This article is part of the #pfmessages project at The Yachtless, exploring personal finance messages in fiction.
I’m a dyed in the wool geek. I love cult tv, superhero movies, science fiction and fantasy books, and role playing games. One of my proudest Mom moments was when my then 4-year-old insisted on dressing as Hermione Granger for Halloween.
But I also am passionate about protecting my money. Science fiction and fantasy have a lot to teach me about how to do just that.
There’s also more to life than money, and a good life is as much about our relationships with others as it is about being smart with money.
Here are the keys I’ve found to Live Long and Prosper:
Winter is Coming (Game of Thrones)
Bad things happen. A recent study by Mark R Rank and Thomas A Hirschi indicated that 61.8% of the US population will experience at least one year of poverty between the ages of 25 and 60, as determined by falling into the bottom 20% of the population for income. 42% will fall into the bottom 10% for at least a year. Illness, job loss, and other crises can cause hard-working, productive people to experience hardship even in good economic times, and good economic conditions don’t last forever.
Whatever your current financial situation, it’s always a good idea to plan for a time when the situation is not as good. Build up your emergency fund. Salt away for retirement. Include some hedges against risk in your investment portfolio. If you plan beyond today, your future looks much brighter
Don’t Panic! (The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy)
Yes, bad times will come. The best thing to do is keep your head and stick to your plan. I invested through the dot-com bubble and the great recession. Because I didn’t sell when the markets were down and I kept investing in companies I believed in, I’m in a better situation that I would be otherwise. Admittedly, I’m not a retiree, so I had time for the markets to recover. And going forward, I made sure I protect myself as I get older by having a more diverse portfolio that includes tax-free bonds.
With Great Power, there must also come great responsibility (Spiderman)
Money is a type of power. There are always those with less who have less than I do. Realizing that gives me a responsibility to help others.
I try to at least make small donations to help food-insecure people even when my funds are not flush. I talk to my child about how important it is to help those in need, and she gives as well.
Try not. Do, or do not. There is no Try. (The Empire Strikes Back)
Trying indicates a lack of commitment. If you try to do something, a little part of you is saying you can’t. You will always be more successful if you go all in.
I wrote a post earlier about how my first experience as an investor had many mistakes I would not repeat. That said, I accomplished the milestone of becoming an investor and started building wealth. I could write the same thing from my first job, my first relationship, and every other first I’ve experienced. Even if you fail, as long as you do something with commitment, you do more than try.
It’s our choices, Harry, that show what we truly are far more than our abilities. (Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets):
You have to apply your skills in order to use them. All of the talent in the world doesn’t help you succeed if you choose poorly.
Plenty of people can be successful with money without having any obvious advantages, like the janitor who amassed an $8 million stock portfolio. Plenty of advantaged people fail badly. Just look at all of the professional athletes, musicians, and actors who made millions and lost it all.
Choose wisely: save and invest, hedge some investments by being conservative with at least a portion, plan for the future, and don’t go crazy with spending. Concentrate on long-term goals instead of short-term gratification. It’s a choice between one life and another.
Make the better choice.
Speak Friend and Enter (Lord of the Rings):
Sometimes the most obvious answer is the answer.
Not everything needs to be complicated or overthought. There isn’t always a trick to make things easier or better. If you want to save money, spend less while keeping income constant or earn more while keeping expenses constant. If you want to budget, make sure you’re tracking your spending.
If you follow the simplest path, you may not have the easiest time. You’ll probably find the most success, though.
I laugh in the face of danger, and then I hide until it goes away. (Buffy the Vampire Slayer)
Don’t DIY everything. We can’t slay every demon, and we can’t do every task.
There are times when it’s best to concentrate on what you know how to do well and leave other matters to the experts. I know I’m good with numbers, so doing my own taxes is not a stretch. However, trying to do my own car repairs is far more likely to cost me money than saving any. For Jon, however, doing car repairs is as natural as breathing. He does his thing, I do mine.
I don’t want to discourage you from trying new things. We have to stretch to grow. No one can do everything, though. Practice delegation and resource allocation as well.
A man who could afford fifty dollars had a pair of boots that’d still be keeping his feet dry in ten years’ time, while the poor man who could only afford cheap boots would have spent a hundred dollars on boots in the same time and would still have wet feet. (Men at Arms/Discworld Series
Penny-wise and pound foolish. There are things you can save money on. There are also things you should spend money on so that you don’t have to spend a greater amount of money later.
Car and home maintenance, health insurance, and education are all things where paying fair value saves you money and underpaying or skipping entirely costs you more.
Sometimes, even boots.
Save money, but don’t skimp on quality when quality matters. Doing so costs a lot more in the long run.
In every job that must be done, there is an element of fun. You find the fun, and then the job’s a game. (Mary Poppins)
You won’t always like everything you need to do. Not at work, not at home, not at school.
The important thing is to accentuate the positive and get the job done. Take a long-term perspective, and you’ll often see that the efforts you are putting in today may lead to more opportunities tomorrow.
Plus, you’ll enjoy life a lot more with a positive outlook.
In 900 years of time and space, I’ve never met anyone who wasn’t important. (Doctor Who)
Treat people well. People who work for you. People who wait on you. People who are standing in line at the grocery store with you. Good manners and a little consideration go a long way.
Good manners and a little consideration go a long way to making life better for everyone. As soon as you forget this, it will bite you in the butt. You aren’t omniscient. That person you cut in line in front of may be taking your blood at the doctor’s office, or interviewing you for a job. Or maybe someone who’ll impact you later saw you be a jerk and remembers.
Remember that people always matter more than things, more than money, and more than yourself.
Money Lessons from Geekdom
“Fiction is the lie through which we tell the truth.”
― Albert Camus
The best lessons are often the unexpected ones, and you can learn things from almost any source if you are open to the lessons.
Even Buffy the Vampire Slayer.
Do you have a favorite money or life lesson from pop culture?
Edited and updated 4/28/17.