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New "Ballers" show puts spotlight on brokers

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Name a popular profession and you have likely seen a television show that takes you through the Hollywood version of what it’s like to hold that job. I name a series, you name the industry that first comes to mind: Grey’s Anatomy, Silicon Valley, Law & Order SVU, Mad Men, Million Dollar Listings, and CSI.

Many of these shows glorify the chosen career and create certain positive perceptions for viewers. However, financial advisors are a bit like the bridesmaids who rarely get the spotlight shone on their world. One former film critic/current financial advisor put it this way in Financial Advisor IQ: “We’re not represented. Unless we’re the Gordon Gekkos, we don’t get any attention. [Because] what we do is not interesting.”

To have an unscrupulous Wall Street character as your primary mass media representation is not exactly something to crow about. Then again, having a job that is neither provocative nor life threatening, but instead focuses on helping people gain control of their financial lives, is pretty OK for most advisors. But wouldn’t it be great to have a superhero, financial type for the public to admire?

Enter Ballers, described as “Entourage meets the NFL”, an HBO series that features Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson as a retired football player turned financial advisor. He works for a questionable money manager who is trying to leverage the sports contacts of Johnson’s character to gain athlete clients.

Instead of casting some mousey, stereotypical version of a financial advisor, the show places one of today’s most macho, action stars in the key role.  So, well, that’s cool. And at least it’s not akin to the lawyer portrayals in Empire and The Grinder, which have incensed professional legal groups.

Then we set the series in Miami so that we have lots of sunshine and bright colors against a showy, fast-paced backdrop. And it’s billed as a “sports comedy” (because money management is often hilarious) which should keep viewers from taking the plot lines too seriously.

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The show sprinkles in some secondary plotlines of football-induced ailments that may have long-term consequences and questionable players’ ethics to whet our appetite before we get to the good stuff: underfunded life insurance, estate distribution issues, financial planning and wealth management.

Yes, the show’s fictional advisors do touch on all of these areas but with much more glossy fanfare than you probably do in your practice each day.

The media has well documented the athlete stories of riches-to-rags (e.g., 1 in 6 NFL players go bankrupt within 12 years of retiring from the sport) so to use this as a primary client base for the show is certainly understandable and expected. If the show’s creators had put it in another part of South Florida and focused on retirees, the interest would be tepid to say the least. 

Whether this show will help or hurt the advisory profession is yet to be seen; the series’ first season recently ended (though you can still catch it on-demand) and was renewed for a second run. Perhaps if a new episode features ‘The Rock’ body-slamming a Madoff-type bad guy into the turf we could start organizing viewing parties at mutual fund conferences (“I’m not an advisor, I just play one on TV”).

More importantly, if the show is a success, is Real Advisors of Beverly Hills far behind?