In 1937, an independent repertory theatre company called“Mercury Theatre” emerged from the creative minds of two futureHollywood legends and onto the Broadway stage. The next year, CBSradio hired its twenty-two year-old prodigy cofounder to produce aseries of radio broadcasts.


On July 11, 1938, First Person Singular aired its firstbroadcast, a dramatic reenactment of Bram Stoker’s “Dracula.”Shortly before Halloween that year, it became The MercuryTheatre on the Air. On the evening of October 30, 1938, OrsonWelles and his cast produced a modernized--andAmericanized--version of H.G. Wells' War of the Worlds,simultaneously spooking hundreds of thousands (some say millions)of Americans and forever imprinting the “genius” status onWelles.


Three years after making radio history, Welles made motionpicture industry with the film Citizen Kane. Itsinnovations have become so copied by movies since then that modernviewers merely shrug when exposed to its creative cinematography,storytelling techniques, and its realistic make-up that allowed,among others, Welles to play the same character from vibrant youngadult to stodgy old man.


Read: Help savers put a spring in theirstep


Lost in the drama of its epic tale, though, are revealinglessons of the level of fiduciary literacy at the time.


We would do well to require all financial service providers (andtheir clients) to watch this movie with the following lesson planin their hand.



Think of this checklist of 12 important scenes, feelings, andemotions conveyed by Citizen Kane as requisite rules ofmoney and money management we should allembrace.

  1. Money allows you to lift your condition. Whenthe young Charles Foster Kane’s mother finds she has inherited thedeed to a profitable mine, she sees it as a way for her only childto escape the wilderness that imprisons her family. Needless tosay, it worked.

  2. A good fiduciary knows when to say “no.” Tomany in the world of trust banking, Walter Parks Thatcher, Kane’slegal guardian, is both the hero of the movie and the ultimate rolemodel. He comes across as the stern father figure, repeatedly usinghis role as trustee to admonish the young--and at timesreckless--Kane.

  3. A good fiduciary manages the affairs of the beneficiaryin a dignified and conservative manner. As Kane’sfoil--and in so many words of Kane--Thatcher represents everythingKane hates. Kane is a flamboyant, spoiled, rich kid--and he knowsit. So does Thatcher, but Thatcher sees more.

  4. Money is there to be spent, not just earned.When Thatcher questions the sustainability of Kane’s finances, Kaneagrees he’s lost a million dollars and says he expects to loseanother million dollars net year. At this rest, says Kane, he’llhave to close his business… in sixty years. This is the ultimateexpression of “you can’t take it with you.” Too many people forgetthat.

  5. A good fiduciary stays loyal but knows when to say stepout of the way. Mr. Bernstein, Kane’s faithful employee,minds his business in two ways, both from a business standpoint andfrom a personal standpoint.

  6. Money can buy expertise. One week, all the topeditors work for your rival. The next week, they work for you.

  7. Money allows you to broaden your interests.Look at the massive collection of “stuff” in and about the groundof Xanadu, Kane’s stately mansion and inspiration for “Burn’sManor” on The Simpsons.

  8. Money allows you to explore strange new worlds.Wherever you go, there you are (can you name that movie reference),and Kane certainly had no compunction against travel.

  9. Money allows you to ignore convention. This iswhat best defines Kane, who, even as he runs for office, defiantlyrejects society’s rules--and pays for it dearly in the polls. Doeshe care? Does Trump?

  10. A good fiduciary continues to look out for the bestinterests of the beneficiary even when he’s no longer obligatedto. Kane, with his tail between his legs, eventuallyreturns to Thatcher, who provides one last act of good will.

  11. Money buys opportunity, not happiness. Alongthe way, every character is consumed by Kane’s millions, eachthinking it will buy them happiness. It doesn’t, but it does givethem plenty of (mostly squandered) opportunities and a heck of alot of memories.

  12. Money cannot replace your one true love. Themovie opens with Kane’s last breath, as he utters his realizationof all that really mattered to him--and it was there long beforethe money was there.

If you’d like to see how other movies (perhaps a bit more recentthan Citizen Kane) impact our understanding of financialliteracy, read “Summer Blockbusters: Movies that Teach Rights andWrongs of Financial Literacy,” (,August 11, 2015).


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Christopher Carosa

Chris Carosa has been writing a weekly article and monthly column for BenefitsPRO online and BenefitsPRO Magazine since 2011 and is a nationally recognized award-winning writer, researcher and speaker. He’s written seven books, including From Cradle to Retire: The Child IRA; Hey! What’s My Number? – How to Increase the Odds You Will Retire in Comfort; A Pizza The Action: Everything I Ever Learned About Business I Learned By Working in a Pizza Stand at the Erie County Fair; and the widely acclaimed 401(k) Fiduciary Solutions. Carosa is also Chief Contributing Editor of the authoritative trade journal and publisher of the Mendon-Honeoye Falls-Lima Sentinel, a weekly community newspaper he founded in 1989. Currently serving as President of the National Society of Newspaper Columnists and with more than 1,000 articles published in various publications, he appears regularly in the national media. A “parallel” entrepreneur, he actively runs a handful of businesses, including a small boutique investment adviser, providing hands-on experience for his writing. A trained astrophysicist, he also holds an MBA and has been designated a Certified Trust and Financial Advisor. Share your thoughts and story ideas with him through Facebook ( Twitter (