Personal Finance Review: The Gambler Movie

I’m almost embarrassed to write this personal finance review just because the Gambler movie was released in 2014 and I’ve only just heard about it. I’ll admit that I’m not up to date on many movies, so this will probably not be the last review that is years behind.

I was having a conversation with my boyfriend and I told him that life is really messed up. We were talking about people having mortgages that they would struggling to pay back and would have to pay even after they were retired. The consensus was that people spent so much time at work, that they don’t get to enjoy the house that they are working so hard to pay for.

Then he suggested that I watch the Gambler movie. Actually, his exact words were “John Goodman said that in the Gambler. You should look for it.” The Gambler? Never heard of it. So over to good ol’ Google I went and found the movie, its reviews and I made a note to watch it over the weekend.

*WARNING: This post contains spoilers.*

The Gambler Movie

The 2014 release of the Gambler movie is a remake of a 1974 film with the same name. The newer version hits hard with some big stars like Mark Wahlburg, John Goodman, Jessica Lange, Michael K. Williams and Brie Larson. Jim Bennett (Mark Wahlburg) is an American university literature professor with a serious gambling problem. His mother Roberta (Jessica Lange) gives him money to pay off his debts, but he squanders it away.

Throughout the movie there are several scenes with loan sharks Frank (John Goodman) and Neville (Michael K. Williams) who lend Jim money to settle his debt to a gambling tycoon. They take the violent route to get their messages across, but Jim seems unbothered. Jim gets involved with one of his students rature students.

Top 5 Lessons from the Gambler Movie

I loved this movie because it had a great balance between the story line and an unintentional personal finance case study. You should not go out and gamble away your life’s savings in hopes of hitting it big. There were many lessons to be learnt from this movie. Here are the top five lessons that stood out for me.

Rich People Have Problems Too

Here was Jim. He was from a wealthy family, he had an enviable career as a professor in a university. But he had a very expensive addiction. He was a die hard gambler. As the story progressed, I realised that Jim was not financially rich – his family was. Somehow he got cut off for presumably his gambling addiction and so he lived his life without the financial backing. If you look at this on a broad scale, rich people have to manage their money, make good financial decisions and use wise tactics to grow their money. The difference between them and us is that they can pay someone to do those things for them. We create our own budgets and determine how much to spend. Failure to monitor money effectively can result in financial problems even if you’re rich.

Your Bad Financial Decisions Affect Other People

Jim’s life was threatened several times because he did not have the money to pay back his debt. And when he was nonchalant about paying back the money, the sharks threatened his family – his mother and his girlfriend. Do your bad decisions affect you? Yes. Do your bad decisions affect other people. Yes. In the real world, your bad financial decisions can affect those you love, especially if they signed to be a surety for a loan on your behalf. When you get into difficulty, some of the risk is shifted to them. Jim’s mother’s life was in danger because of decisions that she made. She found out because she noticed shady guys hanging around her house. Then she loaned him more money. Jim did not learn his lesson at all.

When You Borrow, You Must Pay Back

In a rare situation, debt may be forgiven, but in the majority of cases, when you borrow, you have to pay back. Jimbo borrowed a lot of money from the wrong people. This was not a case of going into the bank and getting an asset secured loan. This was a life secured loan – you either pay or you lose your life. But in these situations, the common factor is that you have to pay or you will lose. Defaulting on a loan may mean that you lose your car or your house. And that usually means you will lose your credit standing. Many people have simply walked away from their debt, but the risks and losses are great. The other lesson to learn here is that you should think carefully about who you borrow from, how much you borrow and what the terms are.

Get Help When You’re in Too Deep

The Gambler made me realise that the last thing you should do when you’re in a deep financial hole is to dig yourself an even bigger hole. Jim Bennett was screwed from the time he owed $260,000 and the biggest mistake he made was to ask for help and then squander the funds away. How many of you know of at least one person who has made a terrible financial mistake and then made an even bigger one. In the end Jim took a huge gamble and it paid off. But it does not always work like that in real life. It takes time and hard work to correct mistakes. You have to assess your situation and make a plan about how you will change it. If you feel as though you’re in over your head, ask for help.

Real Freedom Means No Debt

At the end of the movie, Jim enters into a very risky deal to win the money owed to his loan sharks. He decides to play a round of poker betting the last bag of money that he borrowed. Luckily for him, he won the game and paid back everyone that he owed with interest. The movie ends with Jim running. For me, this was symbolic of him being free from every financial burden that he placed on himself. It was freedom to start over on a clean page. Freedom from having someone breathing down your neck threatening to kill you. He knew that he did not owe a cent and no one could accuse him of such. This is the kind of freedom that I’m working towards. Jim knew where he wanted to be, what he had to do and how he was going to do it.

This is the ultimate lesson to be learnt.

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