Learn Finances from the Movies

This program will take about 15 minutes to complete.

NOTE: Financial education content for the program was taken from Cash Course, an interactive financial education program created by The National Endowment for Financial Education ® (NEFE ®) - an independent, nonprofit foundation committed to educating Americans on a broad range of financial topics and empowering them to make positive and sound decisions to reach their financial goals. For more than 30 years, NEFE has been providing funding, logistical support, and personal finance expertise to develop a variety of materials and programs, such as Cash Course.


Identity Theft

Guess the Movie - Question 1 of 12

Scenario: Angela Bennett is a systems analyst. She wakes up one morning and finds that all records of her life have been erased. Bennett's Social Security number is now assigned to a "Ruth Marx", who has an arrest record.

"The Net" with Sandra Bullock
"Tomb Raider" with Angelina Jolie
"Identity Theft" with Kimberly Williams-Paisley


The Net

ANSWER: Sandra Bullock in "The Net"

LESSON FROM THE MOVIE: Angela's life was ruined by identity theft. She could have done a few things to help prevent this from happening.

LESSON FOR YOUR LIFE: Preventing Identity Theft

Four Tips for Preventing Identity Theft:

  1. Copy the front and back of all credit and debit cards. If they are lost or stolen, you will be able to cancel the cards immediately.
  2. Keep your credit card and ATM receipts in a safe place until you've paid the bill. Then tear up or shred.
  3. Reduce the circulation of your information through the mail. Stop receiving prescreened credit offers by calling 888-5OPTOUT (888-567-8688).
  4. Don't get hooked by "phishing." Scam artists looking to get personal information send spam emails hoping to lure you into divulging this important information. If you get an unexpected email asking you to update important information, be careful.



Guess the Movie - Question 2 of 12

Scenario: Rebecca Bloomwood is a financial journalist for the magazine Successful Savings, but she actually knows very little about personal finance and is thousands of dollars in debt.

"13 Going on 30" with Jennifer Garner
"Confessions of a Shopaholic" with Isla Fisher
"9 to 5" with Dolly Parton



ANSWER: "Confessions of a Shopaholic"

LESSON FROM THE MOVIE: Rebecca could have ended her cycle of debt if she learned some keys to good credit management.

LESSON FOR YOUR LIFE: Managing Credit Wisely

Credit is so much more than a plastic card. It?s your financial trustworthiness.

Keys to Wise Credit Use:

  • Pay Your Bills on Time
    This is the best thing you can do for your credit score. (Credit scores will be discussed later.)
  • Pay Your Credit Card Balance Monthly to Avoid Interest Charges
    Not being able to pay off your entire balance is a big deal because interest will keep adding up, increasing the amount of your debt.
  • Limit Yourself to One or Two Card
  • Actively Manage Debt
    If you do accumulate a large credit card balance, make a plan to pay it off quickly.



Guess the Movie - Question 3 of 12

Scenario: Upon arrival in Alabama, Melanie immediately goes to her husband, Jake, and demands a divorce. Jake accuses Melanie of becoming a yuppified city girl. Melanie retaliates by emptying out Jake's checking account (which technically is still a joint account between the two of them).

"Cruel Intentions" with Reese Witherspoon
"Walk the Line" with Reese Witherspoon
"Sweet Home Alabama" with Reese Witherspoon



ANSWER: Sweet Home Alabama

LESSON FROM THE MOVIE: Contracts are tricky and can change your life. Jake could have prevented this mess by keeping good records and knowing that Melanie was a joint owner on their bank account.

LESSON FOR YOUR LIFE: Organizing Your Financial Life

Here's some tips for how to start organizing your finances:
  • Create a simple filing system. Have separate folders for each type of documents, such as bank statements and loan information.
  • Use the tools your bank or credit union offer. Free budgeting software? Use it! Direct deposit? Use it! Electronic bill pay? Use it!
  • If you aren't aware of any tools offered to you, check out FREE goal-setting and budgeting software, like mint.com, or apps, like Suze Orman, which offers a great compound interest calculator.


Hurt Piggy

Guess the Movie - Question 4 of 12

Scenario: Ben Stone lives off funds received in compensation for an injury and sporadically works on a website with his roommates. When Ben finds out he is having a baby, he must change his ways in order to get the mom, Alison, to take him for real.

"Pineapple Express" with Seth Rogan
"Knocked Up" with Seth Rogan
"Can't Buy Me Love" with Patrick Dempsey


Knocked Up

ANSWER: Knocked Up

LESSON FROM THE MOVIE: Ben learns throughout the movie that he must grow up and get a job in order to help support his baby. Ben would benefit from learning how to create spending plans so he and Alison can be financially stable.

LESSON FOR YOUR LIFE: Creating a Spending Plan

Just as a blueprint guides the building of a house, a personal budget acts as a guidance system to steer you away from costly impulses and money-burning behaviors.

Creating a budget while in college can help you:

  • Meet personal goals such as studying abroad
  • Remain better prepared for emergencies
  • Stay out of debt
  • Keep accurate and up-to-date records
  • Prepare to begin thinking about longer-term financial planning

Simple Steps for Creating a Budget:

  1. Track Your Spending
  2. Pay Major Bills First, Then Budget
    It's easier to plan a budget after first setting aside money for your tuition, books, student fees, and other large annual or semiannual costs. Once these are subtracted from your bank balance, you'll have a more accurate starting point from which to plan a budget for the rest of the semester.
  3. Create a Spending Plan
    Once you identify your spending habits and knock out significant expenses, you can get started on creating a budget. Your "spending plan" will be a purposeful map for how to spend your money.



Guess the Movie - Question 5 of 12

Scenario: Ryan is called to his company's offices in Omaha, Nebraska, where he finds out that a young coworker, Natalie, is promoting a plan to cut costs by having employees conduct layoffs over the internet. His boss assigns him to take Natalie with him on his upcoming travels to show her what it's like.

"Swing Vote" with Kevin Costner
"Inside Man" with Denzel Washington
"Up in the Air" with George Clooney


Up in the Air

ANSWER: Up in the Air

LESSON FROM THE MOVIE: Life is unpredictable, which is why we all have to plan for the unexpected. If they were financially savvy, the characters in the movie that are laid-off should have had emergency funds to rely on.


The first priority for your savings should be to set aside money in an emergency fund. This money will allow you to pay for an unexpected expense ? such as a medical bill, a large car repair, or a new computer ? without going into debt.

Keys to Building an Emergency Fund:

  • Try to set aside enough to cover your basic living expenses for at least three months.
  • Keep the money in an easily accessible savings account or money market account.
  • Use the money only for true emergencies, such as unexpected medical bills. If you lose your job, you may need your emergency fund for food, utilities, etc.



Guess the Movie - Question 6 of 12

Scenario: The main character in this movie directors a movie, Hells Angels, build airplanes, and has a problem with germs.

"Catch Me if You Can" with Leonardo Dicaprio
"The Aviator" with Leonardo Dicaprio
"Citizen Kane" with Orson Welles



ANSWER: The Aviator

LESSON FROM THE MOVIE: Hughes spent lots of his money - mostly on wants. While it is okay to buy things you want, you need to learn that sometimes you'll need to choose between your wants and needs.


Whenever we spend more than we are earning, we are overspending. For some of us, overspending can be almost unconscious. We're not even aware of the hole we've dug ourselves into until it's too late. But in order to meet our financial goals, we need to live within our means.

Four Common Reasons People Overspend:

If you recognize any of these, see if you can weed that behavior out of your financial life.

  • Peer Pressure
    Friends can urge us to overspend, but stick to your spending plan and you'll be a great role model.
  • Want to Feel Good NOW
    We all do it - retail therapy. You want to reward yourself, so you go shopping. However, once you get the credit card bill, you'll feel worse than ever.
  • Don't Have, or Ignore, Financial Goals
    If you've never set financial goals for yourself, you may not have considered the benefits of saving or investing for tomorrow. That makes it easier to spend money now, even though every spending decision you make today will affect the quality of your future financial health.
  • Addictive Spending
    A person can become addicted to the emotional high of spending.



Guess the Movie - Question 7 of 12

Scenario: A Harvard University student gets the idea to create a website to rate the attractiveness of female undergraduates. The popularity of "FaceMash" gets him a job working for the Winklevoss twins as the programmer of a website that is hugely popular today.

"With Honors" with Brendan Fraser
"Stealing Harvard" with Tom Green
"The Social Network" with Jesse Eisenburg


Social Network

ANSWER:The Social Network

LESSON FROM THE MOVIE: This movie was based on the true story of Facebook creator, Mark Zuckerburg. In 2010, Mark signed "The Giving Pledge" - a campaign to encourage the wealthiest people in the United States to make a commitment to give most of their money to philanthropic causes. Thus, Mark is a good example of someone who is good at saving & investing his money.

LESSON FOR YOUR LIFE: Saving & Investing

The Power of Compound Interest

The longer you save money, the more it can grow in value due to compound interest.

Compound interest means you earn interest not only on the amount you deposit in a savings account, but also on all the interest you earned previously. Compound interest is one of the most powerful personal finance tools you can put to work for you throughout your life. Want proof?

Check out this example: You can be a millionaire by the time you retire-if you start young. Let's say two 21-year-olds decide to save for retirement. Luis puts $3,000 per year in an IRA and earns 8% compound interest every year. Cheryl waits seven years longer and then begins to invest the same way. At age 65, Luis will be a millionaire-with almost twice as much money as Cheryl-even though he invested only $21,000 more.

To start saving it's important to develop savings goals. By knowing precisely what you want to accomplish, you?ll be more motivated to achieve it.


Credit Score

Guess the Movie - Question 8 of 12

Scenario: Oldie, but goodie - St. Elmo's Fire is a movie from the Brat Pack era and revolves around a group of friends that have just graduated from Georgetown University. The wild "party girl" of the group, has an extravagant lifestyle - including a very fancy, highly decorated apartment - and a large amount of debt. Which actress plays Jules?

Molly Ringwald
Demi Moore
Ally Sheedy


St Elmos Fire

ANSWER: Demi Moore

LESSON FROM THE MOVIE: Jules most likely ruined her credit score. She could have used some keys to creating and maintaining a good credit score.

LESSON FOR YOUR LIFE: Understanding Your Credit Score

Three Minute Guide to Understanding Your Credit Score

* What is your credit score?

Your borrowing, spending, and bill paying behaviors determine your credit score - expressed on a scale between 300 and 850. To come up with your score, several factors are considered together to measure your responsible use and repayment of borrowed money over time. The average credit score is in the range of about 700.

* Why are credit scores important?

People with LOW credit scores will:

  • Pay MORE for personal loans, car loans, and mortgages through lower interest rates
  • Pay MORE for health, car, and other types of insurance
  • In some cases, be prevented from getting certain jobs

* Factors That Improve Your Credit Score:

  • Paying your bills on time
  • Not using more than 30% of your available credit -
    For example, if you have a combined $3,000 in credit limits from all your credit cards, you shouldn't charge more than $900 or your score will suffer
  • Having long-standing accounts
  • Not applying for a lot of credit within a short period of time

* Credit Maintenance Myths:

  • Closing Unused Accounts Strengthens Your FICO Score
    Not always. Credit bureaus compare the level of credit you use with the amount you have been approved for. When you close zero-balance accounts, this ratio is thrown off. A high ratio of borrowed money to approved credit can make you appear overextended.
  • Multiple Inquiries into Credit Performance Weakens Your Score
    Not necessarily. Credit bureaus typically treat numerous inquiries by potential lenders as a single inquiry. Car loan inquiries are an example.
  • Checking My Own Credit Score is a Bad Move
    Not true. Credit bureaus will not interpret your own inquiries, or those of landlords and employers, as part of a risky credit-accumulation effort.



Guess the Movie - Question 9 of 12

Scenario: Carter & Edward, (portrayed by Jack Nicholson and Morgan Freeman), meet for the first time in the hospital after both have been diagnosed with terminal lung cancer. Carter begins writing list of things to do before he dies.

"The Bucket List" with Jack Nicholson
"About Schmidt" with Jack Nicholson
"As Good as it Gets" with Jack Nicholson



ANSWER: The Bucket List

LESSON FROM THE MOVIE: Due to Edward being financially stable in retirement, he was able to complete his "Bucket List."

LESSON FOR YOUR LIFE: Saving for Retirement

You may think you don't have to start thinking about retirement for years. But even if you start saving with just a small amount early on, your money will have many more years to work for you. The earlier you start saving, the more income you?ll have when you do decide to retire. Unfortunately it's not a sure bet that Social Security or other government programs will be adequately funded when you reach retirement age.

Understanding the Types of Retirement Plans

There are two basic types of retirement plans: employer plans and Individual Retirement Accounts (IRAs).

Employer plans are retirement plans provided through your employer. Businesses often provide pensions or 401(k) plans.

IRAs are retirement plans that you set up yourself. They come in two types: traditional IRAs and Roth IRAs.

Which is best? Some employers offer a match in their retirement plans. If you put money in your account, they will match your contribution up to a certain amount. In general, if your employer offers a match, you should take advantage of it. Focus first on contributing enough to receive your maximum employer?s match. After that, if you have more money to invest, you may wish to consider other options.



Guess the Movie - Question 10 of 12

Scenario: Molly Gunn is living off the ample trust fund of her late rock legend father, Tommy Gunn. When she finds out that her father's accountant embezzled her money, she is left penniless and homeless. Molly begins work as the nanny of eight-year old Rae.

"Blue Crush" with Kate Bosworth
"Raising Helen" with Kate Hudson
"Uptown Girls" with Brittnay Murphy



ANSWER: Uptown Girls

LESSON FROM THE MOVIE:Molly had lived her life without thinking about her future. When her money was taken away, she didn't know what to do with her life. Molly needed to know how to set financial goals.

LESSON FOR YOUR LIFE: Setting Financial Goals

A goal, whether something you want or need, is a destination, and you reach it by taking steps to get there. Setting goals will give you a long-term vision as well as short-term motivation to organize your resources, time, money, and talents to reach your goals.

Setting good financial goals is the first step in financial success. To make progress toward achieving your goals, it's helpful to turn them into SMART goals.

SMART goals are:

  • Specific
  • Measurable
  • Attainable
  • Realistic
  • Time-bound

For example, a good goal is: "I want to spend spring break in San Diego with three friends. I know it will cost $500 for my share of the total trip expenses. It's October, so you have about five months to save, and I'll save the money from my Work-Study job. I'll need to save $100 per month. I'll have 75% of the money saved by March."



Guess the Movie - Question 11 of 12

Scenario: Jesse and Chester are two slackers who awaken, at Jesse's house, with no memory of how they got there. They emerge from their home to find Jesse's car missing, and with it their girlfriends' one-year anniversary presents.

"Sixteen Candles" with Molly Ringwald
"American Pie" with Chris Klein
"Dude Where's My Car?" with Ashton Kutcher



ANSWER: Dude Where's My Car?

LESSON FROM THE MOVIE: Though Jesse did get his car back, if it was gone forever he would have had to decide if he should buy or lease a car and purchase car insurance.

LESSON FOR YOUR LIFE: A Major Financial Purchase - A Car

If you buy or lease a car during your college years, it will likely be your biggest expense after the cost of tuition and housing. There'?s a lot to consider - another $300, $500, or even $1,000 per month!

Ways to Reduce the Cost of Car Insurance:

  • Drive Safely
    Most insurance companies give discounts to drivers who have had no accidents or tickets in the last three to five years.
  • Buy a Low-Risk Model
    Collision and comprehensive coverage may be reduced by a substantial amount if you buy a new or used car that is at lower risk for damage or theft.
  • Buy Your Renter's Insurance from the Same Insurance Company
    Many insurance companies give discounts when you buy both your auto insurance and renter's or homeowner's insurance from the same company.
  • Tell Your Insurance Company if You've Reached a ?Milestone? Age
    Depending on your insurer, you rates will go down when you reach an age between 25 and 30 years old, as long as you have a good driving record.
  • Ask About Other Discounts
    Some insurance companies give discounts for degreed engineers or teachers, persons in the military, or those willing to buy via the Internet. Don't be afraid to ask what other discounts might apply to your particular situation.
  • Compare Rates
    It pays to shop around. You can get free quotes for car insurance online. When comparing rates, be sure to compare service and what is covered?not just the rates.
  • Maintain Good Credit
    Most insurers use credit information to create an "insurance risk score," which is used to help determine your auto insurance rate. The idea is that there is a correlation between your insurance risk score and the likelihood that you will file a claim. If you have poor or shaky credit, be prepared to pay a higher premium than your buddy who's the same age and has the exact same model car.



Guess the Movie - Question 12 of 12

Scenario: After breaking up with his girlfriend, Mitch moves into a house near the campus of his alma mater, Harrison University. The Dean of the college, Pritchard, tries to kick him out, but Micth's friend Bernard has an idea to start a fraternity that is open to anyone.

"Old School" with Luke Wilson
"Van Wilder" with Ryan Reynolds
"Revenge of the Nerds" with Anthony Edwards



ANSWER: Old School

LESSON FROM THE MOVIE: After breaking up with his girlfriend, Mitch had to decide if he wanted to rent an apartment or purchase a house. Mitch could have used some information about purchasing a house.

LESSON FOR YOUR LIFE: A Major Financial Purchase - A House

If you?re considering a move off campus, decide what'?s right for you -

What You Need to Know BEFORE You Purchase a House:

  • Check Your Credit Report
    It's important to know what's in your credit report, which details your history with lenders, including credit cards and other loans. It will show if you've been responsible with credit in the past, if you've been late on payments, and if you've ever skipped out on repayment of a loan.
  • Correct Any Errors on Your Credit Report
    It's important to make sure the information on your report is accurate before you apply for a mortgage. Errors can be corrected, but sometimes that takes time, and you want mistakes cleared up before you apply for a mortgage.
  • Start Saving
    You will need cash for a down payment and closing costs. You can start automatically transferring a set amount from your checking account to a savings account until you've saved your down payment. You should keep your down payment money in a safe, interest-bearing bank account because you will use that money in the short-term.
  • Pre-Approvals and Pre-Qualifications
    Talk to a mortgage professional before you start viewing properties. The lender can discuss with you the different mortgage options available to first-time home buyers. Ask the lender for a pre-approval letter, which shows the lender has reviewed your credit standing and is willing to lend you a set amount for a home purchase. A pre-approval letter can give confidence to a home seller that you're a well-qualified buyer.



0-4 Correct

Sorry, you are not a movie guru. Spend some time this weekend building up your movie knowledge!

Learn more about financial success by scheduling a money management advising appointment at the UNL Student Money Management Center.


5-9 Correct

You definitely have some movie knowledge, but you're not a movie buff yet. Spend some time this weekend building up your movie knowledge!

Learn more about financial success by scheduling a money management advising appointment at the UNL Student Money Management Center.


10-12 Correct

Congratulations! You are a movie guru!

Learn more about financial success by scheduling a money management advising appointment at the UNL Student Money Management Center.