Maxed Out: Hard Times, Easy Credit – James D. Scurlock

Rating: 2/5

Maxed Out: Hard Times, Easy Credit is the companion book to the documentary movie of the same name. In Maxed Out, movie director and author James Scurlock travels across the United States interviewing people whose lives have been destroyed through ‘maxed out’ debt.

The focus of the book is primarily on those whose lives have been severely affected by debt, but it also focuses to a lesser degree on those who are trying to “save” people from debt. The stories in Maxed Out range from those who should have never been given loans in the first place to those who just failed to know their limits and stop borrowing. The book highlights the different tactics that lenders use to get people to take on debt and how, once they have debt, lenders weigh people down with high interest rates and complex fees.

The various tales provide a good insight into the debt culture of the United States and the parallels to what we are seeing in New Zealand are scary. After reading the book, you will take a different look at all the ads on TV for instant loans and ‘buy now, pay later’ offers. It will also make you think about saving money rather than relying on getting a loan when something unexpected happens.

While Maxed Out may be a good read, is fast-paced and targeted at a wide audience, it is also a bit too one sided. Spurlock did not do enough in getting the lenders’ side of the story or even bother to provide properly balanced coverage of the “debt culture” of the United States. Reading it did stimulate me to think and many points in the book are valid, however, at the same time it made me feel like I had been conned by a well-written biased dig at lending companies.