America is going through a financial crisis not seen in a generation -- and a torrent of information about stocks, treasuries, bankruptcies, derivatives, confusing credit card and mortgage rates makes you feel like you need an MBA to open the newspaper.
But do you ever wish somebody would just explain the everyday stuff -- the basic "smarts" of dealing with money? ABC News financial contributor Mellody Hobson has teamed up with an all-star cast of celebrities for a one-hour special to air Friday to do just that.
Watch Mellody Hobson's special UN-BROKE: What You Need to Know About Money. Friday 9 p.m. Eastern.
It's an unconventional look at the fundamentals of everyday finance with all the facts about credit cards, mortgages, stocks and bonds, investing and 401(k)s, in a fresh new format combining information and humor.
Hobson and her guests have a number of tips, including getting rid of credit card debt -- "It's like a noose around your neck," said Hobson.
Other nuggets: how to buy a house you can afford, and this season's essential financial accessory: an emergency cash reserve fund. And you'll be popular at your next cocktail party: you'll be the one who actually knows the difference between stocks and bonds, and why the Nasdaq is not the same as the S & P 500. And who will give you all this info? Will Smith, Seth Green, The E*Trade babies, even the Jonas Brothers.
(The special also throws a few personal tidbits at us about Hobson. For instance, her principal diet: vitamins, nuts and chewing gum.)
Actor Will Smith said that up until now the financial talk hasn't been aimed at everyday Americans. Sitting in a room full of wonky financial experts, he asks them to explain the recession in simple terms. "Imagine I was a person. How would you talk to me?" he said. Smith said he and others want to know: Where are the jobs? Where did the money go?
"We need to know how to handle this crisis," Smith said. "People work hard for their money. Are banks an OK place to put it? Is the stock market even going to exist when I'm 50? Do average folks get to retire anymore? How do we still reach our dreams?"
"Can you imagine a life in which money did not cause you any worry, or confusion, or anxiety? A life in which you are in control of your money and your money is not in control of you. Imagine being unbroken," Hobson said.
The point of the show is not to judge people or make them feel bad or even place blame. Let's face it, Hobson said, most people don't have a good financial education.
"How would you know? It amazes me, you don't learn about money in school in America," Hobson said. "You can go to a high school in America today and take woodshop or auto but not a really good class on money and investing. That boggles the mind."
"We've all been handed the keys to our financial future and nobody's given us driver's ed," she added.
Actors Antonio Banderas and Marisa Tomei talk about children and the perils of their credit card debt. They also discuss the importance of an emergency cash reserve fund.