Money lessons from movies
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Money lessons from movies

By Kathy M. Kristof, Los Angeles Times Staff Writer

The movie: “Mary Poppins”

The lesson: Save some; spend some; give some away.

In this movie, siblings Jane and Michael Banks have just a few coins — and everybody has a different idea about what to do with it. Virtually anyone with a reasonable income can accumulate enough to save a little, spend a little and give a little to charity — without going into debt. But getting there takes time. (Walt Disney Enterprises)
The movie: “Josie and the Pussycats”

The lesson: Resist the urge to keep up with the Josies.

America’s “gotta have it” marketing machine is seductive and effective. If you buy into the marketing without thinking about what you really want, you’re likely to sacrifice things that are precious to you in your effort to keep up, said Judi Martindale, a financial planner in San Luis Obispo. (Universal Studios)
The movie: “Brewster’s Millions”

The lesson: The power of compound interest.

A baseball player stands to inherit $300 million. The catch: He first has to spend $30 million in 30 days before he can get the much larger fortune. But his money’s earning money faster than he can spend it, a problem most folks dream of having. It’s one you can have — if you play our cards right, experts say. All you have to do is start saving when you’re young. (Universal Studios)
The movie: “Little Shop of Horrors”

The lesson: Don’t invest in things you don’t understand.

Seymour Krelborn, a nerdy florist’s assistant at a fairly obscure flower shop, discovers a bizarre plant. It is so unusual that it draws monster business to the shop. The catch, speaking of monster: The plant needs blood to survive and eventually eats Krelborn.

Don’t be lured by the promise of high returns in risky investments you don’t understand. Even when the company selling the security is a household name, an investment you don’t understand can eat you alive. (Warner Bros.)
The movie: “Stranger Than Fiction”

The lesson: It’s easy to miss valid tax deductions.

Howard Krick is an IRS auditor who discovers that his life is the plot of an unfinished book in which he is destined to die. To change his fate, Krick develops a relationship with a pretty bakery store owner he is auditing, who has withheld part of her income tax as a protest.

This cute fantasy has one very real element: The baker, it turns out, has missed loads of viable tax deductions. (Columbia Pictures)
The movie: “War of the Roses”

The lesson: Nothing can kill your net worth like a nasty divorce.

Barbara and Oliver Rose, who are splitting up, do battle over the house, which ends up in ruins.

“The only beneficiaries are the attorneys — not the husband, not the wife, not the children, not the dogs, not the retirement plans or the college accounts,” said Susan Carlisle, a Woodland CPA who works with divorcing couples. “The more hostile you are to the person you used to love, the more money you spend fighting and the less you have to divide.” (Twentieth Century Fox)
The movie: “The Big Lebowski”

The lesson: Complicated estate plans can cause complications.

This movie’s title character is rich but gets his income from a trust, which puts him on a budget. His trophy wife, however, has expensive tastes. So he fabricates a story about her purported kidnapping to con the trust into giving him more money.

Complex estate plans can have unintended consequences. On the other hand, the movie also illustrates why irresponsible heirs can make complex estate plans necessary (Gramercy Pictures)