Top 5 Financial Lessons from The Wolf of Wall Street

Wolf of Wall Street

The Wolf of Wall Street might not have won awards at this year’s Academy Awards, but it’s definitely one of the most acclaimed movies of 2013. The Wolf of Wall Street is a black comedy film that tells the story of Jordan Belfort, portrayed by Oscar nominee Leonardo DiCaprio, and his road to Wall Street infamy. It’s a morally ambiguous film, based on a book authored by the real-life Belfort, who exposed the scams and money laundering schemes he did in order to get as rich as he is.

While many question the authencity of some of the details and events in the Belfort’s book, the movie is not without merits. Aside from its Academy Awards nominations and a Golden Globe win for Leonardo DiCaprio, there are more than a few financial lessons to be learned from The Wolf of Wall Street.

1) Start small, dream big.
Belfort has always wanted to become a millionaire. This was his dream when he started his first job at Wall Street, and was still his dream when his first company went bankrupt as a result of Black Monday. That didn’t stop Belfort, however. Where others might only see failure, he found an opportunity and wasted no time in grabbing it.

Jordan found himself a new broker job in a smaller company, where he sold penny stocks, and from there, he managed to build his Stratton Oakmont empire. Although his methods are sketchy and questionable, he did start small and dreamed big. It’s alright to want money and get rich—don’t we all? Just make sure not to do what Belfort did, scamming people out of their money.

2) Don’t believe everything.
Before buying anything, make sure you know what you’re getting into. Don’t believe everything salesmen tell you off the bat. Read up on their reputation. Make sure their business is legitimate and that they’ve been accredited by the proper organisations.

Don’t immediately fall for sweet talk—that’s how Belfort and his “wolves” were able to lure many unsuspecting victims.  They sugarcoated their pitches, deliberately withheld information, and glorified useless stocks to sell them at a marked up price to make more profit.

We are now in the age of technology where information is easier to access. Companies can be researched through online means, including forums, reviews, social networks, and websites. If their history checks out and you’re confident about the deal, go for it. If not, learn how to say no. This should apply not only with the purchases you make, but with your investments as well.

3) Know where your money is going.
Money is the name of the game. We need it to buy clothes that we wear, food that we eat, the house we live in. It’s what fuels our needs and gets us what we want. Money is also what the film is about: Jordan Belfort making money, and lots of it. He made people believe that they would get rich fast by investing on a new business, but what they’re really doing is handing over their money to his pockets.

This is why it is even more important to know where your money is going, where you’re putting it, and how you spend it. Know when to spend your money, and how to spend your money properly. Don’t just hand it over to someone who promises to make you rich fast. You’re better off depositing it in a bank or making an investment, where at least there’s a much better chance of you getting a good return.

4) Walk the talk.
Jordan Belfort has charisma, a glib tongue, and a propensity for making money. He was successful because he thought himself to be successful. He talked the part, he dressed the part—he was walking the talk, as they say. Take a page from Belfort’s book and do the same.

Ever hear of the saying “fake it ‘til you make it”? If you want to be successful, show up for the part. Talk with authority and conviction. Have passion for what you do. Don’t just talk about what you want to do though—you’d of course need to go out there and really do it.

5) Don’t be that guy.
Let’s face it. At the end of the movie, Jordan Belfort walks free (22 months served instead of the 36 he was sentenced, actually), and starts giving inspirational talks on marketing and sales to New Zealanders. According to official records, he hasn’t paid the fine imposed on him in full yet.

Sure, he was let out, but the fact remains that he committed fraud and stole millions of dollars from a lot of people. Don’t be that guy. If you want to make money, do so in an honest way, and with a commitment that could rival Belfort’s love for money. Work really, really hard and don’t give up—even Belfort knew this. This is your ultimate key to financial success.

Israel Defeo writes for CompareHero, the leading online financial comparison portal in Malaysia. He is involved in promoting different educational guides which helps readers find out the best credit card deals, insurance, bank deposit and loan.

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