scorecardresearchA Man Called Otto: 5 money lessons you can learn from Tom Hanks’ film

A Man Called Otto: 5 money lessons you can learn from Tom Hanks’ film

Updated: 10 Jun 2023, 11:22 AM IST

A Man Called Otto offers valuable money lessons such as being wary of trusting outsiders with your money, parking it in domestic plans, diversifying your investments, being wary of real estate sharks, and the power of pooling resources.

A Man Called Otto

A Man Called Otto

Based on a 2013 novel ‘A man called Ove’ by Swedish author Fredrick Bachman, the film received rave reviews from critics and viewers alike when it was released in 2022. Tom Hanks plays Otto, a lonely widower who wants to end his life and life keeps interrupting his efforts. This delightful, hope inducing film has quiet, obtuse lessons about money for us all.

Will you trust your money to an outsider?

The film starts with Otto making his rounds of the row house units in the morning. An inspection of his property and his surroundings. He responds to greetings from the morning walkers with a customary gruff response and warns a flighty looking woman to not let her dog pee on his lawn. His car is safe in his garage. He even ticks off a delivery truck that leaves the gate open. The delivery truck driver taunts him, ‘Give up! You own one unit. Sell it and move to a retirement community!’

Think about it. We should all be as cautious as Otto is about what we invest our monies in - don’t trust flashy offers of doubling value, ensure that your investments are safely parked (as his car is) and keep an eye out for dogs peeing on your lawn and spoiling it, just like fly-by-night schemes do to your money.

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Park your money in homegrown money plans

Otto’s car is American made, and he does not trust the Japanese cars. In fact he has not spoken with his best friend for years because the friend purchased a Japanese car.

His American made car runs smoothly despite the many years it has run and he has maintained the car well. He won’t let anyone else drive his car. Shouldn’t that be a lesson for us all? We get sidetracked by shiny objects - money schemes started by ‘foreign-returned’, ‘foreign-qualified’, ‘foreign-based’, companies/people and we are often blinded by buzz-words like ‘due diligence’. Do we ask how deep does their due diligence go? Do we read the fine print before we submit to Japan this or Mauritius that?

Be like Otto. Trust in companies that operate out of home turf. And maintain a beady, sceptical eye on your money.

A diversified portfolio: Like Otto and Marisol

Marisol and her family move into a home across from Otto and they adopt Otto, whether he likes them or not. She brings him food, she persuades him to babysit her daughters and she even gets him to teach her how to drive. She loves him so unconditionally that he is swept into her life and becomes a part.

We are terrified to lose our savings because it’s hard earned money. We react to new ideas just as Otto reacts to Marisol. If you are a traditional investor, happy to save at the post office or in fixed deposits (just as your parents did) you’re doing nothing wrong. 

But the joys of trying out something new that works is brilliant. Otto eats food that Marisol leaves for him, and forgets the fact that he has been trying to kill himself. If you have a Marisol in your life (a trusted money manager) then invest in say mutual funds, or stocks or other kinds of investments that you have never tried before.

Who knows, just like Otto, you might find lots of happiness. Otto - who was about to end his life - finds a reason to live.

ALSO READ: 5 money lessons from Tendlya: Your heroes inspire you to live a better life

Real estate sharks: Be careful when you buy or sell your home

In the film, a real estate company named ‘Dye & Merica’ is looking at taking over the homes of long term residents of the housing units where Otto lives. They use the worst kind of tactics to evict senior citizens from their homes, pushing them into assisted care living. Now the name itself should raise red flags for anyone. 

But Otto’s neighbour (the friend who bought that Japanese car and lost Otto’s lifelong respect) is old and hard of hearing and their son (who lives away from the parents) gives the real estate company the power of attorney to send parents to an old folks home.

Before you say, we are Indians, we treat our parents better, watch the Amitabh Bachchan - Hema Malini starrer Baghban.

Unscrupulous agencies are ready to jump in and buy real estate at a fraction of the price saying ‘someone died here, so it will be difficult to sell’, ‘how can old people maintain such a large property’ and so on. Be kind to the elderly folk in your family, find better solutions for them if you cannot take care in person.

Oh yes, and when buying a property, remember, your nest will be empty some day and children may or may not come back to you. So buy something you can handle. Let that be your castle, even if it is a small home.

When money is pooled, the result can be bigger

All mutual funds operate on the strength of the number of investors. In the film, each homeowner has tried to write to the government, the property developers their denial. They don’t want to move out of their homes into some ‘silly condominiums’. It’s only when Otto realises that all of them are in the same boat does he bring everyone together. And together their voices become stronger. They even find a unique way to handle their home crisis: they find a social media star who helps them.

Choose what and who you invest with, after much research and well. Only then will your portfolio be stronger. And yes, use social media wisely.

In the film, Otto learns to adapt to the neighbour who will not let him die alone. And that means he thrives and even learns to become a part of her family. You can watch the marvellous Tom Hanks play the crotchety Otto on Netflix.

Manisha Lakhe is a poet, film critic, traveller, founder of Caferati — an online writer’s forum, hosts Mumbai’s oldest open mic, and teaches advertising, films and communication. She can be reached on Twitter at @manishalakhe.


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First Published: 10 Jun 2023, 11:22 AM IST