Category Archives: Becoming Informed

Hollywood’s take on the financial crisis

In the weeks and months that followed my husband’s job loss, we sold our house, downsized, rented, and constantly adjusted our lifestyles.  We made changes frequently, because the economy sputtered along lifelessly, forcing us to continually re-evaluate our housing, the state we lived in, healthcare, schooling, entertainment, even the stores we frequented.

Life was tumultuous, and because I knew few who were experiencing life as I was, I was constantly searching for information.  I needed some way to understand my experiences, to frame them.  I felt if I had that, I wouldn’t feel so alone and helpless, and I might have a better chance of digging my family out of the very deep economic hole we inhabited.

The New York Times and The Wall Street Journal were great sources of information, as were Sorkin’s Too Big to Fail and Lewis’s The Big Short.  But now I thought I’d look for different sources: I decided to see how Hollywood was interpreting these events.

So for fun, on Friday nights, I dragged my husband to the basement to watch a few movies.  The first one was Matt Damon’s documentary on the crisis, Inside Job:

Then, A big fan of the book, I could not miss HBO’s Too Big to Fail:

And finally, after waiting along with over 400 people for the opportunity to see Margin Call, we finally picked it up from the local library and watched it immediately.  This movie was a fictional account and was my least favorite of the three.

Do you know of any great sources of information regarding the financial crisis, either books or movies?  If so, I’d love to know what they are.  After all, a financial crisis junky is always looking for more to read and watch!

Reading up on the subprime mortgage crisis

        Source: Uploaded by user via Jeff on Pinterest

After reading Sorkin’s Too Big to Fail, I was hungry for more.  There was still much to understand and many more perspectives to take into account.

I’d been reading The Wall Street Journal and The New York Times religiously for the last couple of years, but each article focused on one or two aspects of the recession.  I was lacking an overall framework that I could fit these pieces of information into.  It was like having a hamper full of clean, wet clothes without a clothesline to hang my socks, underwear and pants on.  Without the line, I couldn’t see what the different pieces were, and they’d never dry and be ready for wearing if I couldn’t hang them up.

So I decided to tackle Michael Lewis’ book, The Big Short: Inside the Doomsday Machine.   The Big Short deepened my understanding of the subprime mortgage crisis, and it helped me piece together what happened to me, my family, and the rest of the American people.   This allowed me to reflect on my experience and ultimately put it to words.

The crisis: becoming informed

                                          Source: via Filip on Pinterest

I like to think of myself as fairly intelligent.  When it comes to finance, though, I rarely feel smart.

When my husband starts to talk about iron condors, straddles, and strangles, my brain shuts down.  I listen, look intently, and try to follow his explanation, but somewhere among the puts, calls, and expiration dates, I get lost.  It seems like my brain just physically cannot follow his logic.
So I knew I had a huge task at hand.  I wanted to write a book about the recession, and this recession is all about economics.  How could I learn enough about it to accurately convey its meaning to my readers?
I started with Andrew Ross Sorkin’s Too Big To Fail: The Inside Story of how Wall Street and Washington Fought to Save the Financial System– and Themselves.  This book was daunting at first; I gawked when the librarian handed it to me, the weight of it falling dead in my hands.

A woman behind me in line at checkout cooed.  “That looks miserable!  Are you going to read that whole book?”

At that moment, I was sure.  “Yes,” I replied.  “I’m going to force myself to ready every damn page.”  I eyed the page count: 624 pages.  This would require discipline, for sure.

But Sorkin writes his book like a novel, with well developed characters that are fun to know.  I read the book in five days, and it left me thirsting for me.  It was a very good place to start, indeed.