Money Lessons and Takeaways from HBO's The Gilded Age

Money Lessons and Takeaways from HBO's The Gilded Age

“Life is like a bank account. You cannot cash a cheque without first making a deposit."


That line, delivered by Bertha Russell in HBO Max's new drama, ‘The Gilded Age’, is one of many financial great financial quotes, and lessons we've learned from watching this series. 


Set in New York City in the l890s, it's more than just a treat for the eyes. With character development and dialogue as rich as the sets and costumes it showcases, ‘The Gilded Age’ provides a window into real financial lessons applicable today. Here are three financial takeaways we learned from watching.

Lesson 1: Building up savings (and goodwill) never hurts

The quote referenced above is used by lead character Bertha Russell to deny aid to another character who had earlier spurned her. The quote is a truism that applies to social life, work, and money.


Even without watching the show, this quote can be shared with your kids when talking about checking your bank account balance before making a purchase to ensure you can afford it.


Lesson 2: When taking risks with your money, be ready to lose or win

Entrepreneurial spirit and stock market investments play a big role in how new money is made and how it disrupts social order. Before Black Tuesday, the stock market was largely viewed as a risk-free way to make incredible wealth.


Then, as now, it was never truly without risk. The dark side of taking uncalculated risks with one's money is on display when Mr. Russell's 'Old Money' adversaries bet against him in an effort to take down his business.


“You made the money once. You can make it again." Mrs Russell tells her husband as he makes the decision to play a financial game of 'chicken' risking everything in a strategic move to get his business back on track.


In the end, the risk paid off for Mr. Russell, but it had devastating consequences for his adversaries. Further highlighting the volatile nature of risk, sometimes you win, sometimes you lose. 


Lesson 3: With persistence, wealth is possible

As Mrs. Russell says, "Persistence is the key to everything. Patience and persistence." Having come from nothing and becoming one of the richest men in New York, his work ethic, years of experience, and business lessons learned, can't be taken away. His persistence and knack for taking calculated risks led him to build a thriving business and personal wealth. Even if he were to lose it all, he likely wouldn't stay down for long. 


Finding fun ways to talk about money

HBO's The Gilded Age may not be suitable for younger kids, but for parents, entertainment can provide a fantastic starting point to help introduce financial concepts. Whether your kids are into Disney, Star Wars, or even video games, use their interests to find common ground and start meaningful conversations about money with your kids.




What are your tips for starting money conversations? Share your thoughts @gohenry #letstalkmoney on Facebook, or Twitter.
Written by GoHenry Published May 8, 2022 ● 2 min. read