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Life

Money Lessons I Learned from Watching “Arrested Development”

May 24, 2018

  • Stash money into your own personal banana stand
  • Anticipate financial hop-ons
  • When life throws you cornballs, make stew
4 min read

“And that’s why you always leave a note.”

It’s advice that could be applied to proper tipping etiquette. Or, another one of George Bluth Sr.’s lessons, doled out by none other than the one-armed man, J. Walter Weatherman.

The TV show “Arrested Development”, which is now in its fifth season (premiering on Memorial Day weekend), was and continues to be full of important lessons. Over the years, the Bluths have taught us that it’s never a bad idea to bring Pop-Pop a treat (especially if he’s been hiding in an attic for weeks) and that Never Nudes exist. Dozens of them.

It can also offer viewers valuable money lessons—it is, after all, a show about a family that lost everything. Take a cue from the Bluths, and save yourself from a Skip’s Scramble-sized financial disaster.

There isn’t always money in the banana stand

The lesson: Build an emergency fund.

Whenever a Bluth is worried about money, the retort is that “there’s always money in the banana stand.” While that may have been true until the banana stand was torched, the idea that there’s always a stash of money somewhere, just waiting to be dipped into, kept the Bluths fears at bay.

But few, if any of us have money in a banana stand.

Industry data shows that less than 40% of Americans have enough saved up to cover a $1,000 emergency. 66 million people in the U.S., or about 28% of the population, have no savings at all.

Get a good f**king attorney—or financial advisor

The lesson: If you hire a professional, do your homework.

George Sr. landed himself in jail because he had the “worst f**king attorneys.” Likewise, you don’t want to end up broke and alone because you had a terrible financial advisor. Avoid the equivalent of Barry Zuckerkorn, and you should avoid Bernie Madoff-like disasters.

Financial advisors can be valuable resources, but sometimes, they offer up bad or misleading advice. Typically, advisors earn money through commissions and fees and thus have an incentive to sell—even if it’s not necessarily in the customer’s best interest.

If you hire an advisor, make sure they’re working for you, not against you.

“No touching” when it comes to your retirement savings

The lesson: Don’t touch your savings.

George Sr. was constantly berated in prison for violating the “no touching” rule when hosting visitors. You should take the same approach with your savings—and retirement savings, in particular.

Millions of Americans dig into their retirement savings early, typically as a way to handle emergency expenses. And it comes at a big cost. If you withdraw before the age of 59½, you’ll be dinged with significant tax penalties.

So, just like a family member during a prison visit, consider any touching of your retirement savings off limits.

Learn from the Cornballer

The lesson: Invest wisely.

The thing about bad investments is that they can leave you feeling burned. Just like the Cornballer.

The Cornballer, an ill-fated device used to make cornballs—marketed by both George Sr. and Richard Simmons on the show—was outlawed because it could cause serious burns. Anyone who bought one, or who had invested in its development and production, would also feel burned financially.

In other words, the Cornballer was a bad investment. The world is full of bad investments, which is why it’s important to do your research and invest your money wisely. That goes beyond stocks and bonds, too. Real estate can be a risky investment, as can assets like artwork and collectibles.

You don’t want to get cornballed by a phony Monet.

“You’re gonna get some hop-ons.”

The lesson: Anticipate familial needs

While the infamous stair car provides the Bluth family with a last-ditch transportation option, it isn’t without its drawbacks. Specifically, it attracts “hop-ons”, or, people who jump on the back in order to hitch a ride.

You may have experience with something similar—like dependent family members or friends.

When planning for the future, you may want to anticipate these “hop-ons”. They can include clingy children, elderly parents, or friends who are down on their luck. It’s not always a bad thing, necessarily—who doesn’t want Nana around?—but it can throw a wrench into your financial plans.

“Baby, you got a stew going!”

The lesson: Live frugally.

Carl Weathers, who plays himself throughout the series, has one undeniable quality: He’s cheap. He’s constantly looking to save a buck by eating at Burger King (for the free refills), intentionally getting bumped from flights to earn airline vouchers, and using leftover food to make stew.

Weathers is a thrifty man, and there’s something to be learned from his character.

Weathers, despite being a TV and movie star, evidently is able to get by on very little (in the show, at least). There are millions of Americans who do exactly the same. Even if you earn a decent salary, that doesn’t mean you need to indulge in every luxury or succumb to lifestyle inflation.

Channel your inner Carl Weathers, and see the untapped “stew” in the simplest things.

Beware of “loose seals”

The lesson: Get insured.

Sometimes, life throws you cornballs. Or, in Buster’s case, hand-hungry seals with a taste for human flesh. It’s during those times that you’ll want to make sure you have your bases covered.

The lesson here is simple: Get insurance. If you have a family, consider checking out life insurance. Make sure you have health insurance and protect yourself in the event that you get hurt and don’t end up with medical debts that will take decades to pay off.

And consider checking out renters insurance if you’re not a homeowner.

And if you’re already covered? Give yourself a hand.

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By Sam Becker

*Stash is not affiliated with Arrested Development. Nothing in this article should be construed as an adoption or endorsement of Arrested Development.

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