'Watching The Big Short reminded me of how I lost everything.'

WARNING: This article contains spoilers.

It was always going to be difficult for me to watch the movie The Big Short. In hindsight I probably should have waited until it was released on Foxtel and watched it at home, where it wouldn’t matter if I wanted to yell at the screen, cry at inappropriate times and vigorously discuss it with my husband every two minutes.

Luckily the rest of the crowd was older – we were catching a mid-week midday session – and they too felt compelled to yell the occasional anti-establishment comment out at the screen.

The Big Short is a true story based on the activities of a handful of Wall Street traders who saw the 2008 Global Financial Crisis coming and bet against it, making themselves hundreds of millions of dollars. The movie is based on the hugely successful book The Big Short: Inside the Doomsday Machine by Michael Lewis.

The trailer for the movie sold it as a tale of small-time traders who got one over on the big bad banks that cause the financial crisis in the first place. In actual fact, the movie wasn’t like that at all. It didn’t feel triumphant, it didn’t feel righteous, it didn’t feel like they got a win at all. It felt really, really sad.

Christian Bale as Michale Burry. Image: The Big Short/Paramount Pictures.

It begins when Michael Burry, an ex-neurologist who created Scion Capital, identified that there was a housing and credit bubble. He discovered this in 2005, a full two years before the bubble burst. He created a credit default swap market whereby he bet against Collateralised Debt Obligations (CDOs), a structured asset-backed security. Everyone thought he was nuts. He would only make money if the housing market failed, if millions of people were suddenly unable to make their mortgage payments.

Nobody believed him. Only a handful of other investors who stumbled upon his activities and joined him in cashing in on what was one of the biggest economic disasters of our lifetimes.

How could the property market fail? How could CDOs fail? How could Wall Street, banks, investment companies all fail due to the wide-spread practice of less-than-ideal candidates being given mortgages when many didn't have any money or even a job.


Burry was able to pin-point the time when the bubble would likely burst. He thought that time would be the second-half of 2007 when the "honeymoon interest rate" of most of these dodgy mortgages would run out and start increasing. He knew millions of homeowners wouldn't be able to afford their mortgages.

Steve Carrel and Ryan Gosling. Image: The Big Short/Paramount Pictures.

It would create a spill-on effect that would bring the world's economic markets to their knees, until the governments stepped in to cherry pick a few industries to bail out, banking included, however this won't be without consequences.

There were a lot of people at fault for all of this. We can start with the lax lending criteria for loans. We can blame the brokers who signed them up making huge profits, the banks that approved them and failed to check them, the traders who packaged them up as commodities and then sold them, the ratings agencies too scared to lower the value of these commodities based on the fact they were "full of shit".

Then there's the small-time traders, the alleged “heroes” of the movie who were at first thrilled that the financial windfall that looked certain to befall them and then some, not all, were left effected by how they made that money.

They made that money based on the devastation of individuals and families, many of whom lost their homes, their jobs, all their money, their ability to provide for their children and their dignity.

I was one of them. In 2008, as a result of the fraudulent and unethical practices of the American banking industry and many other financial sector services, I lost my home, my car, my money, my ability to buy for my children and all of my dignity.

Watch a trailer for the movie The Big Short. Article continues after this video.


The movie stars Christian Bale as Michael Burry, Ryan Gosling, Steve Carrell, Marissa Tomei and Brad Pitt as well a series of celebrity cameos to explain some of the more complicated aspects of the story. Thank goodness for them, otherwise I would have been lost.

I don't blame myself for being lost, for finding it all confusing because the reality is that it was all so badly done that even those in the industry had trouble believing what was going on.

That was part of the problem. Nobody believed it would get as bad as it did. Nobody believe the housing market could fail.

My husband and I lost our business, our home, our car and everything we had worked for. While the worlds’ governments cherry-picked certain industries to “bail out” we were left to sink, taking investors and employees down with us. It was soul-destroying. Through no fault of our own we were set to lose every single cent we had ever earned. The fact our marriage and family survived it is a miracle. Not one couple we know who suffered a similar fate has survived it.

We are stronger for it but we are also still scarred and angry.

What is the point of us building it all back up - a house, a car, savings, investments - when all the same conditions that lead to the Global Financial Crisis still exist, and then some? How do you think those government bail outs were funded? They were funded through borrowings and by printing money. America owes an extraordinary amount of money to China and China's economy recently crashed and continues to tank.


China is going to require repayment of money owed to it. America doesn't have the money to pay them back. Deflation is a huge issue in the U.S. economy. Australia will be effected again because all economic markets are linked. Not to mention the immediate effect of the Chinese economic catastrophe on Australia because we are already so invested in each other's markets.

What happens to the Chinese economy effects the world economy, and that's before the repayment of debt to China is even considered.

There is nowhere to hide.

Australia was shielded last time. Sure, hundreds of thousands of people lost their homes, their money, their pride, their security, their superannuation, their savings, their hope – however we were told over and over again how lucky we were. Look at us. There are way less people living in cars here than in America. Sure you have to declare bankruptcy but at least you can get a crappy rental. And hey, here’s a cash payment by the government. Please spend it at the shops. It will help us.

Then put your fingers in your ears and say, "La la la la la la la la la".

The Big Short is based on a true story. Image: The Big Short/Paramount Pictures.

No word on how those cash handouts were funded. They were funded by our tax dollars. I was struggling to find grocery money when that money landed in my account but instead of being happy I felt incredibly anxious. I knew that someday somehow we’d have to pay for it. The government can’t just throw money off a rooftop without far-reaching effects.

I don’t want to scare you, although I am scared. I just want you to know what I have learned. I have learned that it’s not the government or banks or financial services companies who have the responsibility to keep each of us safe from financial ruin. It is each of us as individuals and the many money decisions we make daily, weekly and monthly.


The only power we have is to keep our debt manageable, to prioritise the repayment of it and to have a rainy day plan. What would you do if you lost your job? Can you afford your mortgage when the interest rates go up? How?

Do you have retail debt?

Are you saving money?

My husband and I have never recovered from what happened to us. Here we are, seven years later, still renting with minimal savings, trying to provide for our three children and pay for their lives and futures. We aren’t in a position to eat two-minute-noodles so we can save a deposit for a home. House prices are ridiculous.

We refuse to get a mortgage. We wouldn’t sleep. We prefer renting.

Sure, we are scarred and wounded. Clearly we are still badly effected by what happened to us.

The Global Financial Crisis was a result of irresponsible and unethical behaviour by mortgage brokers, the banks, investment firms, governments, ratings agencies and everyone else who were too busy counting their cash to stop and really ponder the consequences of their greed.

Brad Pitt. Image: The Big Short/Paramount Pictures.

Only one banker went to prison. All the other heads of banks and firms and departments paid themselves large cash bonuses as their companies sank and moved on with their lives. None of them really cared. They didn’t care about the job losses, the pain and suffering, the suicides, the attempted suicides…but I care. Lots of us care.

The movie will leave you feeling rattled at the very least. It’s well-made, well-cast, accurate and doesn’t pull any punches.It will make you rethink your own financial situation and do what you can to shield yourself from what's to come.

Because it is going to come. That's just a cold, hard fact.

All opinions expressed in this article are the opinions of the writer and are based on her personal knowledge and experiences. This article contains speculation about the economy and the financial services industry. Please seek advice if you are concerned about your individual financial situation.