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Financial Lessons From Popular Movies and TV Shows 

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The best TV shows and movies are not only entertaining, but they also teach us something—often in between the tears or laughs. We walk away feeling like we learned something new, whether it’s something about the world, ourselves, relationships… or even money management and personal finance.

The most relatable financial lessons come when we get to watch a beloved character learn something. That’s not to say that the character always is aware of the financial education themselves. Sometimes, it works out that we as viewers learn the lesson, while the person on screen doesn’t necessarily catch on. (Cue screaming at the screen because, come on, it’s just so obvious!)

Whether we watch the characters on screen grow and learn or ultimately fail, these popular movies and TV shows can all teach us valuable financial lessons.

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Bridesmaids: Financial Peer Pressure

Throughout Bridesmaids, Kristen Wiig’s character, Annie, is down on her luck. She’s not able to afford a fancy Vegas bachelorette party, or to throw a fabulous bridal shower for her BFF. But she’s too embarrassed to be upfront about it, so she tries to just go along with everything. Disaster ensues (hilariously, for the viewer at least). The personal finance lesson Annie ultimately learns, and what the viewer learns? It’s totally OK to live within your means, and the people who love you will understand if you’re upfront about what you can and can’t swing financially.

The Office: Financial Goals

The Office has a lot of mini financial lessons, which we mostly learn at Michael Scott’s expense as he continues living in blissful ignorance. One of the clearest lessons is in the episode, “A Decent Proposal,” when Michael reveals an engagement ring he bought for a special lady (we won’t spoil it). “They say three year’s salary!” he says, and everyone stares at him with wide eyes and dropped jaws. Michael doesn’t exactly pick up on the lesson himself, but it’s pretty clear to the viewer that he got this one wrong. While he’s thinking of the old “guideline” that says three month’s salary, the best amount to spend is what you can afford. This ties into other lessons Michael learns throughout— keep your spending within your means to avoid having to declare bankruptcy (another Office moment, if you haven’t watched the show).

Mad Men: Salary Negotiation 

A show about advertising professionals in the heyday of the industry, Mad Men has its fair share of subtle financial lessons. The most hard-hitting are the moments when Peggy Olson, played by Elizabeth Moss, pushes to be paid what she is worth. In the beginning, she doesn’t feel empowered to ask for more money; as the show progresses and her character develops, she recognizes her value and pushes for recognition in a world where women aren’t exactly praised for ambitions to climb the corporate ladder. Another character, Joan Holloway, played by Christina Hendricks, also becomes more empowered throughout the show to ask for what she’s worth.

Schitt’s Creek: Practical Money Skills

A true gift from Canada, Schitt’s Creek begins with a wealthy family being stripped of all their belongings and kicked out of their mansion, because their business manager screwed them over. They relocate to a tiny town called Schitt’s Creek. As they struggle to adapt to life without money and all of the fancy things that come along with it—designer clothes, vacations to the Maldives, penthouse parties in Manhattan—they learn what’s arguably the most important lesson about money: It’s not more important than family, friends, and love. And also, there are ways to be perfectly happy with less, it just requires some lifestyle changes and adjusting your priorities. Hello, budgeting 101!

Arrested Development: Emergency Savings

“There’s always money in the banana stand.” We can’t say too much without giving away any spoilers, but the premise of this show is that the patriarch of the Bluth family goes to jail for committing a financial crime. He constantly tells his family no to worry, that there’s always money in the family’s frozen banana stand. The lesson that comes from this: Always have emergency funds in a safe, easily accessible savings account. A banana stand isn’t a secure savings plan (you’ll learn exactly why if you watch the show).

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Disclaimer: This blog post provides personal finance educational information, and it is not intended to provide legal, financial, or tax advice.