I’ve spoken at length about the brilliance of 1985’s Brewster’s Millions and what an insightful lesson it provides on the true value of money. Now I’ll balance that out by talking about the possible consequences of the events in that film. They might not be pretty.
Here’s a brief recap of the film. A nobody named Brewster stands to inherit $300 million from a long-lost relative on the condition that he first spend $30 million in 30 days and accumulate no assets in the process. He dumps millions of dollars into a political campaign telling New York City residents to vote for none of the above rather than electing a corrupt mayor. When he becomes the most popular mayoral candidate, he hastily drops out of the race. He then proceeds to spend the last of his $30 million just before the time limit expires, despite the best efforts of a law firm that wants him to fail. So the next morning he’ll wake up fabulously wealthy. Unfortunately, he’ll also likely wake up to a lot of problems.
Brewster’s campaign inspired the people of New York to demand more from their politicians and reject the two horrible options for mayor that they had. The same night that Brewster finishes his 30-day challenge, the election takes place. “None of the above” got more votes than either candidate, so there will have to be another election. Many think of it as a victory for the people and it’s all because of Brewster’s courage in standing up to corruption.
However, when they learn the truth that Brewster was only running a campaign to spend as much money as possible and that he displayed no courage but simply had nothing to lose, this will really take the wind out of their sails. Voters will become far more cynical than they were before Brewster came on the scene because they will see this as an immense betrayal. The man they trusted and respected will suddenly be just another liar in their eyes.
Security guards, decorators, financial advisors, and even a photographer were all hired by Brewster under false pretenses. Granted, he wasn’t allowed to reveal his true intentions by the rules laid out in the will. But that will be cold comfort to all of the people he will likely have to lay off after just a month’s work. They’ll have to crawl back to their previous employers and ask for their old jobs back or else seek new employment elsewhere. They might just take out their frustration on Brewster in the form of lawsuits.
Plus, the candidates Brewster sabotaged and the conniving law firm he beat will have good reason to sue the man who “defrauded” them. They probably wouldn’t have much of a case, especially since Brewster already agreed to pay the candidates plenty of money for defamation. But the fact that he’s now worth 10 times what everyone originally thought he was worth will likely attract the attention of cheats and scam artists looking to make a quick buck at his expense.
It’ll Never Work Again
When Brewster emerges as a multimillionaire after spending his entire fortune in a short amount of time, it won’t take long for people to put two and two together. Everyone will know what really happened. Some may be impressed by the feat and some might be annoyed by the waste of resources, but all will be extremely distrustful of the next recipient of a large amount of money.
Imagine if someone else wanted to leave their fortune to an heir on the condition they spend a certain amount of money over the course of a month. It wouldn’t work. The heir wouldn’t be able to keep the conditions of the inheritance a secret because everyone would guess it as soon as he started a spending spree. So the amazing lesson on the value of money would be lost on him. No one else will be able to recreate Brewster’s experience. Perhaps there are other creative means to convey this lesson, but the point is that this way is all played out.
It’s Still Worth It
Even though the fallout of Brewster’s experience will be ugly and hard to bear, I still think he comes out ahead. The respect he now has for money and the good that he can do with it in his life and others’ lives will definitely outlive the short-term problems he faces. Perhaps he could run for mayor for real and transparently explain why he did what he did the first time. He could even demonstrate how it exposed deep flaws in the campaign process itself. Maybe he could rehire a lot of his former staff members and give them new roles in his expanding business empire. And he could even capture the lessons he learned in a book that he could sell to other people who win the lottery or otherwise come into wealth suddenly. He’d have a great perspective on the topic that they could benefit from.
If he’s smart enough, he can turn lemons into lemonade and pretty soon Brewster’s millions would become Brewster’s billions.
This is the Deja Reviewer bidding you farewell until we meet again.