenal as the Joker. Of the Batman movies I have seen, I thought it was the best; so, I was amped for this summer’s release of “The Dark Knight Rises.” Like many people I am sure, I entered the cinema this past weekend with a mix of emotions. My heart was heavy for the victims and their families in Aurora, Colorado; as a result of the shooting, I was a little on edge and extra observant of my surroundings – especially when people got up during the movie; and yet, I was totally excited for what was about to unfold on screen and pleased that I had not spoken with anyone who saw the movie nor had I read any reviews beforehand. Had I done either, I wouldn’t have been surprised by the movie’s dystopian view of our economy or its portrayal of our country’s complicated relationship with wealth. I left the cinema thinking about two books: Octavia E. Butler’s  sci-fi novel – “Parable of the Sower” and Philip Gerard’s historical fiction – “Cape Fear Rising.” The former is set in a future world where the government has collapsed, unable to address the chaos that is a result of “unattended environmental and economic crises;” the latter is based on real-life events during the late 1800’s (during Reconstruction) in Wilmington, North Carolina where a community of affluent blacks were massacred because of their wealth, by white residents of the same community. (Similar events happened in the...