No other film, book or videogame has a stronger message concerning money than Fight Club – even if it’s not obvious at first.
If you’ve read my About page you’ll know that I’m a big film buff. I may not know everything that people consider “common knowledge”, but I somehow have a film encyclopaedia inside my brain – like a less reliable version of IMDb.com!
Most people who are into films will tell you that they don’t have a favourite film, that it’s too hard to choose. Well, I have one, and it’s undoubtedly Fight Club. Seriously, I must have seen that film at least 15 times – every time I watch it I like more than the last.
Enough film talk, though. Let’s get straight to the point:
What has Fight Club got to do with money?
Spoilers ahead! If you’ve not watched the movie, come back after you have 😉
Even if you haven’t seen the film – or read the also excellent book it was based on – you’ve probably heard about the first two rules of fight club, as they’ve become a pop culture reference. I’m about to break the first two:
“The first rule of Fight Club is you do not talk about Fight Club. The second rule of Fight Club is you DO NOT talk about Fight Club.”
The story follows a regular guy in his 30s who has a very average life. He works a 9-5 job with a bit of travelling here and there and buys his furniture from IKEA. He’s your Average Joe – funnily enough, we never actually learn what his name is, so it could actually be Average Joe!
At some point in his life, he grows so disillusioned with the modern world that he actually develops an alternate personality called Tyler Durden, played by Brad Pitt in the movie. Tyler basically starts a small revolution and ends up destroying buildings which have credit card debt records.
With so many people drowning in debt in today’s developed world – the average household credit card debt in America is $5,700 – this message resonates strongly with our time.
Whenever I watch it, I’m reminded of my favourite 4 quotes from the movie. These made such an impact on me that I took a different road: quitting my 9-5 career and starting this website.
“We buy things we don’t need with money we don’t have to impress people we don’t like.”
This is the quote that resonated with me the most. It just hit home.
When I first watched the film I was too young to really grasp what this meant. It was a bit like how parents watching Pixar films with their kids will get the not-so-obvious jokes, while they’ll go over their kids’ heads.
However, when I watched Fight Club aged 25, the took a whole different meaning.
I realised that I was doing exactly that!
I was the one buying the expensive car and watch to fit in and impress the people around me. Although I never carried any credit card debt (I’ve never actually used one) the car lease had a hefty 18% interest rate. Ouch!
Ultimately, you can see this quote in everyone around you. People have this desire to fit in and be accepted by society. They feel the need to keep up with the Joneses and buy status-defining possessions.
“The things you own end up owning you.”
The more possessions people get for themselves, the more debt they have to carry. Even if they are smart and pay for them with cash (i.e. with money they actually own…) they’ll have to keep earning enough money to maintain that lifestyle.
This is why so many people are trapped in their jobs. They need the money to pay for their expensive lifestyles.
The more expensive their possessions, the longer they’ll have to keep working for them and the less likely it is that they’ll be able to break free from their chains. Definitely no chance of saving any money and actually building wealth!
Imagine if you went out and bought yourself that car that you’ve had your eye on for ages – due to peer pressure or because adverts for it have worked their magic on you. Something like a C-Class Mercedes-Benz, the best-selling luxury car according to J.D. Power.
Once you got used to driving it for a while and hedonic adaptation kicked in, you’d have a few extra hundred dollars (a mid-range model of the C-Class can easily stack up to $500 per month) to pay each and every month. You’d be forced to earn those extra dollars on top of everything else, thus making you even more dependent on your job.
Next time you see someone driving around in a ridiculously expensive car, think about how much they’re having to pay for it and how much more they’re relying on their soul-sucking jobs.
“You’re not your job, you’re not the car you drive, you’re not the contents of your wallet.”
Finally, a quote about self-definition. This is something I’ve always found strange – we always define ourselves based on our professions.
I used to feel proud when I introduced myself as an engineer. It proved that I had completed one of the hardest degrees out there and managed to get paid for working as one. It brought along the assumption that I was earning good money and I had, at least, an above-average intelligence – hahaha!!
But I never felt that reflected who I was. I didn’t really enjoy being an engineer, so why would I want people to associate me with it?
I think that we’re pretty crappy at this as a society. We instantly judge people based on certain social and economic standards. We shouldn’t be defined by our possessions or by how much money we earn/have. We should be able to see people by who they are.
“Trust me, everything’s gonna be fine”
The penultimate line spoken in the film may not be as powerful as the other 3, but it’s still amazing. As bad as things can get, they’re always going to improve. Over a long enough period of time, most things end up being fine. 🙂
Whether you have a lot of debt or you’re working a job that you hate just to pay for the indulgences that “past you” allowed, there’s always another way. It’s never too late to start realising what really makes you happy and start building wealth.
How about you? Are there any films or books that changed your way of thinking? Let me know in the comments below!
Nice Post! It is definitely a good movie. I only saw it once but it definitely was memorable. I didn’t see the twist at the end coming, but I never do 🙂 . I also would not have thought to relate this to finance but now that you outlined it, it makes sense. Thanks for sharing!
Ricard Torres says
Thanks Brian! The twist is brilliant, so it’s easy not to spot. I didn’t really get the deeper meaning until I was older. But in an ideal economy, or another era, the conditions that caused the events in the movie simply would not have happened. Just writing this makes me want to watch it again! 😛