When you think of learning experiences you can share with your family, what come to mind first? Books, games, or perhaps even a family outing might all be chances to learn together as a family. There are times, however, when you just want to sit down together and watch a cartoon. That doesn’t mean you can’t learn anything from those stories.
Here’s some classic Disney movies and financial lessons each one can teach your family.
Sharing expenses can be a benefit
You might wonder, what you can learn from a bunch of dwarfs who have mining jobs and live in a house together. There’s a lesson here. The dwarfs chose to pool their resources and share a dwelling, tools for their mining operation, and more. Your family can learn from this too. Think of ways you can share with friends and neighbors to cut down on costs. As an example, your middle child spilled grape juice on the carpet, and you need to rent a carpet cleaning machine. Check with your neighbors to see if they want to split the cost and use the machine while you have it over the weekend.
Make a long-term plan
The threat of the evil Maleficent was against Aurora a full 16 years in the future! It’s difficult to plan for events this far out. Nonetheless, the three fairies worked together with the royal family to make a plan for the care of the princess over a full 16 years. It’s difficult for us to envision and plan for obligations that are years in the future. It is challenging, but long-term planning is an important part of your family’s financial plan.
Who will take care of your children when you’re gone?
Cinderella had a tough upbringing. She loses both parents early in life and faces abuse from her stepmother Lady Tremaine and two stepsisters. Did Cinderella’s parents fully consider what care would exist for their daughter if they were both gone? It’s a thought most parents don’t want to think about, but incredibly important. Take the time to make a will and other plans that spell out what care will be provided for your children if something happens to one of both parents. Also, carefully consider who will be the guardian that will raise your children in the best way.
Communicate about finances
Not many animated films begin with a meeting between and lawyer and a retired opera singer about a will and estate planning, but this one does. The retired opera singer and owner of the cats talks with her attorney about the plans in her will to provide care for her animals and after that her live-in butler. The butler overhears this and becomes upset about his priority in the inheritance. Your family probably does not have a live-in butler, but you do have people you care about. Communicating clearly and openly about your family’s finances is an important principle. This will not always avoid conflict, but it does go a long way toward keeping the peace.
The Disney retelling of Robin Hood highlights the challenges and burden of taxation. The burden is shown across the kingdom from families, communities, and even the church. I’m not advocating that you don’t pay taxes or take up archery to fend off an IRS agent. This tale is a reminder that taxes do take a toll on your family’s bottom line. Take care to (legally) reduce your tax burden. This can be done with techniques like maximizing deductions and credits, but also taking advantage of tax deferred shelters like 401ks and IRAs.
Be cordial with those you do business with
Belle performs a transaction with the Beast. In return for her father’s freedom, she agrees to stay at the castle. It’s not something she wants to do, but she still treats the Beast with kindness. How many times have you interacted with a business or someone you were tempted to treat poorly? Did you ever call the cable company or some other 800 number and feel the temptation to raise your voice? Resist the temptation to be less than your best self even when you do business with someone you would rather not.
Insurance is important for when bad things happen
When Prince Eric’s ship runs into a hurricane, he is rescued by Ariel the mermaid. Good for him, but most of us don’t have mythical sea creatures to rescue us. There’s also the matter of replacing the boat. Insurance helps to protect us for when bad things happen. Being adequately insured for things like your home or vehicles is important.
Make a budget
When Aladdin is presented with the magic lamp and accompanying wishes, the possibilities seem endless. In fact, there’s a song about it. Even with wishes in hand, he must be thoughtful about budgeting. Resources for all our families are different, but finite in some way. Be diligent about budgeting for how your family will use and prioritize money.
Don’t ignore problems
When Simba is sent to exile, he’s had a traumatic experience. Years after his time away, he ignores a problem he is aware of back home. How many times have you ignored a problem in your financial life? Have you ever avoided looking at a bill because you know it’s bad news? Face the problem head on.
Buy out of season
When the climate of Arendelle changes quickly, it creates chaos across the kingdom. This made things difficult for retailers like Wandering Oaken’s Trading Post. The sudden winter meant that the big stock of summer goods was quickly put on sale. Buying out of season is a great way to save money. While you’re unlikely to experience a snowy day in July because of an Ice Queen, you can look for deals on out of season items like clothes to help stretch your family’s budget.
Involve children in money lessons
When Lilo decides to adopt a
dog alien Stitch, there’s a two-dollar licensing fee. Her sister offers to pay it, but Lilo asks if she can be more involved by handing over the two dollars to the official at animal control. Lilo’s parental figure allowed her to be involved in a transaction and better understand the cost of their new “pet.” Embrace opportunities like this to help your children better understand the cost of things in your family life.
Make long term savings goals
Tiana stands as the one of the most financially responsible characters Disney has ever created. She makes a long-term goal of opening her own restaurant. She then diligently works and saves to bring this goal closer to reality. Consistency, like Tiana, is key with our own saving habits. Prince Naveen is not there yet. Be like Tiana, not Prince Naveen.
Save for Retirement
When the call goes out from the emperor for soldiers from each family, Mulan’s father is called to join the army. Although willing, his health is poor. Mulan steps up to protect her father in his old age. If you’re in bad shape in your later years, your children will be the first to step in to take care of you. To ensure they don’t have to take care of you from a financial perspective, make saving for retirement a priority. It’s not just for you and your spouse, it’s to make sure you have the resources to care for your needs and not force your children to step in.
Financial incentives are important to keep in mind
Tangled is a story about how incentives motivate behavior. Flynn is motivated by the financial reward of stealing from the royal family. Later, the Stabbington brothers are motivated by bribery to kidnap Flynn. The evil moth Gothel is motivated by the prospect of eternal life. It’s good to remember that incentives, often financial, are behind the behavior we see behind our fellow man.
Diversification is important
The island of Motunui is a beautiful Pacific paradise teeming with life. When the local fishing industry faces a rough patch, it places a tremendous burden on the people of this island. It’s key to diversify our interests. If Moana’s people had other ways to support themselves outside of fishing, they would not have suffered so much. The most common place where we experience this is in our 401ks our IRAs. Diversifying our investments is a key way to avoid reliance on fish alone.
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