8 Surprising Life and Money Lessons from Will Ferrell Movies


You may love Will Ferrell movies for the hilarious characters, catchy one-liners, and entertaining outfits, but if you watch closely, you'll spot some surprising personal finance and career advice tucked in amid the jokes. Come along for a brief synopsis of some of Will's movies and the lessons that can be learned. (See also: Personal Finance Lessons From Bruce Springsteen)

1. Anchorman: Don't Overestimate Job Security

As Ron Burgandy can attest, losing your job can be tough. Even though Ron was San Diego's #1 news anchor in the first "Anchorman," he was no match for the ambitious Veronica Corningstone, who ultimately outsmarted him into reading a verbal gaffe on the teleprompter. Ron quickly loses his job, his friends, his dog, and his lifestyle. As he says to Veronica in an angry mob outside of the station, "You have reduced me to rubble."

But, losing your job doesn't mean you have to end up like Ron — a slovenly drunk, hated by the city, and clearly making milk a bad choice. If Ron had a backup plan in place, he could have improved his situation a lot sooner than rescuing Veronica out of the Ling-Wong panda pit. No matter how secure your job may be, it is always smart to have an emergency fund in place, your network active, and your resume up to date. (See also: How to Survive a Job Loss)

2. Blades of Glory: Be Resourceful

Lady's man and champion figure skater Chazz Michael Michaels, Ferrell's character in "Blades of Glory," doesn't let a little something like being banned from men's skating stop him. Instead, pairing with his former arch-rival, Jimmy MacElroy, in the first ever male-male figure skating pair and improvising the "Iron Lotus" in reverse earns them the championship over the wicked Van Waldenberg siblings.

Like Chazz, when career or financial obstacles exist, it's important to be resourceful. If you are unhappy at work, perhaps there is an alternative role in the company where you could succeed. Or, if you need to save money, maybe there are creative ways to cut back and still be happy. Just be sure to properly balance any out-of-the-box actions with the associated risks (not everyone needs an Iron Lotus to win).

3. Zoolander: Act Ethically

In "Zoolander" Ferrell's character Mugatu is an eccentric, self-absorbed, teacup poodle-toting fashion designer, hiding a distant past (inventing the piano key necktie), and doing whatever it takes to have his fashion empire succeed. Mugatu's attempts to brainwash Derek Zoolander into becoming an assassin to help keep child labor in place fails as his evil plan is thwarted by Matilda and fellow-supermodel, Hansel — who is "so hot right now."

Unethical business dealings have made headline news for years, from Enron to Madoff. Whether it's something large scale or just doing small things on a daily basis, it's important to always act ethically. Steer clear of any firm or person who seems to support immoral practices, no matter how much money is promised. (See also: Things I Just Won't Do to Save Money)

4. Step Brothers: Financial Independence Is Important

At the age of 40, extremely immature "Step Brothers" Brennan and Dale cause chaos for their newly married parents by refusing to move out of the house and get jobs. Antics, like fights over Dale's drum set, wearing tuxes to job interviews, dressing up in culturally offensive outfits, and ruining their dad's prized-possession boat, ultimately cause their parents to divorce.

It was only when Brennan and Dale moved out and grew up that their parents got back together. While it may seem easy enough to live off of your parents (or anyone else for that matter), totally relying on someone else means that you never really learn responsibility and the worth of things, plus it may not last forever. Parents can help by teaching children early on about the importance of financial independence. (See also: How to Raise Financially Independent Kids)

5. Kicking and Screaming: Choose a Good Mentor

Getting Mike Ditka to be your mentor may be great if you're a professional athlete, but for gentle, family man Phil Weston ("Kicking and Screaming") it's a disaster when he needs help coaching his 10-year-old son's losing soccer team. While Ditka introduces Phil to the powers of coffee and recruits a ringer to move the team into first, Phil eventually morphs into a tyrannical, winning-is-everything role model, like his own father.

Having a mentor is an important step to succeeding in your career. Mentors can help you navigate the work environment and encourage you when you need it most. However, it's important to follow a mentor who you can relate to and who shares admirable traits worth emulating.

6. Elf: Stay True to Yourself

In "Elf," Buddy's journey from the North Pole to New York City to find his real father includes fun revolving doors, the world's best cup of coffee, and chewing gum on the street. Despite his love of maple syrup and all things Christmas, Buddy's naivety and accidentally mistaking his father's important business associate for an elf cause his father to disown him.

In the end, Buddy's true nature saves the day as he helps fix Santa's sleigh and spreads the spirit of Christmas, which makes even his hardened father come around. Like Buddy, staying true to yourself can help you get ahead in work and life. It's important not to let others dictate your career choices or how you spend your money. Stick to what motivates you and always follow your own passions.

7. Old School: Build a Strong Network

Newly married at the beginning of "Old School," Frank slowly reverts to his old Frank-the-Tank college ways of excessive partying, beer bongs, and streaking. Short of taking a petting-zoo tranquilizer dart in the neck and jumping through a flaming hoop dressed as a mascot, Frank embodies the true meaning of dedicated fraternity brother. He also heavily relies on Mitch and his new brothers after his wife wants to separate.

It can be said that the reason Frank and his fraternity win out in the end, defeating the evil Dean Pritchard and finding happiness, is because they supported one another. Having a strong network can help you in your career and just about everything else in life. Whether you are job searching, growing your business, or just needing advice, your contacts can help you. It's also important to network the right way, which means not dismissing others who need help or only reaching out when you need something. (See also: Hidden Networks That Can Help You Land Jobs)

8. Talladega Nights: Be Happy With Less

Star NASCAR driver Ricky Bobby ("Talledega Nights") basks in the fame and fortune of being a top racer. However, it takes a life-changing accident against his French arch-rival Jean Girard, the betrayal of his best friend, Cal, with his wife, and being relegated to delivering pizzas to provide for his sons, Walker and Texas Ranger, to make him realize what ultimately makes him happy — driving fast.

In personal finance terms, it's also important to realize what truly drives your happiness. If your current situation leaves you wanting more, it's time to think of why. Do you really need more money to live happily or is some of it for show? It's also a good eye-opener to learn how to cut back and focus your money and energy on the things that matter most.

Will Ferrell may be an unexpected source of personal finance and career advice, but what has Ferrell taught you about money and jobs or anything else? Please share in comments.

Disclaimer: The links and mentions on this site may be affiliate links. But they do not affect the actual opinions and recommendations of the authors.

Wise Think is a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, an affiliate advertising program designed to provide a means for sites to earn advertising fees by advertising and linking to amazon.com.

Guest's picture

Don't forget about the important tax lesson from Stranger Than Fiction: take all your deductions! Will Ferrell's character tells Maggie Gyllenhal's baker that she will not owe the IRS any money if she actually itemizes the food she gives away to the homeless.

LOVE this piece, by the way. Just give me a minute, and I'm sure I can come up with more of Mr. Ferrell's money wisdom.