Money Lessons From The Simpsons

  • The Simpsons: A Cautionary Tale

    What personal finance lessons can we learn from watching The Simpsons? A lot, if we consider the long-running sitcom as a cautionary tale. “Americans go through life not being careful with their money,” says Steven Keslowitz, author of The World According to the Simpsons: What Our Favorite TV Family Says About Life, Love and the Pursuit of the Perfect Donut. “A lot of people coast through life and they get a salary, but they’re not quite sure how things work, and that’s so much like Homer Simpson.” Take the episode “Homer’s Enemy,” in which Homer’s hard-working but downbeat colleague, Frank Grimes, asks Homer how he gets by so easily, despite his lack of education or financial planning. Homer’s response? “Don’t ask me how the economy works.” Photo Credit: omniNate
    Save Your Pennies
  • Save Your Pennies

    According to Keslowitz, The Simpsons are depicted as a lower-middle class family always struggling to make ends meet. “They hide money in Marge’s hair,” says Keslowitz. And when attempting to take charge of their finances, “they visit financial planners to help and they’re slapped with a fee.” “I can’t imagine them having any sort of savings,” Keslowitz says. “Homer often jokes that he’s spending Lisa’s college money, and that’s a joke that comes up every so often. He’ll make fun of the price of school and Ivy League schools like Vassar, but the point is, he’ll spend whatever is there.” If you're bent on saving (and you should be), stop spending frivolously and get to planning your financial future today. Of course, you could always go with a “financial panther” that will attack your creditors, one of Homer’s best unintentional tools for managing money. And if you’re looking to save up for college, check out this MainStreet page for advice. Photo Credit: jonathan mcintosh
    Take Calculated Risks
  • Take Calculated Risks

    In the 1995 episode “Homer Vs. Patty & Selma,” Homer impulsively tries his hand at the stock market, buying pumpkin futures in December. When the market takes a nose dive on Halloween, Homer instantly finds himself broke and unable to make his mortgage payments. Soon, Homer solicits his hated sisters-in-law, Patty and Selma, for a handout and they oblige, but at a price. Under their terms, they can treat Homer however they want, which is to say, rather crudely. By the end of the episode, Homer is wondering how much more abuse he can stand. “Homer is this impulsive chaotic figure,” says Chris Turner, author of Planet Simpson. “Suddenly, he’s joining a traveling circus, or leaping into some dodgy business. And that’s the motivating force of the show.” But don’t let your impulses guide you, lest you be at the mercy of someone else. Photo Credit: cookipediachef
    Manage Your Career
  • Manage Your Career

    “Homer is not a guy who loves his work,” says Turner. “He doesn’t find it fulfilling, but he’s not qualified to do anything else." No matter what you do for a living, don’t let your skills grow rusty, and don’t be afraid to learn new ones, either. “The show makes fun of the idea that you could get a good union job out of high school, and that that could float you through the rest of your life,” says Turner. “The easy, blue-collar path to that sort of good life was a lot more stable years ago, but not today. If you don’t diversify your skills and interests, you may wind up in a dead-end job, working for a dictatorial boss.” Photo Credit: NUCO
    Know Your Boss
  • Know Your Boss

    And speaking of bosses, “Mr. Burns, Homer’s boss, does a terrible job at employee morale,” says Keslowitz. “In the episode, ‘Homer the Smithers,’ Burns can’t remember Homer’s name and Homer punches him.” While punching your boss isn’t the best course of action, it's hard not to empathize with Homer. “Burns represents the greed and hypocrisy of big business,” says Turner, “and the corruption of big public officials." With this in mind, seek out employers who a) know your name, and b) have your best interests at heart. A lack of desire to block out the sun or cough up more money for a raise can’t hurt, either. Photo Credit: Frenkieb
    Size Up the Competition
  • Size Up the Competition

    The Simpsons are rife with economics 101 lessons, says Joshua Hall, an economist and author of the forthcoming book, Homer Economicus: The Simpsons and Economics. “There’s free entry into the market, so if the Comic Book Guy treats customers poorly, for example, that provides incentive for someone else to come in and treat them well," Hall says. That’s exactly what happens in the 1997 episode, “Worst Episode Ever,” when Comic Book Guy gets some competition in the form of Coolsville Comics & Toys, run by a hipster named Milo (Jack Black). Not only is Milo much easier on the eyes, he treats his customers better and his business soars. As for that Kwik-E-Mart owner, Apu (pictured), we all know he overcharges for everything. Photo Credit: ynnil
    Hire the Professionals
  • Hire the Professionals

    Homer Simpson and tools don’t go together quite as well as Homer and beer. Take the episode “Don’t Fear the Roofer,” in which Homer decides he’ll fix his roof—after a quick trip to Moe’s. One missing contractor (Ray Romano), a nail gun fight with Ned Flanders’s lawn mower tires and a visit to the hospital later, and Homer realizes he should have just called the professionals. If you’re tinkering with repairs, don’t try these at home. Photo Credit: hunterseakerhk
    Know Your Purchasing Power
  • Know Your Purchasing Power

    In The Simpsons’ 22 seasons, the family has served as a foil for what’s happening in American society at large. “Through the eyes of ‘The Simpsons’ we can see how rising economic growth and progress has helped our standard of living,” explains Hall. “The Simpsons of today have a much higher standard of living, and though the writers are trying to put them in more situations, they appear to have these things that they probably couldn’t afford.” While there isn’t much Americans can do to offset the risk of inflation, there are ways to plan for it. Read up on them here. Photo Credit: viZZZual.com
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    Have you learned any other money lessons from The Simpsons? Tell us about your favorite episodes in the comments section, or on Facebook! Click here to add us. Photo Credit: lawtonchiles
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