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Skip the Finance Courses and Just Watch The Real Housewives

   Posted On: July 29, 2013  |    Posted In: Personal Finance 101  |     Posted by: Broke Millennial®

The Real Housewives franchise debuted with the ladies of Orange County in March of 2006, a year before the great recession. By the time season two aired, the housing bubble had burst and Americans found themselves drowning in debt and unemployment.

Seven years, seven American cities, and 31 seasons later, millions of dedicated viewers have witnessed the housewives’ lavish vacations, extravagant shopping sprees, bitter betrayals, wine-throwing, table flipping, weddings, divorces, and numerous plastic surgeries. But if you take a few minutes to look past the duck lips and tabloid fodder these ladies have given viewers a handbook to a sound financial future.

1. Big Houses Don’t Equal Wealth
Whether they’re filming in Atlanta or Beverly Hills, each episode features a housewife making an expensive purchase, receiving a pricey gift or breaking ground on her dream home. There is no denying, on camera, all of these women are living the American dream.

While they appear wealthy, much of this lifestyle is fueled by a “keeping up with the Joneses” mentality, which wallets are unable to support. Most seasons feature a housewife declaring she’s actually unable to pay her bills while she gets her fancy car repossessed and stops building her dream home. Lynne Curtin, former OC Housewife, even received an eviction notice while the cameras were rolling.

Lynne, is far from the only one with reported financial issues. She keeps company with current housewives Taylor Armstrong, Teresa Giudice, Kim Richards, Sonja Morgan, and Cynthia Bailey.

Some housewives do have the wealth to back up their elaborate lifestyles. According to, Beverly Hills Housewife Lisa Vanderpump and her husband Ken Todd are worth a combined $150 million. Independently, Lisa is worth $65 million.

2. Overspending Leads to Bankruptcy

It’s simple economic math, spending more than you earn creates a deficit. If you create a deficit you won’t be able to pay your bills. However, in an effort to give the illusion of wealth and happiness, a few housewives spent their way into bankruptcy court.

New York City Housewife, Sonja Morgan landed herself in $19.5 million of debt as a result of some bad investments and a bitter divorce. New Jersey Housewife, Teresa Giudice and her husband Joe filed for bankruptcy after amassing almost $11 million of debt on credit cards, mortgages and failed business ventures. The couple withdrew their bankruptcy claim amid allegations of fraud and they agreed to pay back their creditors.

Many other housewives have faced financial woes, particularly as a result of divorce court.

3. The Cost Of Divorce
The show is called The Real Housewives, but numerous cast members aren’t sporting diamonds on their left ring fingers. Over the course of the franchise viewers have watched 17 marriages crumble including Tamra Barney, Nene Leakes, Countess LuAnn de Lesseps, Adrienne Maloof, Jeana Keough, and possibly the most celeb-worthy, Camille Grammer (Kelsey Grammer’s ex-wife).

Amicable or not, divorce is expensive. It requires lawyers, the division of assets, and alimony and/or child support. The Real Housewives franchise shows viewers the drawn-out, costly process of a divorce. Especially when many of the housewives spend years battling for every penny they can from husbands who bankrolled their expensive lifestyles for years.

4. The Importance Of Discussing Finances With Your Partner

Dedicated Real Housewives viewers remember Slade Smiley as the original fame-monger. Slade made his debut in season one as the sugar daddy for OC cast member Jo de La Rosa. After the couple’s relationship imploded, and Slade lost most of his money in the recession, he suddenly reappeared a couple seasons later as the boyfriend OC housewife Gretchen Rossi.

Gretchen strolled onto the show as a blond-bombshell engaged to a gentleman 24 years her senior. Frankly, a drinking game could be made out of the number of times other housewives called her a gold-digger. A season later, Gretchen’s engagement ended and Slade entered stage left as her doting boyfriend, viewers immediately smelled producer’s intervention. But years have passed and the two are still together and *spoiler alert* engaged.

Poor-taste in men aside, Gretchen proved to have a strong financial sense about her when she refused to get engaged to Slade until he took control over his massive debt. An example for many millennials struggling with student loans and consumer debt, Gretchen and Slade prove to be a couple willing to engage in an open dialogue about their finances. Slade may always be the original Real Housewives scumbag, but the couple’s communication skills could defy franchise statistics and create a successful marriage.

5. Final Lesson: Create a Reality TV Show and Get Rich
Sure, The Real Housewives franchise is the ultimate guilty pleasure show. Yes, it perpetuates awful stereotypes about Americans, gluttony and consumerism. Okay, it’s upsetting these women bring in six-figure salaries for getting into cat fights on national TV. But millions of viewers keep coming back for more. Show creator Andy Cohen appreciates your viewership and is laughing all the way to the bank …
This piece was originally posted on PolicyMic

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17 responses to “Skip the Finance Courses and Just Watch The Real Housewives

  1. I’ve never seen any episodes of any of the Housewives shows but I think you’d really like the 30 for 30 episode “Broke” about how sports stars end up bankrupt after they get multi-million dollar contracts.It seems to go along with all of these points.

    1. Peach loves 30 for 30! I really do need to check it out, so thanks for the reminder. It’s truly amazing how quickly people blow through their money.

      1. Well the interesting thing about sports stars is 1) the contract mentioned to the public is before taxes and 2) they usually graduate without real practical skills that can be turned into a career after they retire from sports, which will happen at a very young age.

        If you’re used to living in luxury, then you stop getting a paycheck, even with a few million in the bank you won’t be able to maintain that lifestyle for your next 60 years.

  2. Urgh. I only watch Secret Life of an American Teenager and I thought the finale was one of the worst ever.

    But, I can’t watch this show (mostly because I don’t have cable). Great post though Erin. I do not understand people’s fascination with these type of shows, but people keep coming back.

    I suppose for any guilty pleasure show, it’s about escapism, I mean, that’s what most tv shows are made for. 🙂

    1. They put episodes up on Hulu. 🙂

      Recently, they did a 100th episode celebration for the Real Housewives of OC and your last point was addressed with show creator, Andy Cohen. I thinks people are drawn to it because it feels like a fantasy world, but these women also go through the same issues as “regular Americans.” They’ve faced bankruptcy, evictions and foreclosures so it’s appealing to people struggling.

      I watch it because it’s entertaining and I feel no matter how crappy life is I still I have it more together than these grown women!

  3. I have never watched Real Housewives, but these are definitely all good lessons. Keeping up with the Joneses is something that more people need to stop doing!

    1. I find it wildly entertaining, but also depressing how emotionally stunted so many of the women (and men) turn out to be.

  4. Never watched it myself either (I have a TV problem though so it’s best I don’t) but this is a great post. It’s nice that it’s not completely sugar coated so it doesn’t make everyday people feel as bad about what they “could have” and hey, who knew reality TV could provide some tough life lessons.

    1. Thanks, Lauren! I think the key takeaway from the entire franchise is really the “rich” often aren’t as rich as they appear. A few of the women are insanely wealthy (specifically the Beverly Hills ladies) but many of them are putting up a front.

  5. I have seen real housewives in the past but just couldn’t tolerate it as a whole. Actually any reality show where people are just terrible to each other. My guilty pleasures are CW shows…like Vampire Diaries. lol! I also like some reality competition shows like So You Think You Can Dance.

  6. Who’s the “tardy for the party” lady from RHO Atlanta? Wasn’t she the one who was spending money remodeling a rental property and then she got kicked out? So sad that people think you’re doing well in life if you can show off fancy goods, even if they’re bought on credit.

    Also, my fiancee works in tv post production and has always worked for reality tv shows. All the shows he’s worked on have had a lot of faked or producer-altered elements–not anywhere near “real life”.

  7. Haha, I love lesson 5. The only way divorce is inexpensive is if you have no assets and no kids. It’s so silly how people who have so much still want more just to keep up with those around them. I wonder how much they could have given back instead of investing so much in a house they couldn’t even finish.

  8. Haha, lots of good financial lessons here, at least on the side of what not to do. Although the one example of the gold-digger making sure there actually was gold to dig was pretty interesting. Motivations aside, it was a strong move.

  9. Wow. I’ve never watched any of these shows but after reading this story, I feel well-versed in all the drama! My guilty-pleasure is Downton Abbey and there are similar money themes threaded through that series. Bad investments, foolish hires and marrying for love (for shame!) all contribute to money problems in early 20th century England and modern-day America!

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