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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retirement due to its tax advantages, but it also comes in handy in an emergency because any deposits you make can be withdrawn without a penalty.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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Published on September 17, 2018

How Being Smart With Your Money Leads to Financial Success

How Being Smart With Your Money Leads to Financial Success

Achieving financial success is not something that just happens. Maybe if you win the lottery or something, but for the average person like you or me, it comes from a series of small steps you take over a long period of time.

With each step, you form a new smart money habit. And with each smart money habit, you build towards financial independence.

So what sort of habits can you form to get on that path? Let’s take a look at smart money habits you can start today to get you closer to a financially independent future.

1. Avoid being “penny wise but pound foolish”

It’s tempting to try saving a couple cents here and there when buying small items. However, that’s not where the real money is saved. You’re putting in extra effort for something that doesn’t move the needle.

You get the most bang when you’re able to cut down on your bigger bills. For example, finding a lower interest rate for your mortgage could save you $50+ per month. And cutting your transportation bill by purchasing a cheaper car or taking public transportation can provide large gains as well.

So, look at your recurring expenses such as housing, transportation, and insurance, and see where there’s wiggle room. It’s a much better use of your time than trying to pinch pennies here and there on smaller purchases.

2. When you want something big, wait

Impulsivity can get you in trouble in most aspects of life. Finances are no different.

It’s human nature to see something and want it right then and there. It starts as a kid in the checkout line at the grocery store, and it continues on through adulthood.

We get an idea in our head of something we want, and it’s hard not to go out and get it right then.

A good example is wanting a new car. Perhaps you’ve had your car for several years. It’s crossed the 100k mile mark. Maybe maintenance is due, and you’re annoyed that you need to replace the timing belt or purchase new tires.

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So, you get the itch.

You start digging around online, and you realize you could trade in your current car for something newer and more exciting… all for a few hundred bucks a month. Then you get obsessed.

Here’s where you have to take a step back.

Your newfound obsession is clouding your judgement. Rather than giving into the impulse, wait it out.

Set a timeframe for yourself. Maybe you come back to the decision three months down the road. See if the obsession lasts.

It might, but often, a funny thing happens. Often, you forget about it. And often, you find that the new car wasn’t a need at all.

The impulse faded. And you just saved yourself a ton of money.

3. Live smaller than you can afford

You finally get that big raise. And you want to celebrate – and why not?

You’ve been looking forward to this forever. And after all, it was all due to your hard work.

That’s fine, splurge a little. However, make it a one-time deal and be done.

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Don’t get caught in the trap that just because you’re now making more money, you should spend more.

Too often, people get more money and feel like they that gives them the means to buy a bigger house, a bigger car… you know the drill. Resist.

The fact is that living smaller than what you can afford is one of the fastest ways to build savings.

But if you constantly upgrade as you begin to make more, then you’ll never get ahead. You’ll just build up more debt along the way and have just as little wiggle room as before.

4. Practice smart grocery shopping

Food… it’s one of the biggest portions of any budget. And if you’re not careful, it can be one of the biggest drains on your wallet.

But luckily, there are a few things you can do to ensure that you stay smart with your money when buying groceries.

Create a grocery budget

Set a strict weekly grocery budget. When you know how much you can spend on groceries, you can then plan your weekly menu around it.

Once you know what all you need, you can go shopping and keep a running tally as you shop to ensure you’re on track.

I tend to do this in my head, rounding for each item. However, writing it down as you go would probably work best for most people.

Make a list… and never deviate

Never go to the grocery store without a list. If you go to the store with a ballpark idea in mind, you don’t have a true ide of what you need.

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You’re not well-researched. You don’t know what the sales are. As a result, you’re going to make decisions on the fly.

These impulse decisions will lead to overspending, which will derail your grocery budget.

Eat before going grocery shopping

It’s also important to eat prior to going to the grocery store. Hunger is a powerful force.

If you’re shopping on an empty stomach, everything is going to look good. In particular, you may find a lot of ready-made, processed snacks will look enticing.

After all, you’re hungry now and that food is easily available. So subconsciously, you may lean towards those items.

Unfortunately, not only are those items typically less healthy, but they’re likely more expensive. You pay for convenience.

However, when you eat prior to shopping, then you’ll shop with a clear mind. Your hunger won’t cloud your judgement, influencing you to make poor decisions like a cartoon devil resting on your shoulder whispering in your ear.

This makes it much easier to stick to your grocery plan.

5. Cancel your gym membership

Now that you’re all set on your food, it’s time to get smart about managing your budget in terms of physical fitness. And let’s begin by avoiding the gym. The gym bill, that is.

The average gym membership costs around $60 per month. That’s $720 a year.

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Yet, two out of three gym memberships go unused. That means two-thirds of people who have a gym membership are literally giving away almost a thousand bucks a year. It’s crazy!

I recommend seeking an alternative. One good alternative is to look into fitness streaming services.

Streaming services allow you to stream hundreds of workouts like Insanity and p90x, right in your own home for around $10-20 a month. That’s $40-50 less a month than the average gym membership.

Of course, then there’s the free option. The internet is full of free workouts that you can do on your own with minimal or no equipment.

For example, there’s the Couch to 5K program, that I personally used a decade ago to ease myself from couch potato to running my first 5K race. If I could do it, anyone could.

Then there are free resources like reddit that have limitless information on workouts. The Fitness subreddit has done all the research for you, populating workout tips and detailed workout routines for anyone to use in their wiki.

There are several routines that require no equipment. And you can join in on the subreddit to become part of the community, making it easier for those seeking comraderie and encouragement in their fitness goals. All for free.

It’s baby steps… And baby steps can start now!

I’ve never met anyone that can’t stand to be a bit smarter with their money. And on the flip side, anyone can get smarter with their money. But remember, it doesn’t happen all at once.

Begin by fighting your impulses. Prepare for the week and be smart at the store. And cut monthly expenses like gym memberships that are overpriced and you probably aren’t getting your money’s worth out of anyway.

The devil is in the details. And the details can change your lifestyle and prep you for a financially independent future.

Featured photo credit: Unsplash via unsplash.com

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