Personal Finance at the Movies
There’s tons of blogs and online information about personal finance. No matter where you find your budgeting tips and financial info, we have to admit that the topic can be a little dry at times.
To keep you inspired to pursue your financial goals, we’ve put together a list of our top 14 movies that teach important finance lessons.
There's something here for all the family, so here's a great excuse for a movie night in.
14 finance lessons from the big screen
Grab some popcorn, and sit back to learn by watching the mistakes our favourite characters make while pursuing fame, fortune and monetary goals.
1. Always read the fine print
When Winnie the Pooh (2011) misunderstands a note from Christopher Robin he launches an unnecessary rescue mission to find his friend.
If only he'd sat down and read the note thoughtfully before taking action, this movie might not even have been made!
Pooh's adventures show that it really does pay to read the fine print before rushing into anything.
This is especially true, especially to financial commitments, where understanding the terms and conditions can make a huge difference to the cost of the financial product that you choose.
When you’re considering a new commitment or investment, make sure you understand what your obligations will be.
You want to consider if the option is the best fit for you, not just if it’s a good deal or investment in general.
Getting all the information and the right advice will make your finances run much more smoothly.
2. Who owns what?
In Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows, Part 2 (2011) Harry, Ron and Hermione venture into Gringott’s Wizarding Bank to retrieve the very valuable (and dangerous) Horcrux from a vault belonging to the LeStrange family.
Griphook, goblin and former employee of Gringott’s, bargains with Harry for the sword of Godric Gryffindor in exchange for help to penetrate the bank.
It's a trick though, he has no intention of giving Harry the sword, and he believes he's within his rights.
Make sure you understand who has rights over an asset you buy.
Goblin law holds that an asset is owned by the maker, not by anyone who subsequently buys it.
Griphook claims the sword was stolen from Ragnuk the First, the goblin who manufactured it and double-crosses Harry and crew.
How to avoid Harry's mistake:
When you’re buying property or assets, make sure you understand the property rights and who has ownership, possession or a right over the asset or property.
If you're buying a car, check the PPSR to make sure there isn't already a car loan secured to the vehicle.
You'll also want to be totally clear on whether your lender is taking security over your car as part of the loan contract.
Then make sure that you have the appropriate insurance in place if anything does happen to the car during the loan term.
3. Be honest with your friends about what you can afford
Bridesmaids (2011) is a light-hearted and dramatic look at the consequences of a very real-life scenario of friends with very different financial resources.
Annie Walker faces some very real financial challenges when her best friend Lillian marries a wealthy banker.
As maid of honour for her best friend, she’s challenged to stretch her money to keep up with the other bridesmaids' spending.
Our key takeaway from Bridesmaids is that it pays to be honest with your friends about what you can afford, and be sensitive to other people’s financial concerns.
Whether that means inviting friends over for dinner, instead of eating out, or choosing an affordable place for dinner, when you’re sensitive to your friends' needs, you’re more likely to keep them as friends.
This isn’t just a financial lesson, it’s a reminder of how important thoughtfulness and tact are in relationships.
4. Diversify your investments
We were looking for the perfect excuse to watch a movie starring Daniel Craig and Harrison Ford as Arizona cowboys, and here it is!
In Cowboys & Aliens (2011), a group of aliens land on earth with the intention of mining for gold to power their machines.
Unfortunately for the aliens, our heroes quickly thwart their plans, and they are forced to depart Earth when their leader is killed, but their ship is destroyed before they can make the escape.
Rather than risking everything in one venture, it's good to spread the risk, so if one venture hits trouble, you've got other financial backups.
5. Get creative with what you have
In Star Wars: The Force Awakens (2015) Rey salvages junk to make a living, becoming 100% self-sufficient on the basis of her up-cycling skills.
If you’ve just bought a house, or you’re just trying to knuckle down and save, what can you reuse or find?
Perhaps you can furnish your new place with second-hand furniture, or keep wearing the clothes you already have rather than spending money on new items.
Whatever your financial goal is, by getting creative with what you have you’ll save money for the important things down the track.
6. What's your attitude to money?
Groundhog Day (1993) is a story of a man who's stuck in a cycle until he eventually changes his attitude and moves forwards.
If you’re stuck in a financial rut, changing your attitude to money could really change your life.
When you adjust your spending to align with your true priorities and stop the financial leaks that don't give you any pleasure, you’ll be surprised how much further your money will go.
The first step is to work out what your big priorities in life are. When your money is spent 100% on goals you own and are proud of, making small sacrifices to stick within your budget will be much easier.
7. Seek advice when you need it
Confessions of a Shopaholic (2009) is a romantic comedy exploring the journey of a college graduate in New York City, and shows how using financial counselling may be the best way to get your spending back on track if it gets a little out of hand.
If you're looking to make the most of what you have, you might consult a financial planner, who can help you to make some wise investments and structure your assets to benefit you.
You can get free, independent and confidential advice. You don’t have to pay for these services - if a counsellor does ask you to sign up to a plan or pay for their services be sure to check out the free options first.
8. DIY helps you save
Katniss Evergreen demonstrates in the Hunger Games (2012) demonstrated clearly that being self-sufficient can save you a ton of money.
There are lots of ways to do this, from starting a garden in your backyard to set up a budget so can 100% afford everything you need.
Starting a regular savings habit to create an emergency savings fund will mean you don’t have to rely on payday lending or family and friends to get you through a difficult time.
You might learn some DIY as a new homeowner - this will save you tons of money down the track if you can fix basic issues around the home on your own.
Our DIY Tips for Home Owners is a great starting point to learn some new skills, and don’t be shy about asking the staff at your local hardware store for advice.
9. Start saving now
When it comes to finances, you want to take inspiration from Zuckerberg in the 2010 movie The Social Network and take action right away when you come across a good idea.
When Zuckerberg had the idea to add 'relationship status' to personal profiles on Facebook, he didn’t sit around and think about it for a few weeks before forgetting about it completely.
He acted right away, running across the university campus in the snow.
The sooner you start investing, or open that savings account, the greater rewards you’ll reap over the long term. This is the secret of compound interest!
If you’ve been putting off consolidating your super, or putting money into a high-interest term deposit, now is the time to act! The sooner you do, the greater the benefits you’ll reap in the future.
10. Attitude is everything
If you ever need a reason to dive into a Disney classic, it's to learn from Aladdin (1992) that you shouldn't let your income define you.
Even if you don’t have too much to work with, create a workable budget and keep working towards what you really want.
Your attitude to your money is far more important than how much you take home each week.
With the right attitude to money, you’ll see that you’ll find ways to make it go further and before you know it you’ll be moving towards achieving your goals.
Once your financial situation changes, remember where you’ve come from and stay true to your core values.
11. Be prepared for the unexpected
127 Hours (2010) is the story of an experienced canyoneer who gets trapped by a boulder. He's alone and undergoes a significant ordeal before extricating himself.
If you do go bouldering, remember to always tell someone where you will be. The lesson here is that unexpected occurrences can disrupt our everyday lives at any time.
Being prepared for the unexpected could mean having an emergency fund in place, or making sure you have the right life and income insurances.
12. Life needs to be balanced
The Devil Wears Prada (2006) explores work-life balance, and what can happen if things get out of hand.
With the right financial plans in place, you'll be able to find a balance between being able to afford the lifestyle that you want, as well as enough time outside work to enjoy your efforts.
This is where a financial planner can help you prepare for the future. Making a few financial ‘sacrifices’ won’t hurt at all if you achieve what you are really looking for, and get to spend more time enjoying your income.
13. Determination paves the path to success
Realising your financial dreams might take a bit of hard work along the way.
The Pursuit of Happyness (2006) puts in the hard yards and being determined to achieve your goal, even when you experience setbacks along the way, will set you on the track for success.
14. Create a plan and follow it through
You can achieve what seems to be an impossible goal if you take a strategic approach and follow through with it.
Just like Saroo in the Oscar-nominated film Lion (2016), creating a firm plan to reach your goal will make it achievable, no matter how overwhelming the challenge initially appears.
I hope you’ve enjoyed a lighter look at some of our favourite movies - and taken away some food for thought too. Next time you make popcorn and watch a film, you can say you’re looking for financial inspiration.