How to Get Rich (now on Netflix) is being billed as a Marie Kondo-style advice series for your checking and savings and retirement and investment accounts, and you do have all those accounts, RIGHT? Sure you do. Ramit Sethi hosts this eight-episode series, which is slightly mistitled, since his gimmick is teaching people to live their “rich life,” which, if I’m interpreting it correctly, is less about having 10 million bucks in your savings account, and more about eliminating money as a source of unhappiness in your life. The series profiles a variety of people, from working-class folk to six-figure earners, and functions on two appealing levels: It promises to churn up some advice you may find applicable to your own situation, and also exposes other people’s financial information, allowing us to judge them for all the mistakes they make! Juicy!
HOW TO GET RICH: STREAM IT OR SKIP IT?
Opening Shot: A sped-up time-lapse shot of people bustling about near the Brooklyn Bridge.
The Gist: Meet Sethi: He’s a self-made entrepreneur who wrote the bestselling book I Will Teach You to Be Rich, which apparently helped make him rich, so he must know what he’s talking about. He’s going to spend the next eight episodes helping a cross-section of Americans sort out their financial situations so they can live their “rich life,” which he says will allow people to spend more money on what they love than on what they hate. Before we get to this episode’s “contestants,” we get a brief tease of future profilees, one of whom is admonished by Sethi: “You have a checking account for your dog, but not a retirement account?” He’ll spend six weeks with each participant, covering everything from credit card debt to purchasing a home to saving for retirement.
The first thing Sethi does before he meets with people? He examines their credit card and checking account statements for forensic evidence of financial not-so-smartness. In this case, he spots overdraft fees, which occur because, after Seth does some math, this family takes in $24,000 a month, but spends $27,000. They are Matt and Amani. She’s an account executive. He’s a stay-at-home dad who quit being an electrical engineer to take care of their two daughters, and because the frequent travel just wasn’t working for the family. Sethi sits down to interview them and we quickly wonder if he’s not only a financial guru, but a marriage counselor, because Matt and Amani start fighting right away, about bigger issues than money – how they communicate, self-worth and who controls what around here, very sensitive stuff like that. Are we surprised? No, because if you’ve never had a fight about money with a significant other that didn’t turn into a fight about bigger things than money, then you exist in a culture that has yet to embrace a currency-based financial system. Sethi gives Matt and Amani “homework” – a journal full of questions to address – which he does for everyone he consults with.
Next are Donnell, a retail worker, and Monique, a self-employed woodworker. They have three kids, a grandchild and about $200,000 in debt. Their credit scores are shaky. Her income is up and down. They have piles and piles and piles of – no, not unpaid bills, but checking and savings accounts, for some reason. He has, like, nine checking accounts or something. And she just bought a $1,300 purse. Surprise: Sethi doesn’t jump on her shit for buying it. He has other ways to go about this stuff. They want to buy a house, and communicate better about money, which they’ve determined is “taboo” when it probably shouldn’t be. Sethi’s going to crunch some numbers on home ownership for them while they do their homework.
Finally, there’s Nathalie. Her daughter Nicole reached out to Sethi via social media because she’s concerned about her mother’s spending habits. Sethi looks at her accounts and sees huge cash infusions – hundreds of thousands in some cases, and a monthly $25,000 trust fund. And hundreds of thousands go right back out. She has diddly-squat saved. Nathalie picks up Sethi in Ferrari, in front of all the swank-ass retailers on Rodeo Drive. She lives a rather extravagant lifestyle, and looks the part. Her father was quite wealthy, but she was raised by her mother, who wasn’t. She opened a restaurant with dreams of franchising it, but she spent six times more on it than she intended, only to see it shut down in the wake of the COVID pandemic. She admits to spending half a MILLION bucks a year “shopping” – she has closets and racks full of designer clothing. And yet here’s Natalie, revealing that her mom struggles to pay her college tuition. Nathalie seems pretty guarded, and not quite all-in on having a stranger examining her financial life, but Sethi thinks he can reach her by poking a little hole in her “bubble” first.
Our Take: Nobody’s problems are solved yet – if any resolution can be reached, it’ll be in future episodes. This one ends with a pretty acrimonious fight between Matt and Amani, the latter of whom apparently has a tendency to shut down conversations when they get too difficult. Any chance some of that $27k monthly expenditure includes couples-therapy sessions? Maybe it should.
So Sethi has more cut out for him than just doling out advice – he’s gotta get psychological on these mofos. He comes off as a pretty confident and competent guy, and he doesn’t seem at all surprised by the emotional components of these endeavors. Money’s a touchysubject, and one of his goals is to make it less sensitive. This opening round of “contestants” consist of some fairly extreme cases, although Donnell and Monique’s situation is likely the most relatable, because they’re saddled with student-loan debt and have a modest dream of being lord and lady of their own plot of land (even though it seems like Sethi may try to convince them that that dream may not be financially beneficial for them in the long run).
It’s never not fascinating seeing how other people live, and How to Get Rich will satisfy your inner voyeur; it might also prompt a little self-analysis from viewers, should they see a bit of themselves in the folly of others. The subtext here is, these people have established a lot of not-so-great money-related and -adjacent habits, and it takes a Yoda like Sethi to step in and help them unlearn what they have learned. Some of his “live your rich life” self-help lingo can be a little irritating – he’s gotta sell his system to the people on the show, and books to the people watching it. But the opening episode provokes our curiosity to see if he succeeds in helping them not only reorient themselves financially, but make them a little bit happier than they were before.
Sex and Skin: None.
Parting Shot: Matt, frustrated after arguing with Amani, shuts off the camera and mutters that they should “cancel the show.”
Sleeper Star: Hats off to Nicole for noticing the flaws in her mother’s lifestyle and having the guts to contact Sethi about them. You wonder if Nathalie’s privately P.O.’d about it.
Most Pilot-y Line: “I’m Ramit Sethi, and I teach people how to live their rich life.”
Our Call: STREAM IT. How to Get Rich tackles a topic that people are often too scared to discuss, which makes shows of this sort fascinating. And Sethi seems like a reasonable guy with enough charisma and confidence to keep it afloat for eight eps. He’s not as amusing or lightly controversial as Marie Kondo — Sethi’s not likely to arouse our eyerolls like she can — but maybe that’s a good thing.
John Serba is a freelance writer and film critic based in Grand Rapids, Michigan.