A reflection on the personal finance lessons gleaned after chasing seven seasons of Game of Thrones.
Editor’s note: opinions expressed in this article reflect the view of the writer.
As the eighth and final season of Game of Thrones rolls around, I muse over how the hit HBO television series has reinforced crucial personal finance lessons that have become ever more relevant in my life today.
Beyond the obvious “Winter is coming” lesson about how we should all have an emergency fund stashed away for unforeseen misfortunes, here are 5 other takeaways that have stuck with me so far.
Needless to say, SPOILERS AHEAD.
Lesson 1: Always pay your debts
You never know when you will need the Iron Bank on your side.
As every Lannister is fond of saying, “A Lannister always pays his debts.” Whether a statement of pride or threat (cue flashbacks of the Red Wedding), the Lannisters have staked their considerable wealth and influence on the trust that they will always settle up.
Being consistent in clearing your debts means having a better reputation to rely on in times of need – like when you’re trying to apply for a mortgage, need to borrow urgently for an emergency, or in Cersei’s case when you’ve started a war.
The new Queen of Westeros leveraged on her house’s reputation for reliability to convince Nestoris (and by extension, the Iron Bank) to back her efforts in the upcoming conflict against Daenerys.
“We don’t make bets. We invest in endeavours we deem likely to be successful,” Nestoris says.
“The Lannisters may owe the Iron Bank a lot of money but the Lannisters always pay their debts. Do former slaves? Or Dothraki? Or dragons?” Cersei puts forth. “[Daenerys] considers herself more of a revolutionary than a monarch. In your experience, how do bankers usually fare with revolutionaries?”
Short of wiping out an entire house and seizing their assets to pay off your debt, here are some other ways you can manage debt repayment that won’t involve mass murder.
Lesson 2: Never be afraid to switch allegiances
Or in other words, don’t let blind loyalty make the most important decisions in your life, financial or otherwise.
That’s the lesson Tyrion Lannister learnt as he switched allegiances from House Lannister to House Targaryen. Of course, that decision may also have something to do with his father and his lover having an affair, and his sister trying to get him executed for the death of his nephew.
Similarly, when it comes to your personal finance products – be they credit cards, savings accounts, insurance plans, or more – don’t let legacy hold you back. Regularly check in with the new products in the market and ask if any of them could serve you better than your current ones.
That childhood account your parents opened for you? It’s time to change that once you’ve started working so that you can earn better interest rates for crediting your salary.
Those old credit cards you had when you were a university student? Time to change switch them for new ones that better suit your current lifestyle, whether it’s to play the miles game or to maximise your cashback.
Lesson 3: Make sure you have disability assistance
Where would Bran Stark be without Hodor, really?
(Cue ugly crying over the scene where Hodor sacrificed himself so that the others could escape.)
After Bran narrowly survived falling off a tower and into a coma, he woke up paralysed and had to rely on Hodor to carry him through (literally).
Having good hospitalisation insurance is one of the biggest priorities Singaporeans have, but what about what happens after you leave the hospital? What if there are lingering issues that prevent you from returning to your job, or if you have to take an extended leave of absence from work to recover?
Recent events in my own life have given me a stark reminder (no pun intended) of the need to protect your income in case of unforeseen circumstances such as a car accident or a critical illness.
It’s important to have a contingency plan, whether it’s an emergency savings fund or income disability insurance, in the event that your income takes a hit. This is especially important if you’re single and don’t want to be dependent on your family.
Lesson 4: Prepare your will early – even if it seems “too early”
If you think back to the conflicts that arise in Game of Thrones, you’ll realise that a lot of them are related to lack of estate planning on the part of the incumbents. After Ned Stark went and got himself beheaded, no one could agree on who should succeed him as King of the North. When Robert Baratheon died, the same happened with in-fighting between his brothers and the Lannisters.
Of course, I’ve vastly oversimplified the story to illustrate my point, but these got me thinking about the importance of preparing a will early.
Writing a will can be as easy as doing it online with OCBC, and even though I’m only in my 30s I’ve made sure to have my CPF Nomination in place. And if you have any private investments or stocks, be sure that you know what will happen to them in the event of your passing.
Proper estate planning can go a long way to helping your loved ones manage after you’ve passed. Don’t be like Prince and leave your $300 million estate in limbo after your death.
Lesson 5: Chaos is a ladder
Warren Buffett is famous for buying stocks when they are down, and this strategy has worked in his favour so far. In a 2016 letter to shareholders of Berkshire Hathaway, he wrote, “Widespread fear is your friend as an investor, because it serves up bargain purchases.” To Buffett, crises can present opportunities for the prudent investor.
While I am not personally sophisticated enough to trade stocks, Littlefinger’s famous (almost last) words got me thinking about how perspective is key to any difficult situation.
Chaos at any stage in life can be seen as a pit – or an opportunity. If you’re facing a personal financial crisis, take some time to step back and reflect on your relationship with money before taking action to get yourself out of debt and change your money habits to prevent the same from happening again.
Any money lessons you've learnt watching Game of Thrones? Would love to hear your thoughts in the comments below.
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By Melissa Chua
Melissa never thought she’d end up writing for a living, but is glad that she did. She is an avid consumer of content, coffee, and TV, and wonders what life would be like as a dancing milk carton in a Blur MTV. She loves the Oxford comma and abhors dangling modifiers.
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