By MIKE GOLDSTEIN
"How'd you get to work at Credit Karma?" My good fortune gets people wondering. The truth is that I'm not some sort of preternatural credit genius, as some may assume. Instead, I was just lucky enough to soak in some solid information from the best of sources. Still confused as to what I mean? Check out this list of four cartoons that taught me about financial health, and get you and your kids parked in front of the TV for some good old-fashioned learning.
1. "The Flintstones"
"The Flintstones" spoke to me mostly for its simplicity and creativity. Now, I know Wilma had a bit of a spending habit, and keeping a mammoth alive just to help you shower isn't exactly free, but imagination, which "The Flintstones" has in spades, is just about the most important thing a cartoon can teach your child. The Flintstones managed to turn everyday objects into extraordinary tools (they made a car out of stick, stones and foot power, after all), and this is a powerful example for you and your kids.
So what can "The Flintstones" teach you and your children about personal finance? Well, for your kids, the lesson can be one in imagination and resourcefulness. Establishing an early preference for homemade crafts over packaged toys is a great way to instill thrifty spending habits and a DIY mentality. For you, the credit lesson can be that old things, like old cartoons and old repurposed objects, still have value. Keep your oldest accounts open and active to boost your average age of credit history and improve your credit health.
2. "The Simpsons"
"The Simpsons" is my favorite show ever, and I learned about basically everything from watching it. I discovered classic films like "The Shining" and "Citizen Kane" through their parodies, I first noticed government bureaucracy at Patty and Selma's DMV and Homer Simpson's eternal slog through his working adulthood taught me the importance of a career plan.
For dedicated "Simpsons" fans, it's no secret why Homer keeps showing up at his job as a nuclear power plant safety inspector. It's not for safety (he's not very good at that part), it's for his kids.
Homer tries any number of times to change his career path. He works at a bowling alley, starts his own snow plow service and becomes a country music manager. He always comes back to his day job, though, because he needs it to provide for his family.
So what lessons can we find buried in Homer's plight? For kids, the lesson is to develop passions and stick with them, to be less like Homer and more like his brainy, sax-playing daughter. For adults, the lesson is a little more practical. Once you have a family, protecting your loved ones is often the most important thing to you. Keep careful watch over your credit health and check out our free credit monitoring service to make sure your finances are in good shape when it comes time to buy a home or take out student loans for your children.
3. "Duck Tales"
Scrooge McDuck, uncle to Huey, Dewey and Louie, is a miser, sure, but he's also the embodiment of the American Dream. Working his way up from poverty, Scrooge became a feathered robber baron one step at a time. He pursues scholarly hobbies in his down time and expands into new fields of business on the strength of his own intelligence and determination.
For kids, the lesson from "Duck Tales" is one of self-motivation and persistence. Don't teach your kids to be a scrooge, certainly, but having a self-driven renaissance duck as a role model isn't all bad. If children can pick up just some of Scrooge's tenacity and willingness to grow, they'll be better off for it. For adults, Scrooge McDuck can offer a lesson in diversification. Just as he seemingly has his webbed toe in every pot, diversify your credit profile with different types of accounts to appear more attractive to lenders.
So I wasn't quite a kid when "Up" hit theaters, but as the movie teaches us, it's never too late to learn. Beyond an education in companionship, bravery and the surprising (dangerous?) strength of a bunch of a balloons, "Up" can let your kids in on a gentle lesson in saving for the future.
Watching Carl patiently save for his old age only to have things unexpectedly change can be instructive for parents too. It's never too early to start planning for retirement. Consider your 401(k), a Roth IRA and some alternative solutions to prepare for your future today.
Childhood might be too early to learn about credit card utilization and auto insurance scores. Still, in classic cartoons, there are plenty of financial lessons to take away from parents and children alike. Keep long-term education as the goal and, who knows, your kids could end up credit superstars one day too.
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