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Investment crash-course: 6 Must-watch documentaries that will teach you how to make money

Investment crash-course: 6 Must-watch documentaries that will teach you how to make money

Learn the trade

Text: Marissa Chin


Image: Louisa Cannell

We know how hard it is to dabble in the stock market, especially for beginners. Before you get started, equip yourself with useful know-hows from these recommended documentaries

Finance. Stock market. Economy.

These terms don’t exactly sound like they would make for entertaining watch content but how many of us went into Al Gore’s An Inconvenient Truth thinking they were going to watch some eco-action movie and came out of it a changed person?

Documentaries don’t get enough credit for how informative and educational they are whilst still maintaining a narrative of a blockbuster film; they definitely have the introduction-plot-twist-climax-conclusion combination that will take your breath away because they are actually events that happened in real life.

If you’re a newbie who wants to start investing in the stock market (whether it’s due to parental pressure or needing the extra dough to survive the capitalist machine) or a seasoned investor, understanding the history of some of the world’s oldest financial institutions and how they operate is always a good place to start. The next time you’re trying to decide what to watch during your wind-downs, consider these and get your paper and pen ready.

Money for Nothing 

This is a great documentary that works as a comprehensive crash course in Economics 101. If you’ve ever heard your parents talk about the 2008 financial crisis and the Great Recession that followed but don’t actually know what the heck happened, then this documentary will answer all those questions for you in punchy detail. Not only will it let you in on the potential red flags to investing, but you will also hear from the perspective of an ex-Wall Street banker who lost his job and now leads tours around Manhattan about famous financial landmarks.

Enron: The Smartest Guys in the Room

Enron serves as one of the greatest cautionary tales in financial history on the negative consequences of building hype, speculation and shaky financial foundations (add in some human greed into the mix too). What happens when stakeholders and public opinion place a company at a much higher value than it is actually worth? It won’t be long before it all comes crashing down. At one point in Enron’s highest pricing, their shares were worth more than $300,000, but by the time the company went insolvent, it was only a measly $1,200. Many employees and stakeholders also lost their entire life savings from investing in the company. This shocking documentary about the Wall Street Darling’s dizzying fall will leave you breathless (and hopefully, more informed).

Something Ventured 

This is for all the tech-junkies out there. Ever wondered what it was like in the Silicon Valley before the likes of Mark Zuckerberg and Steve Jobs entered and revolutionised the industry? This documentary will take you to the early days of the tech industry where it was just blooming, and follows the rise of huge tech companies such as Apple and Intel. It also explores the art of 'venture capital'—if you are looking to invest in tech companies or even want to start one of your own, this one hour and twenty-five-minute documentary will push you in the right direction.

Inside Job 

Returning back to the 2008 Great Recession, Inside Job is a critically acclaimed documentary that won the Academy Award for Best Documentary Feature in 2010. Rather than a historical overview of the crisis, the documentary film delves in more detail into the motives that led to the event such as human greed and systemic corruption within the financial industry. This powerful five-part documentary displays expert pacing, exposition of complex ideas and topics as well as research that will grip (and anger) audiences at the rampant corruption that exists. Oh, and did we mention that Matt Damon narrates it?

Freakonomics 

If you haven’t gotten around to reading the book that this documentary is based on (though it's highly recommended that you do), this is a fantastic appetiser. Freakonomics will show you that despite basic economic principles, correlation and causation can sometimes be formed. From the type of name that your parents give you based on their social class to revealing the incentives that drive human behaviour, this playful and witty documentary will provide many “Aha!” moments that will help you understand the market in simple, unique stories through the art of statistics. Alternatively, you could just watch the first 15 minutes to get some useful tips on how to invest in real estate from economist Steve Levitt but we have a feeling you’ll stick around for a lot longer.

The Ascent of Money 

History buffs, this one is for you. Have you ever pondered how society went from bartering real-world goods as a currency to an era of virtual money being managed by computer-run stock exchanges? This documentary, based on the best-selling book by Harvard professor Niall Ferguson, will take a philosophical dive into what that really means for us as people. It will take the age-old concept of trading and apply it to the current state of the economy. For example, money in and of itself does not have any value—you are simply trading one thing for another when you make money or spend it. Get ready for a metaphysical experience with this one.

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