Stockbrokers, accountants, millionaires - we've seen them dealing with their financial dramas on the big screen. Hollywood likes to spin a tale around love and money and sometimes makes things up as they go along to suit the story. Think you can tell the real deal from the reel deal? Here's a list of movie money myths, and the truth behind the story. (Do the characters in these classic films reflect what it's like to work on Wall Street? Find out here. Check out Financial Careers According To Hollywood.)
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Movie Myth No. 1: Investment Bankers Are Rich and Ruthless
OK, so maybe Bernie Madoff, although not an investment banker, sort of proves this myth - he was certainly ruthless. The reality about the average investment banker is not nearly as black-and-white as Hollywood movies like "Wall Street" or "Boiler Room" would like you to think, however. Most investment bankers are men and women who go to work, often in a cubicle, and most of the time not even on Wall Street. The truth is that life as an investment banker is pretty normal - and most of them don't smoke cigars either. (This job takes guts, hard work and a predator's instincts. Do you have what it takes? See Swim With The Sharks As A Stockbroker.)
Movie Myth No.2: Women Can't Handle Money
Hollywood often uses stereotypes to keep things simple, and women get the worst financial deal. Rich girls are always shopping, like Alicia Silverstone's character in "Clueless," or they marry for money, like Sharon Stone's character in "Casino." In "Indecent Proposal," Demi Moore's character must decide whether or not to sleep with a man for money - a million dollars, no less. The truth is that most women go to work every day to earn a living (and not in the oldest profession in the world, thank goodness) or are busy raising children - the spoiled, supported woman Hollywood likes to depict is just a stereotype.
Movie Myth No.3: Rich Guys Always Hang Out at the Golf Course
It's your typical scene: the detective is investigating Mister Fatwallet, the murder suspect and millionaire. So naturally, he goes to the golf course, because that's where all the rich people hang out, right? Actually, a full 80% of millionaires created their own wealth through hard work, meaning that they do much more than just play golf all day.
Movie Myth No.4: All You Need Is a Break
It's not easy living paycheck to paycheck like most of us do - and Hollywood knows exactly how to play on our hopes. All you need is a break, right? You just have to win the lottery or get on a TV game show, like in "Slumdog Millionaire" to get out of your financial jam. The reality is that these types of breaks are rare. The odds of winning the average lottery are approximately one in 18 million - you're about six times more likely to be struck by lightning. The boring truth is that the best way to get rich is to just save your money and work hard.
Movie Myth No.5: The Universe Will Right All Financial Wrongs
The greedy man got his money, but then loses it all by some act of fate - like in "Solitary Man." Thankfully, our greedy man has realized that money doesn't matter, and in a true Hollywood ending, it all works out anyway: he gets the job, the money and the happiness. The reality is that Bernie Madoff is in jail, but few of his victims got their money back, your neighbor is still out of a job, and your paycheck doesn't actually stretch at all. But it sure is nice to watch a happy ending, right?
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Movie Myth No.6: It's Love or Money
Back to "Indecent Proposal," where Demi Moore's character is seduced by a million dollars (and Robert Redford, of course) - will she choose the love for her husband over the pay for infidelity? It's a crazy concept, but Hollywood loves to make its characters choose between love and money, as if those are mutually exclusive. Just look at movies like "Jerry McGuire." The reality is that millionaires are typically married - proof that love and money coexist just fine, as long as you put the cap back on the toothpaste.
The Bottom Line
How did your financial knowledge stack up against Hollywood movie myths? We all know a movie is just a work of fiction, and that reality means a job, cubicle, and commuter traffic. Still, at the end of the day, it sure is nice to sink into the couch with some popcorn, a movie and a happy ending - even if some of it is built on a Hollywood money-myth. (It's been 10 years in the making, but you can now bet on which movies will hit it big or which will flop. To find out how, read Invest In Hollywood With The Film Futures Market.)
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