I always struggle when trying to educate friends and family with little to no personal finance and investing knowledge. As a result, I’m always interested in ways to introduce personal finance and investing knowledge to this group of people. One way I thought of is to introduce them to great shows / videos already out there in popular culture or on the Internet.
In today’s article, I compile a list of my favourite finance themed shows / videos that newbies can enjoy and the lessons they can learn from them.
The Big Short
The Big Short is a comedic portrayal of 3 independent groups of investors who bet against the housing market in the years prior to the great subprime mortgage debt crisis of 2008. It traces their struggles against the financial system and highlights the various nodes of the system that were asleep at the wheel. With an ensemble cast of some really big names, this movie is certainly no B grade movie.
Some key takeaways from this movie:
- The financial system is full of conflicts that collectively can work against investors. Trust but verify everything you hear.
- The struggles faced by the investors is a good example of the quote by John Keynes – The Market can stay irrational longer than you can stay solvent. Always make sure you can afford the position you take as investment theses can take a long time to play out.
It is probably the single most watched movie on my Netflix account as I re-watch it often to remind myself of how broken the system can be and to constantly have some skepticism in my own investment journey.
The Wolf of Wall Street
The Wolf of Wall Street is a comedic portrayal of stockbroker Jordan Belfort’s life when he founded Stratton Oakmont, a stockbroking firm that combined high pressure sales techniques and a lack of ethics to defraud investors in the 1990s. Beyond the nudity and swearing, the core lesson for me was taught in the scene at the start of the movie with Leonardo di Caprio and Matthew McConaughey.
Yet another reminder on the conflicts in the financial system.
Shark Tank is actually more of a show about entrepreneurship, but I’ve included it here as it teaches a lot about business models. This is important as investors need to be aware and familiar with how companies make money to assess the viability of the business.
The show is essentially about angel investing. Each episode is about a group of multimillionaires / billionaires (known as Sharks) listening to pitch after pitch and negotiating deals to invest in these family-owned companies or start-ups.
The main lessons I’ve learnt from this show comes from the Q&A process of each pitch and the kinds of things the Sharks look out for before investing, things like scalability of the business, economic moat and competitive advantage.
Last Week Tonight
I’m personally a big fan of stand up comedy and late night talk shows. As such, I’ve included one highly educational show – Last Week Tonight with John Oliver. Technically, this show is not strictly finance themed, but the range of topics inform me greatly about the social economic issues that the US and sometimes the world faces. There are also personal finance/business related episodes like the following:
- US Corporate Taxes
- Corporation consolidation
- Multi-level Marketing
- Auto lending
- Predatory lending
- Retirement plans
Although the content has a large US focus, the core lessons are still applicable in most cases. Adding comedy to these serious issues make it easier for people to understand and learn, something I’m in favour of.
Another honorable mention is Patriot Act with Hasan Minhaj on Netflix which adopts a similar format as John Oliver, just with way more screens on set.
This 6 episode documentary covers various scandals involving various companies / individuals like the Volkswagen emissions scandal, HSBC’s lax AML compliance standards and Valeant Pharmaceuticals’ (Now known as Bausch Health Companies) high drug prices. There’s even an episode about Donald Trump’s history as a confidence man.
A useful lesson in fraud and the extent to which companies go to to hide it.
The China Hustle is a documentary detailing the phenomenon of fraudulent Chinese companies listing overseas in the 2000s. In Singapore, these companies are often referred to as S-Chips. These companies have defrauded many investors as a result.
The key lesson to learn from this documentary is to be cautious with Chinese companies listing overseas and to be always skeptical of financial data as these can be manipulated.
Becoming Warren Buffett
Warren Buffett is arguably the most famous investor to have walked this earth. This biography traces Warren’s humble roots to his still humble lifestyle now. It also covers his investment philosophy.
This documentary to me is a lesson in taking the long term view, avoiding lifestyle inflation and ultimately, a lesson in living life itself.
How the Economic Machine Works by Ray Dalio
Ray Dalio is the founder of Bridgewater Associates, one of the largest hedge funds in the world. In this video, he explains in simple and animated terms market and debt cycles.
If you can only watch 1 show, definitely watch this one. With an understanding of market cycles, you are better equipped to navigate them as well as understand when to buy and sell investments from a macro-economic view.
If you are new to investing and finance, learning about it can be tough. Hopefully you all find these shows / videos useful in your personal finance learning journey.
Do you have any shows / videos that you feel should be part of this list? Do share with me in the comments.
If you missed my previous post
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