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7 Financial Lessons We Can Take From Breaking Bad

7 Financial Lessons We Can Take From Breaking Bad

Breaking Bad can teach us all some valuable life lessons; there’s still hope for television, human’s are capable of extraordinary and despicable things, don’t start a meth lab. Here, Tim Lenke from Wise Bread has 7 financial tips we can learn from Breaking Bad:

The hit TV show “Breaking Bad” will leave a lasting legacy as one of the most intense and popular shows on television. Watching Walter White and associates descend deeper into meth madness week after week has been truly entertaining.

But it’s also been educational from a personal finance standpoint.

Suffice it to say, Walter White made a lot of questionable decisions. And while we’re probably never going to make a foray into making crystal meth, many of his choices can offer helpful lessons in money management for the average, law-abiding citizen. From preparing for disaster to investing your money and how to deal with unexpected wealth, there is much to learn from the craziness of Breaking Bad. Here are seven lessons to take away from the madness. [Caution: Spoilers Coming]

1. Practice Good Estate Planning

Walter White began cooking crystal meth because he got an unexpected cancer diagnosis. He wanted to pay off his medical bills and make sure his family was taken care of.

There are obviously better ways to plan for a bad event.

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Life insurance is something everyone with a family should have. Do you have enough coverage? Look into setting up an annuity or other vehicle that can result in consistent payments to your family if the worst should happen.

Another big piece of estate planning is your emergency fund. Do you have enough cash in the bank to get through a tough period? Many financial advisors suggest putting away at least six months of salary.

A Roth IRA is a great way to save for retirement due to its tax advantages, but it also comes in handy in an emergency because any deposits you make can be withdrawn without a penalty.

Take time to review your financial plan. Are you prepared to handle any bad news that comes your way?

2. Get Quality Health Insurance

Health insurance is a vital part of your financial plan, and it’s important to review your policy to ensure you’re properly covered.

Walter White lived in a pre-Obamacare world. That means his medical expenses may not have been capped. Under the new Affordable Care Act, his expenses would have been capped at $12,700 annually, even if he had the low-cost “Bronze Plan” purchased through one of the new health insurance exchanges. (He also would not have been turned down by insurers for any pre-existing conditions.)

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But even under Obamacare, it’s still important to find coverage that won’t leave you on the hook for thousands of dollars that you may not have budgeted for. If you get insurance through your employer, review it closely to ensure you’re properly covered. If you do purchase coverage through a health insurance exchange, take a look at the Gold or Platinum plans, which have higher premiums but more comprehensive coverage. Being underinsured can still lead to financial hardship.

If you do come down with a medical condition, your employer may offer a health spending account, which allows you to deposit money tax free to help pay medical bills. Keep in mind, too, that unreimbursed medical expenses are often tax-deductible.

3. Talk About Money With Your Spouse

Walter thought he was best off hiding the truth from his wife, Skyler, but he’d have been better off being honest with her from the start.

According to the National Endowment for Financial Education, 31% of American adults who combined assets with a spouse or partner say they have tried to conceal the truth about their finances. Nearly 60% of these adults say they hid cash from their partner or spouse. But that same report also pointed out that in most cases, spouses end up finding out the truth, anyway.

Once Skyler knew about Walt’s “business,” she was — surprisingly — able to help him. But their relationship was irreparably damaged. The lesson here is that hiding financial truths from your spouse can strain a relationship and cause you to make bad choices. A family’s finances are always better off when everyone is aware of the full picture.

4. Do Something With Your Money

Since most of Walter’s money was obtained illegally, he had trouble investing it through traditional means. That’s why he kept most of his cash under the floor, in storage units, and in barrels in the desert.

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But for the rest of us, it rarely makes sense to follow the “under the mattress” philosophy of saving. Most bank savings accounts and CDs will pay you interest and are FDIC-insured. There are also plenty of other safe investments, including bonds, that will protect your initial investment and offer a return. Even stocks are generally safe if you invest in index funds and don’t need your money for a decade or more.

5. Manage Your Risk, and Don’t Get Greedy

Walter White’s downfall may have come when he continued to cook crystal meth even when he had more money than he’d ever need. He let ego and pride get in the way of sensible thinking, and continued taking big risks when he didn’t have to.

It’s tempting to always go after the highest return on investments. But investments with the highest returns often have the highest level of risk.

The lesson here is that if you are ahead of the game in achieving your financial goals, consider taking a more conservative investment approach to protect what you have. This is especially true for folks who are approaching the age at which they plan to retire.

6. Don’t Buy Flashy Things, Especially for Your Kids

After Walter’s drug money started rolling in, he went and bought Walt Jr. an expensive sports car. This was, of course, a terrible idea for someone trying to keep a low profile.

Even if you come into a lot of money legally, there are better things to do than blow it on an expensive material item. (Especially a car, which declines in value the second you drive off the lot.)

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Even ultra-rich people should take time to teach their children about good financial habits. If you feel the need to get a car for a teenager, take them to the car lot and have them learn about how cars are marketed and priced. Let them help you negotiate the best price on a small, reliable, and fuel-efficient sedan. Once it’s bought, set up a plan for having them pay you back.

And set a good example — parents who spend money irresponsibly have kids who spend money irresponsibly.

7. Don’t Be Afraid to Ask for Help

When Walter needed to launder his drug money, he called Saul. When he needed some bad guys to disappear, he found Mike or some other henchmen. Without some help, there’s a good chance Walt and Jesse would have been caught or dead before Season 3.

It never hurts to consult with experts when you are in over your head. If you are confused by how to invest your money, find a good financial advisor. If you have home or auto repairs that you can’t handle yourself, hire a guy. It’s OK to get help.

Tim Lenke is a dad of two who enjoys investing, saving for big trips, and quality barbecue. Tim blogs at Wise Bread and MakingCentz.

7 Financial Lessons From Breaking Bad | Wise Bread

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Last Updated on July 10, 2020

The Definitive Guide to Get out of Debt Fast (and Forever)

The Definitive Guide to Get out of Debt Fast (and Forever)

Debt can feel crushing, like a weight that is always weighing you down. Looking at those numbers, it can feel as if you’ll never get out from under it. However, if you really want to learn how to get out of debt, it is possible with a great deal of focus and self-control.

Getting out of debt isn’t impossible. Like any big goal, all that it takes is an action plan to identify where you are and creating a plan to zero out your debt.

Identifying All of Your Debts

The first part of paying off your debt is getting a complete picture of what you owe. When you have everything written out in front of you, it makes it much easier to create an action plan. Depending on how much you owe, it might also help you realize it’s not as bad you might have originally thought.

Here’s how you can get started identifying your debts:

1. Own Your Debt

Before you start identifying all of your debts, take a moment to process that you have debt but want to get out of it.

Forgive yourself for any past mistakes, missed payments, or overspending. It might be painful to accept how much debt you have at first, but you must own it.

2. Make a Debt Tracker

It’s astonishing how few people ever created a tracker to understand their total debts. Most likely, it comes from not wanting to accept the guilt of having debt, but, if avoided, it can make it nearly impossible to get out of debt.

Open up a new Google or Microsoft Excel sheet and list out all of your debts. Start with the name of the creditor, interest rates, total balance, loan term length (if any), and the minimum amount due each payment. This will include student loans, credit cards, and any other type of debt owed.

3. Get Your Debt Number

Once you’ve made your debt tracker and taken the other steps, identify your total payoff number. This is crucial, as you will have a starting point and a clear goal that you are trying to achieve.

Prioritizing Your Debts

All debt is not created equal. It’s imperative to understand that there are different types of debt.

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1. Understand Bad and Good Debts

Bad debts are usually paying for things you want instead of always need. While there might be some emergencies that max out your credit cards, often times it’s excessive spending[1].

There are three main types of bad debt:

  • Credit Card Debt: The average American household owes over $16,000 in credit card debt!
  • Auto Loan Debt: According to CNBC , the average auto loan in the US is $30,032!
  • Consumer Loan Debt: Consumer loan debt isn’t as common as credit card and auto loan debt, but it’s still considered bad as interest rates are usually between 10-28%.

Good debt is identified as investments in your future. Here are three common types of good debt:

  • Student Loan Debt
  • Mortgage Loan
  • Business Loans

2. Decide Which Debt to Pay off First

Once you know each type of debt and their interest rates, you can begin to pay off debt quickly.

Focus on paying off bad debt first, regardless of if it is a credit card or auto loan. Start by paying off the loan with the highest interest rate first.

If you have several credit cards with different interest rates, you want to focus on the one with a higher APR. You will actually save more money by eliminating the card with the highest interest rate.

3. Don’t Pay the Minimum Amount

Paying the minimum amount digs you into a hole as interest rates will offset your payment. Even a small amount more than the minimum can help you pay off debt much faster.

Removing Obstacles to Pay off Debt Quickly

Creating a debt tracker and prioritizing a plan is simple, but avoiding temptation can be difficult.

1. Set a Reminder to Track Your Debt

“If you can’t measure it you can’t manage it.” -Peter Drucker

It’s so important to track your debt to ensure that you get it paid off quickly. Similar to working out and measuring your results, you need to track your debt constantly. Start with a weekly reminder, where you sign on and log your updated number. Did you increase, decrease, or stay the same?

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Regularly tracking your student loan balance can be incredibly motivating, as well. You will get a huge confidence boost each time you see your total debt amount decreases.

Set weekly and monthly goals so you can have short term wins and keep the momentum going.

2. Hide Your Credit Cards

If your biggest debt is credit cards, you need to eliminate temptation and remove them from your wallet.

Some people have gone to extreme measures by freezing their credit cards. Why? This would create an ice block around your card, which would require you to chip away at it slowly. This will give you time to think if it’s the best idea to buy that thing you’re about to buy.

3. Automate Everything

Willpower can be a huge downfall to paying off your debt. By automating your bills each month, you will ensure that willpower isn’t involved.

4. Plan Ahead

Getting out of debt will require some sacrifices, but with enough planning, you can make it work.

For example, if you know that you have a friend’s birthday or family dinner coming up, plan ahead for the costs. Whether you need to cut back on spending the week before, pick up a side job, or meet them after dinner, do what is needed.

5. Live Cheaply

The only way to get out of debt is to make some sacrifices on your spending habits. Find ways to save money each month so you can apply that amount to your outstanding debts. Here are some ways to save money each month:

  • Live with roommates
  • Cook dinners and prepare lunches for work instead of eating out
  • Cut cable and choose Netflix or Amazon Prime
  • Take public transit or bike to work

Finding the Lowest Interest Rates

The higher your interest rates, the harder (and longer) it will take you to pay off any debt.

If possible, you want to find ways to lower your interest rates to help get out of debt quickly. Here’s how you can get started:

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1. Maintain a High Credit Score

Your credit score will have a large impact on your ability to refinance your loans and receive a lower interest rate. If you have a low credit score, it’s unlikely you will be able to refinance your loans. Use these credit tips to increase and maintain an excellent score:

  • Never miss a payment
  • Don’t exceed 30% of your credit limit
  • Don’t sign up for more than one card at once
  • Limit hard inquires, like auto-loans and new credit cards
  • Monitor frequently with free credit-tracking software

2. Find Balance Transfer Offers

Start by opening a free account on credit.com. Credit.com offers you the chance to open a free account and see what type of balance transfer offers you can receive. Some of your existing credit cards might already have 0% or lower APR balance transfer offers available.

Contact each of your credit card providers to ask about lowering your rate for a one-time balance transfer offer[2].

If you do take advantage of this option, make sure that you use a balance transfer and not a cash advance. Cash advances have a ton of high interest fees (15-25%, depending on your credit card) and will only compound your debt problem.

How to Get Rid of Debt Forever

Setting up a plan, removing temptations, and getting the lowest interest rates is the first step to get out of debt.

1. Keep Monitoring and Adjusting

Once you have a plan, don’t get comfortable. Track your debt payoff plan and make the necessary adjustments when needed.

Monitor your credit scores with a free site like CreditKarma. The higher your credit score climbs, the more likely you will be to secure a new, lower-interest loan.

2. Earn More Money

There are only so many ways to save money. Instead of clipping another coupon or making sacrifices for your morning coffee, find ways to earn more money!

Think about it…it is much easier to find ways to earn an extra $1,000 per month than find $1,000 to cut from your budget.

Here are some examples of ways to earn more money:

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Talk to Your Boss

Have a conversation with your boss about current salary and/or commission rates. If you’re not satisfied or want a change, don’t be afraid to look around at other positions. Some of them might even have a student loan debt reimbursement plan!

Start a Side Hustle

This could be coaching students on the weekends, driving for Uber, or taking paid online surveys. There are tons of ways to make money outside your 9-5. Now that you have a clear plan to pay off your debts, you’ll be more motivated than ever to figure out creative new ways to earn money.

Build an Online Business

There are so many websites and blogs that earn money from ads, affiliates, and other online products. Find your niche and get started.

3. Celebrate Your Wins

As you progress in your debt payoff journey, don’t forget to celebrate your wins. You need to always reward yourself for the hard work and discipline that is required to get out of debt.

While you shouldn’t celebrate so big that it increases debt, make sure to factor in little rewards to keep you motivated.

4. Set New Financial Goals

Eventually, with a plan and these steps, you can rid yourself of your debt. Once you do, make sure to celebrate your monumental achievement, but don’t stop there.

Now, you can focus on acquiring wealth and increasing your net worth. Set new financial goals so you have a new target to aim toward. Here’s how to set financial goals and actually meet them.

These could be anything now that you are debt free! Think about where you want to travel, buying your first home, or saving for your future retirement. Just like before, make sure that your goals are specific, measurable, and achievable.

Conclusion

Congrats, you can now set a plan in motion to finally pay off your debt quickly (and hopefully forever)!

Remember, if you want to get out of debt quickly, it’s not always easy. Just like any big goal, there will be sacrifices, challenges, and problems to overcome.

More Tips on Getting out of Debt

Featured photo credit: Pepi Stojanovski via unsplash.com

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