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10 Unforgettable Financial Lessons From The Most Entertaining Wall-Street Movies

10 Unforgettable Financial Lessons From The Most Entertaining Wall-Street Movies

Stories of America’s financial hub never fail to captivate audiences. The New York Stock Exchange is crammed into four rooms, and Wall Street itself is less than a mile long. However, this hive is the center of the world’s financial activity, resulting in an average of 5.7 billion shares traded each day, according to recent numbers published by the Wall Street Journal. Margin Call, Arbitrage, and the recent Wolf of Wall Street thoroughly examine the fast paced decisions, complexities, and even savagery of life in this iconic financial hub. Business leaders have to consider how they’ll react under immense pressure to keep their organizations afloat and customers happy. The protagonists in the following movies must face high-risk decisions and ethical issues on a constant basis. Decisions that can significantly impact their personal and professional lives. Here are 10 takeaway lessons we can gain from these films.

1

    Lesson #1: Be Prepared to Face Significant Risks

    The film Margin Call highlights some of the extremely sobering potential risks faced by traders working for Wall Street firms. In this sink or swim drama, the decision makers at the firm discover that they have to sell off extremely toxic securities, or their organization will sink. However, offloading these securities will only push the crisis onto their partners and clients, severing trusting relationships that the firm has been developing for years. It is a harrowing study of what traders will do when faced with situations of immense risk. Employees watch as their peers are laid off left and right, as the surviving firm representatives accumulate mass amounts of wealth, as the crisis affects everyone around them. Margin Call serves as a strong reminder that large gains are often made at the severe expense of others.

    “I want you to hit every bit you can find. Dealers, brokers, clients, your mother, if she’s buying….The ground is shifting below our feet, and apparently, there’s no other way out.” – Sam Rogers, Margin Call

    2

      Lesson #2: Don’t Cook the Books

      Arbitrage attracted critical attention and acclaim in 2012 with its list of stars, including Richard Gere, Susan Sarandon, and Tim Roth. Gere’s character, Robert Miller, is an unsavory magnate whose history of fraud remains unknown to his family. He’s altered his company’s financial data to keep his criminal acts concealed. Miller is involved in a car accident that results in a fatality, and tries to minimize his involvement. The ensuing investigation brings several questions to the surface for his family members, who catch onto the fraudulent activity. While Miller never has to legally answer for his crimes, his relationships with his family members have been irrevocably damaged. Arbitrage serves as a stark reminder that unethical business practices can come back to bite you. They can negatively impact your personal life and relationships as well.

      “Nothing is beyond money for you, Robert. We both know that.” – Jimmy Grant, Arbitrage

      3

        Lesson #3: Don’t Let Success Get To Your Head

        The Wolf of Wall Street is the epitome of a financial cautionary tale, demonstrating the new lows people can sink to when they amass their own fortunes quickly on Wall Street. Stockbroker Jordan Belfort can’t handle the quick success, and he spirals out of control with drug use, sex, insane purchases, and scams. This film teaches us that the fast accumulation of wealth doesn’t work out for everyone – in fact, it can lead people down paths of destruction. This adaptation is based on the real life experiences of Jordan Belfort, detailed in his 2007 memoir.

        “On a daily basis I consume enough drugs to sedate Manhattan.” – Jordan Belfort, The Wolf of Wall Street

        4

          Lesson #4: Those Who Rise the Highest Might Fall the Furthest

          The 1993 TV movie, Barbarians at The Gate, tells the story of F. Ross Johnson, a prestigious CEO who has risen to wealth and fame after working as a paperboy. This rags to riches tale initially seems like the perfect capitalist success story. However, things become sour as Johnson strives to save a company from doom by purchasing it. The ensuing drama demonstrates that millions of dollars are at stake. Quite often, CEOs betting on Wall Street are putting their fortunes on the line.

          “It’s not the company. It’s the credibility. My credibility. I can’t just sit on the bench and let other people play the game. Not my game. Not with their rules.” – Henry Kravis, Barbarians at the Gate

          If you’re looking for a completely different type of film that emphasizes this point, check out Assault on Wall Street. This over-the-top Hollywood action shootout shows what one murderous and vengeful broker will do during an economic recession.

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          “They should all know that I am out there, a soldier of the people.” – Jim Baxford, Assault on Wall Street

          5

            Lesson #5: Don’t Let Brokers Gamble with Institutional Funds

            Rogue Trader is a fictional adaptation of a real-life story, which illustrates one of the most catastrophic cautionary tales for banking institutions. Nick Leeson, portrayed by Ewan McGregor, gambles with illegal trades as a bank employee. His employers never think to monitor these trades, and the situation quickly derails.

            “I, Nick Leeson, have lost 50 million quid in one day!” – Nick Leeson, Rogue Trader

            6

              Lesson #6: Stop Trying to Impress Others

              Seth Davis (played by Giovanni Ribisi) is the hapless protagonist of Boiler Room, which also stars Vin Diesel. Seth drops out of college and seeks to regain the approval of his father, who is a really strict federal judge. To impress his dad, he begins to explore the world of stock brokerage. However, his quest to win over his father unwinds when Seth is confronted with extremely unethical business dilemmas.

              “I have a very strong work ethic. The problem was my ethics in work.” – Seth Davis, Boiler Room

              7

                Lesson #7: The Press Will Dig Up Your Dirt

                Investor Sherman McCoy, played by Tom Hanks, learned this the hard way in The Bonfire of the Vanities. He becomes the center of a media scandal as journalists and politicians warp a criminal investigation to suit their needs. McCoy’s life is completely picked apart by lawyers and journalists, who publicly reveal his infidelity, along with other dirty secrets.

                “You see, Sherman, who started with so much, lost everything. But he gained his soul. Whereas I, you see, who started with so little, gained everything.” – Peter Fallow, The Bonfire of the Vanities

                8

                  Lesson #8: It’s All a Big Gamble

                  Michael Moore’s eye-opening Capitalism: A Love Story documentary shows just how ill-informed Wall Street influencers are when it comes to where American funds are going. When Moore grills Elizabeth Warren about the location and status of federal bailout money, he was met with an “I don’t know” response. Moore spends the remainder of the film being met with red tape and closed doors as he tries to chase down answers on Wall Street.

                  “Don’t make any more movies.” – A Wall Street Businessman, Capitalism: A Love Story

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                  9

                    Lesson #9: Put Your Eggs in More than One Basket

                    The HBO film, Too Big To Fail, illustrates the false confidence and extremely risky deals made by American financial institutions in 2008, which lead to the financial crisis and recession. Unfortunately, a pattern of mergers led to a very small group of institutions accountable for massive amounts of U.S. wealth. With few accountability measures in place, these banking giants were slid downhill along with the country’s funds.

                    “AIG can’t pay. AIG goes under. Every bank they insure books massive losses on the same day. And then they all go under. It all comes down.” – Neel Kashkari, Too Big to Fail

                    10

                      Lesson #10: The Stress Can Be Really Bad for Your Health

                      American Psycho is an extremely memorable film adaptation of the Bret Easton Ellis novel. Institutions aren’t just at risk of meltdowns – the human psyche can suffer a breakdown due to the immense stress of life on Wall Street. Christian Bale horrifies us with his portrayal of serial killer Patrick Bateman, who has become completely warped by the kill-or-be-killed mentality of the New York investment world.

                      “I think my mask of sanity is about to slip.” – Patrick Bateman, American Psycho

                      Institutions rise and fall because of the decisions made on Wall Street. This very crucial location is the setting for countless real life and fictional drama that unfold as quickly as stock prices fluctuate. It’s no surprise that there have been dozens of films capturing the culture and figure of influence on Wall Street. Check out a few of these cinematic gems and see what financial lessons you walk away with.

                      Featured photo credit: Hernan Seoane via flickr.com

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                      Larry Alton

                      Business Consultant

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                      Last Updated on July 4, 2019

                      25 Killer Sites For Free Online Education

                      25 Killer Sites For Free Online Education

                      Whether you’re five or ninety five, the internet has a lot to offer. Particularly when the topic is education, the resources on the internet are endless.

                      Best of all, many high quality sites are completely free. From history to coding, excellent free online education awaits on the following 25 sites.

                      1. Coursera

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                        Coursera is a website that partners with universities and organizations around the world. This brings a wide variety of topics and perspectives to one searchable database.

                        Coursera is a powerful tool for free online education, and includes courses from many top universities, museums and trusts. This gives the site an extremely wide range of in-depth courses.

                        Coursera is extremely useful if you’re looking to study many different topics, or want courses from different schools and groups.

                        2. Khan Academy

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                          Partnering with many post secondary schools, Khan Academy offers a useable, well organized interface. Also curating many courses from around the web, Khan Academy offers impressive depth on many different subjects.

                          Among the more well known educational sites, Khan Academy is also incredibly useable, which may make it easier to keep learning goals.

                          3. Open Culture Online Courses

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                            If you are struggling to find exactly the material you are looking for, try Open Culture’s listing of free online education courses. The page highlights 1000 lectures, videos and podcasts from universities around the world. The site features a lot of material found only on universities private sites, all in easy to browse categories. This means you can find hundreds of university courses, without having to visit and search each university’s own site.

                            Open Culture’s list features courses from England, Australia, Wales and many state universities around the United States. A very helpful resource for finding many courses in one area of study.

                            4. Udemy 

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                              Udemy’s free courses are similar in concept to Coursera’s but additionally allows users to build custom courses from lessons.

                              Working with many top professors and schools, the site mixes the customizable platform of other sites with a heavy emphasis on top quality content. This is another site however, that mixes free and paid content.

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                              5. Academic Earth

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                                Another site with courses from many different schools is Academic Earth. Much like the three sites above, Academic Earth brings together top notch courses from many different sources, and focuses on offering a wide variety of subjects.

                                Academic Earth lists courses by subject and school, so it might be easier to find what you’re looking for.

                                6. edX

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                                  Another great option for free online education is edX. Also bringing together courses from many different schools, the site has impressive, quality information for everyone. edX covers a great range of topics.

                                  7. Alison

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                                    Unlike the previous sites on this lists, Alison is a free education site offering certification in some areas. Alison offers courses mainly in business, technology, and health, but also includes language learning courses.

                                    It’s a great option if users need certification for their learning as Alison also offers school curriculum courses.

                                    8. iTunesU Free Courses

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                                      A very convenient place for free online education is iTunesU, because it integrates seamlessly with your iPod, or any app-ready Apple mobile device. On iPad, iPhone, or iPod touch, users download the iTunesU app.

                                      Desktop users can access  iTunesU on the upper right hand corner of the iTunes Store. iTunesU is also convenient because the store is categorized much like iTunes.

                                      Users can search learning materials in many different ways, including genre and topic. However, courses are often a mix of free podcasts or videos, and paid content.

                                      ITunesU does include courses on a pretty wide scope of topics, but does not integrate with Android, Google or Windows mobile devices.

                                      9. Stanford Online

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                                        Your hub for all the online offerings from Stanford University, Stanford Online offers self-paced and session based courses. While Coursera features some courses from Stanford, many classes are only available via other hosts. Some courses require iTunes, but most are completed in your web browser.

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                                        Stanford Online is a great site for high quality courses, though the topics are somewhat limited compared to sites partnered with more than one school.

                                        10. Harvard Extension

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                                          Like Stanford Online, Harvard Extension features free online education courses from Harvard only. This is another excellent source for top notch course material, though the course variety is less rich than multi-school sites.

                                          Additionally, Harvard Extension allows you to search for courses by professional certificate. This makes it much easier if your online education goal includes certification.

                                          11. Open Yale Courses

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                                            Open Yale Courses echoes Harvard Extension and Stanford Online, in that it offers only courses from Yale. While the site is similarly limited to topics taught at the school, Open Yale Courses offers a lot of videos of actual campus lectures. The availability of videos makes the site a great option if you’re looking for quality courses, but learn better by watching than by reading.

                                            12. UC Berkeley Class Central

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                                              Much like the other schools on this list, UC Berkeley has a variety of free online education options. The school has slightly fewer courses than the schools above, but includes some supplementary lectures, webcasts and RSS Feeds, making it easy to keep up with the topics you choose.

                                              13. MIT OpenCourseWare

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                                                Similarly, MIT offers a variety of free courses. The school has a comparable number of courses to the schools above, plus includes very in-depth course materials on the subjects available. MIT also offers free RSS feeds, a convenient way to continue learning.

                                                14. Carnegie Mellon Open Learning Initiative

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                                                  Carnegie Mellon’s free online education site is comparable with the other school’s on this list, however, Open Learning Initiative also covers a smaller range of topics. But for the topics that are covered impressive, in-depth material is available.

                                                  15. Codecademy

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                                                    Codecademy is a website dedicated specifically to teaching coding. Where other coding sites follow an example/practice session workflow, Codecademy includes a live practice window. This means you can practice coding while still viewing the lesson material.

                                                    The courses at Codecademy are well written and easy to follow and the website is organized very nicely. Codecademy features a centralized dashboard where you can monitor your progress, plus organizes lessons into complete modules. This lets you learn an entire language without needing to pick the next course manually.

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                                                    16. Code

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                                                      Code is another website focused on coding and app writing. A site with high quality courses, Code also features learning options for kids.

                                                      In addition to kid friendly courses, Code offers free online education classes on a wide variety of technology topics. These classes include app writing, robotics and Javascript.

                                                      Most of the courses are also geared in a such a way that they can be useful in a classroom setting. This makes Code a great resource for harder to find coding topics, as well as various learning settings.

                                                      17. University of London Podcasts

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                                                        The podcast page on the University of London website is another great source for free education. While the courses are limited to podcasts, the site features podcasts from it’s own campus, as well as eleven universities in and around London. This gives learners a wide base of topics and lectures, but still ensures in-depth material.

                                                        18. University of Oxford Podcasts

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                                                          Similar to the University of London, the University of Oxford features many different podcasts. Most are public lecture series or lectures from visiting professors, with several different recordings available.

                                                          The advantage to this particular site is that podcasts are organized into series, making it easy to subscribe to multiple lectures on one topic. Another good site for thoroughly in-depth lectures.

                                                          19. BBC Podcasts

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                                                            For the more casual learner, the BBC offers a wide variety of podcasts on many different topics. Most podcasts are updated weekly, and focus on everything from finance, to sports, to current events.

                                                            Through the World Service line of podcasts, there are also many in different languages. The focus of these podcasts are less in-depth and theory based, which may be more accessible to the average person.

                                                            20. TED-Ed

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                                                              Another great destination for more general learning is TED-Ed. From the same people that brought you the all encompassing, motivational web series, comes a site chocked full of educational videos. Most include impressive animation, and all are ten minutes long or less.

                                                              Not only is TED-Ed an excellent site for the curious, it also includes supplemental materials and quizzes on the videos. This makes the site extremely useful in formal education settings, as well as in entertaining ways to brush up on new discoveries and topics.

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                                                              21. LessonPaths

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                                                                LessonPaths is another great tool for those looking for a more usable and convenient way to access learning material. On this site, users create link playlists of their favorite learning materials from other sites. Users then rank these collections, making it easy to find many different high quality, accessible sources on a given topic.

                                                                22. Memrise

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                                                                  Another impressive free online education site offering ease of use and convenience is Memrise. Available both on desktop and as an app, Memrise is a particularly powerful tool if you are studying a language. The site encompasses many other topics as well, though some of the course material is user generated content.

                                                                  Part of what makes Memrise special is their integration of games into the learning materials, mixing learning with entertainment.

                                                                  23. National Geographic Kids

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                                                                    The kids site for National Geographic is another site that makes free online education applicable for younger users. For those looking for kid friendly education, a large variety of games, puzzles, videos and photos keeps kids interested on this site.

                                                                    National Geographic Kids doesn’t organize learning into courses, making materials available by topic and medium instead. This makes National Geographic Kids a good option for those looking for a more casual learning environment.

                                                                    24. Fun Brain

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                                                                      Fun Brain is another good option for kids who want to learn online, but focuses on games and fun puzzles. Particularly focused on math and reading, Fun Brain’s game based approach can be valuable if the child in question struggles to pay attention.

                                                                      Fun Brain offers rewards and challenges as well, and is another site aimed at a casual learning experience for kids K-8.

                                                                      25. Whyville

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                                                                        Similar to the sites for kids free online education is Whyville a destination for preteen online learning. The site includes a variety of social features, with a focus on learning materials geared for young teens.

                                                                        Whyville also mixes in educational games, to make the site a well rounded option for kids too old for simple games, but too young for heavy reading based material.

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                                                                        Featured photo credit: Dai KE via unsplash.com

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