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Financial Lessons in Pop Culture

By February 12, 2024No Comments
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Whilst financial education may not be readily available in main stream education – there are plenty of lessons we can learn from our favourite shows. Here’s a look at the lessons we can learn from some of our most beloved characters on the screen

Who in the world does not know about the famous series FRIENDS?

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Although there are a handful of FRIENDS episodes where financial lessons can be learned, let’s talk about a few very relatable ones.

I’m sure we all remember Season 1, Episode 17 The One with Two Parts: Part Two, where Joey indulged in buying new furniture and electronics to furnish his new apartment. This led him to max out his credit cards, and soon after finds himself in financial distress because he realised that he will not be able to keep up with the payments anymore.

Relatable, right? One way or another, we may have all overspent on a few stuff in the past – or still do… it’s a hard habit to break especially if you have that piece of powerful plastic always by your side, ready to swipe the world away.

It gives us the impression that we have a lot of money spare, only to regret everything a month after when the bill arrives; and you realise you spent $1,200 to purchase a dog statue!

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Yeah, we have all been there, Joey.

In the same episode, there was also a skit at the beginning where Monica brings Rachel to the ER because of a sprained ankle. While filling up the forms for Rachel, Monica asked about health insurance, which Rachel respond to by comically saying “Oh yeah, check it! I definitely want some of that.” Not knowing that she actually needed insurance for the medical procedures.

The skit continues on to Monica saying, “You don’t have insurance?” And Rachel asking “Why, how much is this gonna cost?

A LOT.

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While insurance fraud is not something to consider in real life, it does still happen unfortunately. The best way we can all avoid finding ourselves in a similar situation is to make good financial choices early on.

Easier said than done, I know. But it’s possible.

Even if we were a Season 1 Joey at one point in our lives, where we overspent and fail to budget. Or a Season 1 Rachel who doesn’t prioritise health insurance, and was just starting to learn how to be less dependent on her parents money. There’s opportunity for us to blossom into a Season 3 Rachel who has found her career path, allowing her to gain more financial independence. As well as a Season 8 Joey, who has learned to manage his finances better.

Some of us our luckier in a sense that they have always been a Chandler. – Not sure if these people also worked in statistical analysis and data reconfiguration. But there are the wiser few who have chosen the path to financial literacy at a younger age, similar to Mr. Chandler Muriel Bing. Something that all of us should follow.

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Could you BE any more financially literate? Why yes, yes you absolutely can.

Walter White. Of course you know him.

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While this series is primarily a crime drama, there’s also a lot of financial lessons we can pick up from the infamous Walter White.

For those of you who are not familiar with the series (which I highly doubt), Walter White was a high school chemistry teacher turned into a methamphetamine manufacturing drug lord.

His health issues were already established early on in the series, as well as his struggles to make a living. Aside from being a teacher, he also worked part-time at a car wash in order to support his wife and a son who had a disability. Plus, learning about his cancer did not make things any better for them financially.

All these financial struggles pushed him to do the unthinkable. His desperation led him to make risky and immoral decisions. Sure he made loads and loads of money. But it was at the expense of his own peace, the relationship he had with his family, and also the lives of the people close to his heart.

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Such a heavy thought to process…

This actually highlights the importance of having health insurance and emergency funds. Financial literacy goes a long, long way. So let’s not shy away from it. While we all know saving money for a rainy day comes with its own challenges, it’s better than the alternative, a life of crime and drug manufacturing.

On a lighter note, if you are at the point in your life where you are still figuring things out financially, it’s okay too. Just build your wealth at the pace most ideal to your situation. The important take away is you’ve started.

The dream team duo; Harvey Specter and Mike Ross

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Unlike the two previous examples above, the financial learnings we can take away from Suits are more inclined on the importance of education and negotiation in order to achieve financial goals.

This series revolves around these two characters; Harvey Specter, who was a successful senior partner at Pearson Hardman (later on Pearson Specter, and so on, and so on… If you know what I mean). And Mike Ross, a highly intelligent individual with a photographic memory which allows him to excel academically. Mike’s legal knowledge, despite not having any formal law degree, impressed Harvey. This prompted him to take Mike under his wing.

One important lesson we can get out of the character of Mike Ross is that no matter how skillful a person is, the world we live in has rules and laws that need to be followed; this cannot be swayed by mere intelligence alone, not even if you have a 100-point score from an IQ test.

Now for us who are not gifted with extraordinary intelligence of Mike, we need to be wise in investing on education. While there are people who manage to make it through life without a degree and become successful businessmen and women, not everyone is as lucky. Allowing yourself to have quality education can help you in the long run, especially in securing stable jobs that can ultimately pave the way for the financial freedom everyone dreams of having.

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In other words, get yourself that diploma and be a corporate slave for a few years so you can sip your espresso martini beside the pool some day. You might even be able to afford a nice Dolce & Gabanna suit like Mike Ross here.

Young Sheldon; The new crowd favourite, and with good reason!

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“Young Sheldon” is the spin-off prequel to another well-known series “The Big Bang Theory”. This one focuses on the early life of Sheldon Cooper, a child prodigy with a brilliant mind. While the show primarily explores Sheldon’s academic and family life in East Texas, it also incorporates financial lessons through his family’s experiences.

Throughout the series, it is apparent that the Cooper household is a middle-class family who also has their fair share of financial struggles; especially since they are only living on a single income at the start of the story. This somehow improves when Mary Cooper manages to land a job at their local church, helping her contribute to the family expenses.

The theme of the series somehow puts a spotlight on the importance of frugality and resourcefulness, as the Cooper family often demonstrates in managing their household. They show viewers that its possible to lead a fulfilling life without excessive spending.

But of course, it’s a plus for them that they have a literal genius child being chased by the big universities to become part of their academe. Even going as far as paying them just to get Sheldon on their team.

Another lesson we can take away from Young Sheldon is grabbing the opportunity to pursue scholarships and grants. Whilst we may not be as intelligent as Sheldon, this does not mean government grants opportunities aren’t available.

Lessons from the  Coopers. – You have to work hard, have discipline, and as Mary Cooper likes to put it depend on the grace of the Lord.

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Alright, Mary.

Surely there are other TV series that comes to mind which shares financial lessons, but let’s end this article by talking about a popular movie that has touched the hearts of many.

Will Smith in the True to Life Movie, The Pursuit of Happyness

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Financial struggles can really shake people to their core. This is evident in the life story of Chris Gardner where his marriage fell apart because of the financial hardships they were facing. He and his son struggled with homelessness while he tried to get out of unemployment.

The story of Chris is one of the best examples of showing resilience in the face of adversity, and how financial literacy and discipline can help you achieve the comfortable life you long for.

Whether you are currently a stock broker like Chris, a real estate agent, a businessman, or a regular corporate employee waiting to experience that “I made it” moment like the end of this movie, the key takeaway from Chris’ experience is to never give up.

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Budgeting, widening your network, the importance of side hustles, and choosing to live within your means are some of the lessons we can learn from The Pursuit of Happyness.

These familiar characters we all love and adore can also be a source of inspiration and not just entertainment. If you take the time to reflect on the cautionary tales of Walter White, or the financial intelligence of Chandler Bing, as well as the financial breakthrough of Chris Gardner, it may be able to help you plan your journey accordingly. Paving the way to guide you on wiser financial choices that your future self will surely thank you for.

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