Real-Life Financial Advice from Characters of Popular Fiction
For a young person coming up in the world, getting your finances in order can be a daunting task. With no real experience to refer to and no idea what the future truly holds, it can sometimes feel easier to let your funds run wild and hope for the best. In case you were wondering, that is not a very good plan at all. Have no fear, these nine fictional characters from pop-culture can teach you the lessons you need to grab your financial future by the horns.
Real-Life Financial Advice from Characters of Popular Fiction
When you feel like your personal finances are out of control, look to your favorite pop-culture characters for the advice you need to get back on track.
Plan a Budget
“Do what I do. Hold tight and pretend it’s a plan!” — The Doctor (Doctor Who)
Regardless of the situation, things always seem to work out for the Doctor and his companions. Unfortunately, the same can’t be said about the harsh realities of your financial life; it’s important to have a plan. The first step of getting your finances under control is to develop a strategic spending plan and an all-inclusive budget.
- Identify your goals. How much do you want to save each month? How quickly do you want to pay off your debt?
- Get organized and know where your money currently goes. This will help you identify how effectively your current budget is being utilized.
- Calculate your monthly income and monthly expenses. Always guess low on your income and guess high on your expenses to give yourself a little wiggle room.
“We wants it. We needs it. Must have the precious.” — Gollum (The Lord of the Rings: The Two Towers)
As much as these words might be poison to your ears, an important part of becoming financially healthy is making cutbacks. Unlike the creature Gollum, you will need to differentiate between needs and wants and decide what you can live without. It might be painful at first, but in time, everything will be right as rain.
- Find ways to reduce non-essential expenses such as cable bills or cancel them altogether.
- Utilize public transportation or organize carpooling with your coworkers to save money on gas.
- Instead of eating out, make your own meals at home. Also, brew your own coffee in the morning instead of buying overpriced coffee at the drive-through.
Technology is Your Friend
“Never send a human to do a machine’s job.” — Agent Smith (The Matrix)
While Agent Smith’s intentions were not good, there is some merit to this philosophy. Using technology and tools you have at your disposal to organize, plan, and schedule your financial life will help eliminate any room for pesky human error.
- Utilize mobile alerts on your bank account that warn you when your balance is getting low. Many banks offer this handy little feature that can give you an upper hand.
- Schedule automatic payments for the bills you can and set reminders on your phone for those you can’t. Avoid late fees and you’ll be protecting your bank account and your credit score.
- Schedule automatic transfers into your savings account on a weekly or monthly basis. By taking choice and memory out of the equation, you’ll have an impressive savings account in no time.
Be Prepared for the Worst
“This money, I didn’t steal it. It doesn’t belong to anyone else. I earned it.” — Walter White (Breaking Bad)
Life can throw you unexpected curveballs at every turn; because of this, it is important to be fully prepared for any and all emergencies. Walter White, a.k.a. “Heisenberg,” amassed an enormous fortune for his family’s future through dangerous criminal activity. You shouldn’t follow in his footsteps by any means, but you should most certainly have the same attitude about the future.
- To prepare for unexpected emergency expenses such as home and auto repairs or medical bills, you should have a cash cushion of three to nine months’ worth of your fixed monthly expenses in a savings account.
- Consider renter’s and/or disability insurance that can help cover expenses in a time of need.
Save for Retirement
“I am Connor MacLeod of the Clan MacLeod. I was born in 1518 in the village of Glenfinnan on the shores of Loch Shiel. And I am immortal.” — Connor MacLeod (Highlander)
You may not be immortal, but just like the Highlander, you never know how long you’ll need retirement funds. It might not seem like a big deal now, but try explaining that to your future, retired self who can’t make ends meet. It’s never too early to save for retirement, and you owe it to yourself to make sure you can live comfortably for your entire life.
- Consider a tax-deferred 401(k) or individual retirement account (IRA) through your employer or on your own.
- Another option is to open a high-interest savings account and contribute funds on a fixed schedule.
Invest, Invest, Invest
“As you can see, my young apprentice, your friends have failed. Now, witness the firepower of this fully armed and operational battle station!” — Emperor Palpatine (Star Wars: Episode VI — Return of the Jedi)
A great way to ensure financial stability throughout your life is to invest. Before you get started, you should know not to put all of your eggs into one basket. Like the first Death Star before it, the second Death Star seemed like a sure thing, an investment by the Empire that would not fail. The same can be true for investments. Be sure to have a diverse stock portfolio so that if any single aspect fails (such as a two-meter-wide thermal exhaust port), you don’t lose everything.
- Learn as much as you can about investing and learn the ins and outs of different types of investments and methodologies before taking the leap. It can be much more complicated than you might anticipate.
- Remember that even with a diverse portfolio, there is always the possibility of failure. Because of this, it is important to have a backup plan; don’t have all of your money tied up in your investments.
Pay Your Debts
“A Lannister always pays his debts.” — Tyrion Lannister (Game of Thrones)
Paying your debt, and, more importantly, getting control of your debt, is a crucial step in becoming financially healthy. Tyrion may use the family motto to get himself out of sticky situations, but you would be wise to take debts as seriously as the Lannisters do. Get out ahead of your debt and develop a plan to pay off what you owe as quickly as possible.
- Set a certain budget just for paying off your debt. Then, make sure that you are allocating the highest payments of that budget toward the debt with the highest interest.
- Once that debt is paid off, keep your overall debt budget the same but move your newly freed funds to the debt with the next-highest interest. This snowball effect will ensure that your debts will be paid off faster over time.
- Always be sure to pay more than your minimum payments. Even a few extra dollars can make a huge difference in the long run. The more you pay now, the less you’ll need to pay overall.
Have Self Control
“I have no choice. The creature in me is uncontrollable…” — Bruce Banner (The Avengers)
If Bruce can get control of “the other guy,” then you can get control of your spending habits. Give yourself a few days to think about it before making purchases, and use every ounce of your willpower to avoid adding to your debt.
- Leave your credit cards at home. By eliminating the temptation to use them, you’ll avoid needlessly going in the wrong direction and adding to your debt.
- If you don’t trust yourself, consider cutting nonessential credit cards in half so that once they are paid off, you will be liberated from them forever.
- If you really want something, don’t buy it with credit: Buy it when you have the money saved up. By the time you have the money saved up, you might even realize that you no longer want it and save yourself the expense.
Celebrate Your Victories
“We’ve always defined ourselves by the ability to overcome the impossible. And we count these moments, these moments when we dared to aim higher, to break barriers, to reach for the stars…” — Cooper (Interstellar)
While the Earth probably isn’t dying around you, when you’re having financial hardships, it can sometimes feel like it. Set realistic short-term goals for yourself and celebrate these victories — no matter how small. The road to financial stability can be a long, seemingly impossible one, so walk on the positive side and acknowledge your achievements.
- Conversely, don’t punish yourself for making mistakes: You are human, after all. Simply pick up the pieces and get back on track!
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