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8 financial lessons from 'Green Lantern'

The movie's not stellar, but the comic book character models some good ideas during his hero's journey.

By Donna_Freedman Jun 24, 2011 9:25AM

I went to see "Green Lantern" figuring that it wouldn't be great art. I was right. But it was a reasonably enjoyable popcorn movie in which a whole lot of stuff got blowed up real good.

Just for fun, my friend Linda B. and I decided to troll for deeper meaning. We knew it was in there somewhere.

And we found it. Here are eight financial lessons to be gleaned from the POW! WHAM! action of "Green Lantern":

The right clothes go a long way.
Hal Jordan, aka Green Lantern, gets by with just one outfit. Of course, it seems to be part of his body since the superhero transformation -- the suit and a mask just sort of materialize as needed -- but it works at formal functions as well as outer-space battles. So choose well-made, basic clothing elements over cheap, trendy attire. Not only will classic duds last longer, they can be worn longer. (Anybody still sporting parachute pants or huge shoulder pads?) Buy it right or buy it twice.

Be nice to your kids. They may have the upper hand one day. Hector Hammond, the nerdy scientist who's always felt unappreciated by his handsome, glad-handing U.S. senator father, relishes the chance to get even. Of course, Hector's mind is unhinged because he's been possessed by an evil space alien, but the fact is, he seemed to be irritated with his dad long before that. So all you parents who do the bare minimum for your kids -- or who, worse, don't support them at all -- well, don't be surprised if they don't want to help you out later on. Remember: They may be picking out your nursing home.

Don't let other people's opinions of success determine the course of your life. Hector feels like a failure because he's a college science teacher whereas his father is glib and good-looking and, most of all, powerful. He had absorbed his father's worldview so completely that he couldn't see his own profession as important. If you've got a job that gives you satisfaction and pays the bills, forget what other people think. That also goes for other things that other people think you "should" have, e.g., a hot car or a McMansion.

Beware of professionals who want to "help" but have their own agenda.
During a training session, the hulking Kilowog beats the snot out of Hal and then suddenly offers him a hand up. Naturally, Hal falls for it and naturally, Kilowog slaps him silly once more to demonstrate that plenty of people in the world don't want to help. Whether you've got financial woes or a sudden windfall, do not fall for a "credit repair expert" or "investment specialist" who steers you toward plans that make them money. Look for a reputable financial professional. (Hint: Middle-of-the-night TV ads are probably not a good place to find help.)

Have a backup plan.
Carol Ferris is a pilot transitioning into running the family aviation company. But she tells Hal that she'll still fly planes. So hey, all you folks who just know you're America’s next idol or the greatest young player since LeBron James: Hold on to your dreams, but be prepared to make a living in other ways as well.

Got a problem? Acknowledge it.
Hal is the typical hotshot, all coolness and bravado. Underneath he's tormented but won't admit it even to Carol, his oldest friend and possible love interest. That hurts both of them: Hal because his pain grows, and Carol because she wants to help but can't get close enough. If you're in trouble financially, come clean to your significant other or a friend or a relative. Unburdening yourself is not only cathartic, it forces you to confront the problem and look for solutions.

Old habits need not determine the future.
Obviously, Hal is able to overcome his inner demons. (Otherwise, it would be a very short movie.) Not only does he save the planet and maybe even the universe, he's able to change the way he behaves around others. Even Hector notices that Hal has changed, right before he tries to clobber him. If you feel powerless to change a bad financial habit such as a shopping addiction, keep this in mind: People can change. People do change. It takes work, and you're unlikely to have a mystical green lantern handed to you as a personal-finance tool. You're going to have to look on your own for help with things like budgeting, retirement and other ways to be smarter about money.

Set the alarm clock.
After an apparently eventful night with a new lady friend, Hal oversleeps and nearly misses a crucial jet demonstration. Some jobs let you make your own hours. Plenty don't. Show up on time, and get enough sleep to put in eight honest hours at work. Layoffs are still happening, so don't give the boss an excuse to can you. Unless, of course, you have that superhero gig on the side.

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