10 Pieces of Sound Money Advice We Learned From Our Favorite TV Dads
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Like nearly everyone else my age, I was raised on a television diet. Protein, carbohydrates and television.
My father always gave good advice, but I also vividly remember the lessons I learned from a succession of wise and witty TV dads, ranging from Ward Cleaver to Al Bundy.
Now that I’m a father myself, those TV dads seem wiser than ever to me.
To celebrate Father’s Day, here’s the best financial advice I ever got from them.
Mike Brady, “The Brady Bunch”
On used cars: “Them who don't look, sometimes get took.”
Still, used cars are often a better deal than new ones. Consumer Reports recommends buying a car that’s two or three years old.
Homer Simpson, “The Simpsons”
“Son, if you really want something in this life, you have to work for it. Now quiet! They're about to announce the lottery numbers.”
Okay, so Homer’s not an ideal financial role model. You probably have a better chance of being struck by lightning than winning the lottery.
Instead of buying lottery tickets every week, you should funnel that money into something like Stash. Just link this app to your checking account and ask it to automatically pull a few bucks from your account each week. It’ll invest your savings in the stock market — giving you a far better return than all those used lottery tickets will.
If you sign up for Stash here, you’ll get an extra $5 to invest when you open your account.
Tony Soprano, “The Sopranos”
My favorite TV mobster dad had so many tough lessons to dish out, he actually inspired a business book: “Leadership Sopranos Style: How to Become a More Effective Boss.”
But instead of how Tony’s example relates to corporate strategic goals, I’m thinking of some actual financial advice he once gave to his son: “Buy land, A.J., ’cause God ain’t making any more of it.”
Buying a house is a solid lifelong investment. Here are our tips for first-time homebuyers.
However, to get a good mortgage rate and save yourself buckets of money, you need a good credit score.
For that, a free service like Credit Sesame can come in handy. This tool shows your credit score, balance on any unpaid bills, credit cards or loans. It also offers personalized tips on raising your credit score.
Danny Tanner, “Full House”
Where would I be without Danny Tanner’s weekly words of wisdom on “Full House?” Lost, I tell you. Lost.
Here’s one of his best-known pieces of advice: “You have to move on in life.”
It’s true. There's no sense dwelling on the past. Out with the old and in with the new, yada yada.
To move on from your old unwanted stuff, you can use the Decluttr app to sell your old CDs, DVDs, Blu-Rays, cell phones, tablets, video games and gaming consoles. Scan your media with your phone and Decluttr will provide a free shipping label.
Pro tip: Use the code FREE5 at checkout for an extra $5 back on your old stuff.
Ward Cleaver/Carl Winslow
“Leave It to Beaver” had the original wisdom-dispensing suburban dad, Ward Cleaver. I’m telling you, Mr. Cleaver was the prototype.
“When you make a mistake, admit it. If you don't, you only make matters worse,” he once told the Beav.
It’s such a timeless bit of advice that it was repeated decades later on “Family Matters.”
The dad on that show, Carl Winslow, had this to say: “Don’t you know when you make a mistake, you fess up to it? Trying to cover it up would only make it worse.”
You might be making a mistake by paying too much for your bills.
Luckily, a free app like Clarity Money can automatically negotiate your bills down on your behalf. If Clarity successfully negotiates a bill for you, it charges you 33% of that savings — but only once, and only after those savings have gone into effect.
Louis C.K., “Louie”
Once again, Louis C.K.’s character in “Louie” is not your traditional spotless TV dad. But he tries to be an example for his daughters. I’ll always remember the time he admonished one of them with this:
“The only time you look in your neighbor’s bowl is to make sure that they have enough. You don’t look in your neighbor's bowl to make sure you have as much as them.”
It’s important to give back, even if you don’t have a lot to give. These eight tools can help you donate to charity without spending an extra cent.
Philip Banks, “The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air”
“Uncle Phil” was the stern (but caring) father figure that Will Smith’s character needed on the show.
He could be a little gruff, like he was here: “Being a joker’s what’s gotten you into trouble. You may think it’s cool to be on the streets when you’re 17, but when you’re my age, it’s a waste.”
Adulting. He’s talking about adulting.
Part of adulting is saving money for a rainy day. Start an emergency fund. A good option is online bank Aspiration’s Summit Checking account. It has no fees, no minimum balance, and pays up to 100 times more interest than an average checking account.
Ned Stark, “Game of Thrones”
When it comes to Eddard Stark quotes, I’m partial to “The man who passes the sentence should swing the sword,” but I’m not sure that has a clear financial application.
Here’s Lord Eddard’s advice on the importance of family: “Winter is coming. In the winter, we must protect ourselves, look after one another.”
One way to look after your family: Consider a life insurance policy, which could be useful for paying off your funeral, mortgage or car loans if you suddenly find yourself on the wrong end of a “Red Wedding” situation.
Companies like Haven Life offer streamlined ways to get life insurance. Unlike traditional providers, this online-only platform provides instant decisions on coverage applications.
Some qualified, healthy applicants up to the age of 45 may even get to skip the medical exam most providers require.
After all: Winter is coming.
Walter White, “Breaking Bad”
On second thought, maybe Walter White’s not the guy you go to for legit financial advice.
How about a different TV dad also played by Bryan Cranston? Here’s “Malcolm in the Middle’s” Hal Wilkerson giving his sons some advice about hard work:
“You can have anything you want if you’re willing to work for it. Just reach for the stars and never let go. I should’ve told you that a long time ago. And when you write an angry letter, hold on to it for a day. You might not feel the same in the morning. And never invest in a friend’s restaurant. Never.”
For many of us, hard work includes having a side hustle. Like, for instance, driving with Uber.
As an Uber contractor, you set your own schedule and work when you want. Your pay is calculated on a base fare, plus time and distance traveled for each pickup. Uber charges a service fee, depending on your city.
If you want to give it a try, you must:
- Be at least 21 years old
- Have three years’ driving experience
- Have an in-state driver’s license and a clean driving record
- Be able to pass a criminal background check
- Have a four-door car
Don Draper, “Mad Men”
Another super perfect TV dad! Alcoholic, philandering and distant, Don had three kids but gave most of his advice to his advertising clients: Happiness is the smell of a new car, etc.
Still, here’s a bit of wisdom from Don Draper that resonates: “Change is neither good or bad, it simply is.”
To be ready for change, any good dad will advise you to sock some money away. You’ve got to find a way to do it, whether it’s through Stash, Aspiration, an actual sock in your sock drawer, or a free app like Acorns.
Once you connect Acorns to a debit or credit card, it rounds your purchases up to the nearest dollar and funnels your digital change into a savings or investment account. Because the money comes out in increments of less than $1, you’re less likely to feel an impact in your bank account.
- Al Bundy, “Married With Children”
- Hank Hill, “King of the Hill”
- Red Forman, “That 70s Show”
- Steven Douglas, “My Three Sons”
- J.R. Ewing, “Dallas”
- Andy Taylor, “The Andy Griffith Show”
- Eric Taylor, “Friday Night Lights”
- Cliff Huxtable, “The Cosby Show” (too soon?)
- Frank Costanza, “Seinfeld”
- Jack Pearson, “This is Us”
- Gomez Addams, “The Addams Family”
- Fred Flintstone, “The Flintstones”
Disclosure: We don’t hesitate to pick pennies off the sidewalk when we spot them. But the affiliate links in this post help our earnings grow even quicker. Plus, it’s a lot cleaner than sidewalk money.
Mike Brassfield ([email protected]) is a senior writer at The Penny Hoarder. He somehow couldn’t find a suitable Al Bundy quote for this story.