5 Personal Finance Lessons From Wall Street: Money Never Sleeps

If you’re a fan of money, chances are you’re a fan of the 1987 Oliver Stone classic, Wall Street. Even more, you’ve probably already purchased your movie ticket in advance for the upcoming sequel, Wall Street: Money Never Sleeps. The original film is now considered a classic, not just for entertaining moviegoers, but also the way it which it influenced an entire generation’s attitude toward investing money; “Greed… is good,” the much-referenced quote goes.

Ironically, Stone’s desired message for the  film was the exact opposite. Perhaps he underestimated the effect Michael Douglas had with his Academy Award-winning performance as ruthless financier Gordon Gekko.

After the recent economic meltdown created an uproar against Wall Street (not the movie, the actual financial establishments as a collective institution) and greed, an opportunity was presented for Stone to reunite with Douglas, reprising his role as Gekko, to rail against bankers and evil investment firms.

So while you’re busy munching away at your popcorn and watching Shia Labeouf run around doing Shia Labeouf things, don’t forget that along with an intriguing storyline about ambition, murder and revenge, you’re also getting a personal finance education from the Gekko, himself. That’s something you can’t put a price on, mainly because the movie theater already did.

Without further ado, here are five lessons you can learn about personal finance, taken from quotes in the movie’s trailer.

1. Money Never Sleeps

Quote: “Money never sleeps pal. I just made $800,000 in Hong Kong gold. It’s been wired to you–play with it. You done good, but you gotta keep doing good. I showed you how the game works, now school’s out.”

Lesson: This line was first uttered by Gekko in the original Wall Street when teaching his protege, Bud Fox (Charlie Sheen), how to become rich.

It’s true, though. Money never sleeps. While you go to bed every night, your money is working either for you in an investment or against you on a loan earning interest or some kind of return.

The quote is especially true if you’re sophisticated enough to invest in foreign markets, because people are actually awake over there when you’re usually sleeping.

2. Time Is Money

Quote: “If there’s one thing I learned in prison, it’s that money is not the prime commodity in our lives…time is.”

Lesson: Gekko advises what seems to be his new apprentice and potential son-in-law, Jacob Moore (LaBeouf). You’ve heard the adage that time is money and in this case it’s no different.

Gekko served 23 years in jail after the events of the first film because Fox snitched on him to the Securities and Exchange Commission. If money never sleeps, imagine how much money Gekko lost out on while behind bars for over two decades. Whether it’s you or your money, every idle second is money and opportunity lost.

3. Greed is Legal, Maybe Not So Good

Quote: “Someone reminded me I once said greed is good. Now, it seems it’s legal.”

Lesson: Yet another quote from Gekko. Everyone remembers the original greed speech. It defined an entire decade on Wall Street, and is still just as relevant today.

Well, sorry to break it to you, Gordon, but greed has always been legal. Can you imagine the slippery slope lawmakers would have to deal with trying to outlaw greed?

But while it is legal, the things that it drives people to do may not be. For example, running a ponzi scheme like Bernie Madoff did, or committing financial fraud like what the SEC accused Goldman Sachs of doing.

4. Manage Calculated Risks

Quote: “If it weren’t for people who took risks, where would we be in this world?”

Lesson: Similar to Bud Fox, Jacob Moore, the sequel’s protagonist, is a young and ambitious Wall Street neophyte. This quote offers a snapshot of the type of person he is.

Moore understands that with risk comes reward. Of course, there also comes consequences. Investors need to understand this, too. In order to achieve an attractive return, you have to accept a certain level of risk. There’s a reason most people can’t retire on savings account interest alone. How much risk you’re willing to tolerate, however, is entirely up to you.

5. Have A Plan

Quote: “When you don’t know what you’re doing, it’s fatal, Mr. Moore.”

Lesson: This quote is from the films main antagonist, Bretton James (James Brolin). James runs an investment firm similar to that of the real life Goldman Sachs. In this scene, it’s safe to assume he’s threatening someone’s life.

However, if you apply the basic idea to personal finance, it’s actually very sage advice. You should always know what you’re doing with your money, and in turn, know what you’re actually investing in.

If you don’t understand the investment–be it a stock, bond, mutual fund, commodity, etc.–you should study up on it and know exactly what your money is funding or not invest in it at all. The internet is loaded with free investment tools for this purpose.

Being that the economy is still trying to recover from the recent recession and failure of our entire financial infrastructure, it’s safe to say the public’s attention is still focused on Wall Street. Mix in some nasty banker villains, and Money Never Sleeps may actually make finance seem like a lot of fun. Just don’t forget the important financial lessons you could pick up along the way.

What do you think of Gordon Gekko? Are you going to see Wall Street: Money Never Sleeps?