Money – who wants to be a billionaire?

Money - Who wants to be a millionaire?Do you dear reader want to become rich beyond all your wildest imagining, all without having to work? Catch? There’s no catch, what do you take me for?!

Money is a new three-part documentary, currently showing on BBC 2, presented by Vanessa Engle, exploring our personal attitudes to money. Vanessa Engle also produced and directed Money and is building up an impressive CV of singular documentary-style series such as Jews, Lefties and from last year Women.

The first episode ‘Who Wants to be a Millionaire?’ asks if anyone can get rich if they truly apply themselves? And by rich it is meant material wealth – put aside any thoughts here of a pursuit for spiritual and or philosophical fulfilment. And do not spend time to consider whether some professions may lend themselves to great wealth more easily than others, or that others might be more rewarding of dedication than other career paths. No this not about any laborious get-rich slowly-and-surely and then only perhaps.

Vanessa Engle

Vanessa Engle

No, this is your do nothing or something very close to nothing and get rich doing it, and pronto, do you hear!

How we can get the most from doing the least possible.

Yes, do not exhort us here to study hard, work hard and with a bit of luck thrown in we will conquer all we survey, malarkey.

No, this is your classic get-rich-quick scam coughs! scheme – I wonder in their history if there has ever been a scheme that was not a sham, a scam, a spam? You know the thing – ‘I earned £1238.29p in one day for just two hours work just for undertaking some routine task but with a special unknown secret which I will disclose to you, because frankly I like you, you have a nice face, so because I like you I am offering you it for a special time-limited price of £99.99 – sadly as much as I do like you, and I really do like you, this is a one time offer, so act and act now etc etc’. We know who is getting rich here. Or so we might think. But as this documentary shows there really is one born every second. Sucker that is. Incidentally there is available another version of this post which shares some of my own secrets to instant wealth – just contact me and for a £10 PayPal donation I will share it with you.

These days with a documentary as likely to be a mockumentary it is not always immediately clear if what we are watching is some serious exposé or a dry spoof. Was this another Brass-eye or the real Alan Whicker?

Vanessa Engle was adopting the Louis Theroux approach to documentary-making and interviewing – the give them enough rope and let them hang themselves slowly technique. Nothing we could possibly script could outdo the words coming out of their own mouths of their own free-will. You never have to make it up!

Money - Who wants to be a millionaire?

The ones born every second

This program looked at both those getting rich off the schemes and those getting schemed by those who have gotten rich by them.

Those generally getting rich being those promoting and selling them – who write expensive books and run even more expensive intensive weekend seminars. Those generally not getting rich being those who read said expensive books and sign up to said expensive seminars.

Those providing these schemes are referred to, by themselves at least, as Wealth Trainers or Gurus (the latter term always a red-flag in my book) featured in this episode were Robert Kiyosaki and T Harv Eker (a botch of consonants and vowels half-heartedly attempting to be a name). Both have websites I am sure and equally certainly only a few seconds after having landed on the home-page we will be bombarded by pop-ups asking us to sign up now for life-changing wealth-enhancing secrets in the form of downloadable e-Books. I don’t actually know this but I have a sense that I do – call it my sixth sense for bullshit. You reader are a responsible adult and quite capable of making your own decision as whether you wish to venture forth into their web-domain.

Not all of those who try to get rich quick get poorer even more quickly. Some do actually hit the jackpot – and I think jackpot is the key phrase here!

Money - Who wants to be a millionaire?The program starts by one of those jackpot winners – a married-couple sitting on a good size property portfolio and living comfortably off its combined rental income but equally tellingly making even more income by marketing their success to others – I got rich quick so you can too sort of thing.

And the husband of this couple casually making this gob-smacking statement

there is enough money in the world for everyone to be millionaires!

Even if there was and we each received a million-dollar cheque I am thinking that there might then be rapid price rises – excitingly, frighteningly called hyper-inflation – and we would be none the wealthier for all those extra zeroes on each of our respective bank balances. For any excessive wealth to exist there must exist alongside it an excessive level of poverty? But I digress. The husband however would not be put-off by my Marx-Lite dialectic and indeed goes on to add that the reason that we do not live in a world full of millionaires is because most of us choose not to be a millionaire. Content instead to tend our gardens and stare wistfully at TV programs like this.

Actually this was not the first clip in this program –  the opening, fleetingly, laying-the-groundwork clip was one of these wealth guru’s asking, no imploring, their audience, whether they wanted to be rich and whether they wanted to be happy and – wait for it – whether they wanted to be rich and happy. Yes please and can I have a side-order of spiritual fulfilment too? I can?, lovely!

Cue Travie McCoy and Billionaire –

I want to be a billionaire so frickin’ bad, buy all the things I never had

(We were incidentally beyond the water-shed but it was the version with the cuddly F Word that was being used not the moral-corrupting Gordon Ramsay patent-applied version carousing our apparently innocent ears.)

playing on the program soundtrack as we witness hordes of the wealth-expectant as if they were attending church and a congregation waiting to be blessed the ancient secrets of extreme wealth for very little effort from this alchemist preacher of the cash-dispensing pulpit.

And let me be clear I am not disdaining any of them their desire to get rich, no matter how quick and easy they seem to think it should come. I am no self-lacerating protestant work-ethic touting nine-to-five wage-slave worker-drone cheer-leading Neo-Con lackey me! What is it with working hard to get by if you can work smart and fly high? We already have programs tapping into this entrepreneurial spirit such as Britain’s Next Big Thing and Dragon’s Den but it is usually notable from watching such programs that those who prosper do so not as a means to an end of luxury and idleness but as an almost accidental by-product. Such self-made (not lottery-made and inheritance-made) millionaires usually live to work not to escape work – however cash rich they become they are usually forever time poor.

Being cash-rich and time-rich now there’s an elusive butterfly

Money - Who wants to be a millionaire?The first of those trying to net this gossamer butterfly was Janice, a 38 year old leisure nurse from Ilford Essex – for Janice though The Only Way Is Out of Essex. Janice has post-it notes strewn across her furnishings and fittings with statements such as ‘I am a Millionaire’ and ‘Health and Wealthy’ alongside recycled food jars now serving as penny-expectant piggy-banks as she sings ‘Ka-ching’ whilst loading another tuppence into their plastic bowels.

She might get penny rich but she is clearly pound poor. Her largest account balances alas are negative being the tens of thousands she has racked up on her credit cards attending wealth creating seminars and purchasing the various attendant merchandise.

One particular post-it note says ‘I’m a millionaire, thank you’! When asked by Vanessa Engle who she was thanking she without much hesitation retorted ‘The universe’! A slightly quasi-religious secular variation of praying for rain to fertilise your crops, the crops in this case being – well there’s your first problem – Janice is of the belief she should be visited upon by vast riches just for being, well, Janice. A gross and grotesque sense of entitlement if ever there was one, but not one alas confined to Janice alone but to the hundreds and thousands who attend these wealth seminars.

These wealth seminars which are pyramid schemes of we get rich by picking your pockets and all you need to do is to find another thousand poor souls (literally and figuratively) to pick their pockets.

For Janice herself does have a job which is low paid with long hours and she is hard-working. She is charming too but alas easily charmed in return.

Money - Who wants to be a millionaire?The next featured looking to get rich were a young teenage couple – the girlfriend declaiming that she finds the whole idea of having a job quite ridiculous! To her a global paradise of jobless people – nothing being done save attending wealth seminars and those who provide them sunning themselves on beaches – but who to serve them their cold Martini’s the would-be waiters now closeted off in darkened rooms chanting into the ether ‘I am a deserving worthy individual, universe shower just a little of your vast wealth upon me’!

Vanessa Engle’s programs as noted lets those so filmed speak for themselves unscripted and the quotes they make are indeed priceless. The girlfriend then goes on to say quite reasonably that working for a pittance does not appeal and then states quite casually and extremely unreasonably

unlimited income is what appeals to me!

Not even mere vast riches but riches without end – is that too much for her to ask?!

In a later scene we see this teenage couple about to attend yet another seminar (surprising isn’t it that one seminar is never enough and that the failure of said seminar to make them wealthy encourages not discourages them to attend even more!) and with a Tesco plastic carrier bag in hand. When asked what the contents were they share some basic grocery because they say the cost of the meals on offer inside is very expensive – who would have thought that! Still a lesson is being learned – wealth protection is key to wealth accumulation!

Money - Who wants to be a millionaire?We learn that she was first set on this path by reading Rich Dad Poor Dad by self-styled wealth-guru Robert Kiyosaki at age 12 – what a book to read at age 12! She now has shelves and shelves of such books – Ka-ching – no not Janice stealing in from another scene but the ghostly voice of Kiyosaki himself!

Later we see the two of them visiting an Estate Agents with another male couple in tow as their mentor and consultant respectively (for very reasonable fees we can but assume) and absurdly informing the estate agent that they are looking to set up a property portfolio and to buy a number of flats and houses in the local area. We had previously discovered that they have a net worth just shy of less-than-zero – with what were they going to buy all these properties then let alone one? – how much bricks-and-mortar can fairy-dust buy?!

These are but two of those followers (for it is a kind of money cult?) featured in this program to give you a taster – I am not going to detail the others as the program itself does an excellent job of portraying them and their money-filled dreams.

We though also get to see the wealth gurus themselves – in action delivering their seminars on stage, their luxurious homes and cars, and in face to face interview with Vanessa Engle.

Money - Who wants to be a millionaire?

Robert Kiyosaki

The first so introduced is the aforementioned Robert Kiyosaki and his book ‘Rich Dad Poor Dad’ – wealth-guru, author, thin-air salesman, scam-artist. These are words that some might say about him. I am letting you make up your own mind though!

He shared with Vanessa Engle the very reasonable observation that wealth is about knowing your assets from your liabilities – giving an example that if he had a car and rented it out as a cab it would be an asset but if he merely owned the car it would be a liability. This at least was not quack-economics.

Later we see the man with the tongue-strangling name T Harv Eker author of ‘Secrets of the Millionaire Mind’. Like Robert Kiyosaki (oh dear reader I hope their names aren’t trade-marked and that I need to pay rental income to them for each time I use them!) he has the habit of slurring words into the microphone sprouting out of his left-ear as he addresses his audience – the sound of their own oily words leaving a bad taste in their mouth that even their own silvery tongues cannot overcome?!

Unlike Robert Kiyosaki who does at least believe to become rich you need to be financially educated Mr Eker (for I shall now refer to him as that) – extols only that you need to believe and chant ‘I am a successful money manager’. At this point I could only break into laughter wondering if perhaps this was a Ricky Gervais out-take I was in fact watching after-all!

I did not laugh as much as his next declaration that

I am probably best known as a cross between Donald Trump and Buddha

The most tangential script-writer could never have written that!

Money - Who wants to be a millionaire?

T Harv Eker…ick!

There is nothing I would even try adding to this statement! T Harv Eker presents a telling concoction of smiling mouth and unsmiling eyes. His memorable quotes does not exhaust with the above frightening cartoon hybrid as he goes on to say ‘I’m a multi-multi-millionaire and you can say multi for a couple of minutes’. And an endearing way of not flouting his wealth in our faces.

Mr Eker is quick to let us know that he is first and foremost a scientist not a spiritualist – a scientist in the same way that an Astrologer or a Creationist considers themselves one. The changes to our mental attitudes we must make he says are to our neurological pathways not our Chakras – he then goes on to witter – to talk – about Energy throwing in Einstein’s iconic E=MC squared for good and meaningless measure.

Some viewers watching this episode will doubtless be outraged and angry not just at these schemes but at this program itself – that it should be investigating and exposing these charlatans. But the program with its gentle-questioning of all concerned is eliciting far more openness to the TV cameras and revelation of its practices and thoughts than if this was a hard-hitting exposé where doubtless those providing the schemes would have then retreated to the isolated cold grandeur of their gated homes and those buying into them to their bedsits with curtains closed.

Vanessa Engle’s gentle method of enquiry throws far more light upon this twilight world.

The program ends to the the sound of Cole Porter’s “Who Wants to be a Millionaire’ with Frank Sinatra crooning in duet to Celeste Holme and answering ‘I don’t’

Who wants a marble swimming pool? I don’t. Because all I want is you.

If only the young teenage couple would realise the riches they already have.