Life Lessons in Anchorman 2, ‘Wolf’ and Nebraska

Here's what you can learn from Ron Burgundy, Jordan Belfort and Woody and David Grant

With The Golden Globes this Sunday, the Oscar nominee announcements next Thursday and a slew of big films opening nationwide, we’re clearly in the throes of movie awards season. So I’d like to offer some career and personal finance lessons from three new releases: Anchorman 2: The Legend Continues (really!), The Wolf of Wall Street and Nebraska.
If you haven’t seen these films yet, this is my obligatory spoiler alert sentence. Consider yourself duly warned. (For a great take on career lessons from Inside Llewyn Davis, a film I have not yet seen, I direct you to the Forbes piece by Kerry Hannon, “Six Tips to Deal With ‘Llewyn Davis’-Style Rejection.”)
Anchorman 2: The Legend Continues
You may be wondering: How is it possible to learn anything from this over-the-top-lip comedy about the further misadventures of TV newsman Ron Burgundy?
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Actually, I think the film shows how your second act just might be more successful than your first — if you’re willing to stretch yourself.
Early in the film, co-anchors Burgundy and his wife, Veronica Corningstone, are told that he’s being fired and she’s being promoted to become the first female anchor in TV history. Burgundy’s bummed, leading to his getting fired from a job at Sea World and a failed suicide attempt.
But then he receives an offer to anchor the world’s first 24-hour news network, GNN. There, working alongside the former news team that he demands join him, Burgundy becomes a ratings bonanza. Partly, that’s because he reinvents the definition of news — the first to turn a local car chase into must-see national TV.
Wolf of Wall Street
As this Golden Globe “Best Picture” nominee demonstrates, its protagonist, Jordan Belfort, is anything but a role model (though Leonardo DiCaprio is a Best Actor Globe nominee for playing him). The sleazy founder of the pump-and-dump Stratton Oakmont penny stock boiler room wound up spending 22 months in prison after swindling investors out of $110 million.
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The takeaway from his career taking money away from unsuspecting investors: Don’t let yourself (or your parent) become a victim of a brazen, cold-calling broker.
If a broker you’ve never heard of calls claiming to have a hot stock that you need to buy NOW, hang up NOW. Otherwise, you’re likely to lose your investment.
Just ask the folks who invested with Belfort’s crew. According to a New York Times article by Susan Antilla, of 3,378 Stratton customers who filed claims with the Securities Investor Protection Corporation, only 362 have collected money.
Stratton Oakmont may be long gone, but unscrupulous brokers aren’t. A few months back, the U.S. government arrested seven in a $140 million international scheme to inflate worthless penny stocks. And according a recent Wall Street Journal article, Wall Street’s self-regulator — the Financial Industry Regulatory Authority (FINRA) is now forming a team to examine rogue brokers with long track records of violations and investor complaints.
FINRA’s especially concerned about “cockroaching.” That’s when recidivist brokers scurry from one troubled firm to another, fleeing before they can be squashed by regulators. According to the Journal, more than 5,000 brokers last year had previously worked at firms that had been expelled by FINRA from 2005 to 2012.
You can check to see if a broker has been the subject of any disciplinary actions or securities arbitration by visiting the free FINRA BrokerCheck website. You can search by the broker’s name, firm or Zip Code. This database is not perfect, but it’s the best protection available for now.
This touching film about an old man’s mission to retrieve the $1 million he thinks he won in a magazine sweepstakes and his adult son’s assistance, is a Golden Globe sweetheart. It’s a Globe nominee for Best Comedy or Musical, Best Director (Alexander Payne), Best Screenplay, Best Actor (Bruce Dern; also the Best Actor winner in AARP’s 2013 Movies for Grownups Awards) and Best Supporting Actress (June Squibb).
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I think it offers two lessons, one about money and one about caregiving.
The financial lesson: If you have parents in their 70s, 80s or 90s, watch how they’re dealing with money like a hawk so you can prevent them from making unwise, perhaps costly, decisions.
As I’ve written on Next Avenue, research shows that financial capacity — the ability to manage your money to meet your needs and match your values — is one of the first things to go when someone has mild cognitive impairment. Roughly one in five people 71 and older have this condition, which can be an early sign of Alzheimer’s.
In Nebraska, David Grant (played by Will Forte) knows his dad, Woody (Bruce Dern), didn’t really win a million bucks and tries to convince his father. But Woody won’t give up. Stereo salesman David decides to do a good turn, driving his dad from Montana to the sweepstakes’ headquarters in Nebraska, figuring that if he doesn’t, his dad will try to walk there, risking his health and maybe his life. The road trip is heartwarming, funny and poignant.
That brings me to Lesson Two: Go the extra mile as a caregiver for your parents, when you can.
David’s brother, Ross (played by Bob Odenkirk), a local TV news anchor can’t be bothered; he’d rather just put dad in a home and let someone else worry about him. But David’s willing to miss work  — the sad reality for many part-time family caregivers — in order to ensure the safety of their father.
Sherri Snelling, a Next Avenue writer who is a nationally-recognized expert on America’s family caregivers and author of A Cast of Caregivers, puts it this way: “What Alexander Payne has done in his seemingly bleak, yet beautiful film, is showcase a caregiving son’s patience with an aging and alcoholic father while also showing the son’s respect for his dad’s wishes, no matter how crazy sounding. In the end, both father and son realize a gift they never knew they had — heartfelt love and concern for each other — which underscores the ‘labor of love’ benefits most caregivers express.”
Now I need to go take my dad to a doctor’s appointment. See you at the movies.

RIchard Eisenberg, editor at Next Avenue wearing a suit jacket in front of a teal background.
By Richard Eisenberg
Richard Eisenberg is the Senior Web Editor of the Money & Security and Work & Purpose channels of Next Avenue and Managing Editor for the site. He is the author of How to Avoid a Mid-Life Financial Crisis and has been a personal finance editor at Money, Yahoo, Good Housekeeping, and CBS MoneyWatch. Follow him on Twitter.

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