“Million Dollar” experiment

Can 100 Canadians save $1 million in 10 weeks? (by Greg David, TVguide.ca)


I’m the worst when it comes to money. I love spending it (on coffee, gourmet sandwiches and Apple products), but I’m not so good at the whole savings thing. Talk of an emergency fund flies right over my head, and I’m ignorant when it comes to all of the opportunities for cash back filing my tax return offers.


I’m not alone, as it turns out. There are, literally, communities across Canada full of people like me, and Million Dollar Neighbourhood seeks one out. The OWN original series, debuting Saturday, descends on the city of Aldergrove, British Columbia, to educate and encourage saving, and reward someone $100,000.


The “million dollar” angle of the 10-part reality series is pretty simple: 100 Aldergrove families are tasked with finding $1 million in savings in 10 weeks. It sounds daunting, but broken up into a series of weeks, it seems doable.


With typical Canadians using credit cards to offset costs, going on spending sprees, eating out and generally ignoring bills, it’s easy to get into debt and never dig yourself out. Million Dollar Neighbourhood unearths the ugly truth in Week 1, as financial expert Bruce Sellery and clinical psychologist Dr. Joti Samra visit the 100 families and do a little homework. What they discover is pretty typical: mortgages owing, credit at the max, loans outstanding and families living paycheque to paycheque. There are tears — no one likes to face the reality that their take-out coffee is putting them on the brink of financial disaster — but Sellery and Samra are sympathetic and don’t talk down to the residents.


Saturday’s debut presents the community their first tasks, giving up their credit cards for a week and dealing solely with cash for purchases, as well as digging through their homes for extra cash, be it in the form of a piggy bank, what’s hidden in the couch or even beer empties. One couple is shocked to find they have hundreds of dollars in empty bottles just sitting in the garage.


The next step in Episode 1 has the families meeting with H&R Block representatives, with many discovering more money owing to them through unclaimed benefits and other loopholes.


Million Dollar Neighbourhood is successful as a TV series on two fronts. Firstly, it’s a wonderful educational tool for a person like myself. I plan to dig through the house on the weekend, rooting through dirty laundry for an errant change that might be hiding there.


Secondly, and most importantly, the program initiates communication between the families taking part, leading to a tighter community on the whole. An email system and Facebook page for the participants gets people talking and supporting each other along the way. No one feels alone in their Week 1 quests, and though future installments tease screaming and some ill-will, overall it appears to be a worthwhile exercise for everyone involved.


At the end of the 10 weeks, Aldergrove is hoping to save $1 million. If they do it, one family out of the 100 will be rewarded $100,000 for their role in the town’s success story. Do they make it? I’m betting they do.


Now, if you’ll excuse me, I have some empties to return to the beer store.


Million Dollar Neighbourhood debuts Sunday, Jan. 22, at 8 p.m. ET/5 p.m. PT on OWN.




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