Todd Christensen Profile Picture
Staff Writer at Debt Reduction Services

Evaluating the Financial Lessons in Our Entertainment

Introducing the Bennies and Burnies

Have you ever seen a movie, heard a song, watched a TV show, video game or come away from an entertaining Youtube video thinking, “Yah, right! Real people can’t afford to live like that!”

Yes, I recognize that our experience with entertainment, particularly with movies and TV shows, requires us to willingly suspend our disbelief. We know monkeys cannot fly. But dress ’em up in shiny vests and show them flying into the sunset in pursuit of our sweet and innocent protagonist, and they can make cameo appearances in our own adult nightmares decades after seeing them pull apart a talking scarecrow.

When it comes to money, though, many movies, TV shows, and even songs and Youtube videos ask us to go way beyond this call of duty. They may ask us to believe that money is not even part of life, that working is too minor an issue to even mention, or that it’s simple to become a millionaire (or the opposite, that it’s impossible for a “normal person” to build financial security through hard work and persistent investing). Granted, it is entertainment, and it requires that the story is packed into a 20-minute show or a 90-minute movie or a 3-minute song.

Still, every once in a while, I see a movie or show or hear a song that makes me want to stand up and cheer for its realistic AND motivational portrayal of how to build financial stability or to build wealth. I just feel like someone should give them an award.

Then, there are those that make me cringe, that perpetuate the attitudes and behaviors that keep or lead so many of us into financial hardships. Again, I want to shout it from the rooftops, “Why?! Why?! Would a little financial reality and literacy really be that hard to incorporate into entertainment?” Someone, again, needs to recognize such “achievements.”

So, in the spirit of the great American tradition of critiquing virtually anything and everything, I present our newest tradition here at Debt Reduction Services Inc:

The Bennies and Burnies Awards!

Pay attention to the financial lessons in popular movies, music, and more.The Bennie Award: A Bennie, in honor of that great American patriot and purveyor of sound financial wisdom and life skills times, Benjamin Franklin, will recognize movies, shows, plays, books, video games and songs (works of fiction) that promote sound financial capacity building habits, attitudes and behaviors.


BurnieThe Burnie Award: A Burnie will recognize movies, shows, plays, books, video games and songs (works of fiction) that promote unsound and even dangerous habits, attitudes and behaviors with regards to financial capacity building. Why the name “Burnie?” Take your pick. We can burn through money. We can get burned by scammers. There is even a guy with a similar name that is forever linked to poor investment choices.


“Buy Me a Boat” Chris Janson Song (2015)

The First Burnie Award

Okay, so I started working on a Bennie award program back around 2010 or so, but it never panned out. I was overly ambitious and I see the wisdom my executives had in curbing my enthusiasm a bit. Everyday Money for Everyday People blog, though, provides the perfect medium for these awards.

Last week, as I was being served by an establishment in Boise, Idaho, they had a country station playing on the radio. The song that I remember hearing is entitled, “Buy Me a Boat,” by Chris Janson (2015, iHeart Radio Award for Country Song of the Year). As I listened, I was transported to days of my youth, water skiing on the lakes and waterways of northern California in the summertime.

Then, I began to pay attention to the lyrics beyond the catchy chorus. Here are the reasons why “Buy Me a Boat” has earned a Burnie award as a song promoting behaviors, attitudes and habits that distract from a healthy relationship to money and from the ability to build financial stability:

  1. “I damn sure wanna be working like a dog all day, ain’t working for me.”
    Why: Sounds cliché, but discouraging a hard work ethic virtually guarantees you won’t have a very financially stable adulthood.
  2. “I wish I had a rich uncle that’d kick the bucket.”
    Okay, beyond the morbid reference, this speaks to the base desire to have everything we want for free. Consider your neighbor’s  spoiled brats. You already know why they’re spoiled. They get everything they want without working for it and don’t appreciate what they get. We’d spoiled too if we were given everything for nothing (sounds like a line from a country music song).
  3. “And that I was sitting on a pile like Warren Buffett.”
    As if to suggest that Mr. Buffett, the Oracle of Omaha, didn’t earn that money the hard way? By the way, Mr. Buffett doesn’t sit on a pile of money. He still lives in the same nice but modest home he purchased decades ago before becoming America’s second wealthiest man. He is past retirement age and still loves to work his tail off for the company he built.
  4. “I could change all that if I had a couple million dollars.” This is one of the most pervasive attitudes I wish we could change in this country. Every American knows that throwing money at a problem does not solve the problem. Administrations at local, state and federal levels, of all parties, have proven this point time and again over the years. It is no different at the personal level. I could almost guarantee that if someone who is not disciplined with a small income all of the sudden had a couple million dollars to spend, they would be broke or even further in debt within a year. Don’t believe me? Do an Internet search for “Lottery winner back where they started,” and you’ll find plenty of stories.
  5. “Money is the root of all evil.”
    Let’s get this straight, please. The correct quote from 1 Timothy 6:10 is, “For the love of money is the root of all evil…” Money is a tool. Having a lot of it is not evil. It’s the greed for money that leads to problems (like wanting a truck and a boat so bad, you might be willing to do what for it?)
  6. “I hear the Powerball Lotto is a-sittin’ on a hundred mill…”
    See #4 above. That’s all I’m sayin’.

There you go! Burnie Award #1. Congratulations on such a low achievement! Enjoy the boat while you may. The repo man is on his way.

Sounds like the perfect start to the next verse.

Todd Christensen

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