This week, I went to see “Avengers: Age of Ultron” and watched with an eye toward personal finance lessons. Looking for money wisdom in pop culture is a habit of mine.
While it’s definitely a popcorn romp in which a whole lotta stuff gets blowed up real good, life lessons are there: teamwork, fortitude, caring about your fellow man.
Money matters are there, too. Enjoy the popcorn, but absorb the lessons.
1. Cooperate with colleagues
When the Avengers face what looks like an unbeatable foe, one of them asks how they can possibly defeat it. “Together,” replies Captain America (Chris Evans).
If a work project looks unmanageable, don’t moan about unfairness or squabble about who isn’t pulling his weight. Break it down into sections that play to each worker’s strengths, then dive in and get the job done.
2. Beware the fast talker
Early on, inventor Tony Stark (Robert Downey Jr.) proposes a potentially dangerous idea, and the more cautious Dr. Bruce Banner (Mark Ruffalo) isn’t buying in. Stark talks faster and faster and hammers home the “we have only three days to make this work” and the “for the good of mankind” themes.
Because Stark is such an egocentric character, it’s hard to say whether he really believes that the project will protect humanity. It could just be that he wants to know if his theory is correct. If it isn’t, mankind is headed for a heck of a mess — and even if it is, there’s no way to tell whether the result is workable over the long haul.
If someone’s trying to get you to invest in a “sure thing” or to do something ethically or legally questionable, he or she may create a sense of urgency or employ a “from great risk comes great rewards” argument.
Listen to your gut: If you think something’s a bit off, get out of there. Sure, you might risk missing the next big thing. You might also avoid the next Bernie Madoff.
3. Coffee cannot replace sleep
A montage indicates that Banner and Stark work for three days straight. A haggard-looking Stark sips what one assumes is a caffeinated beverage and wonders what step he has missed in the project.
Guess what? That project doesn’t end well. (If you’ve seen the trailers, this is not a spoiler.)
A whole lot of folks burn the candle at both ends and in the middle, working tons of hours and trying to shoehorn in family time, side hustles and maybe even higher education. Something has to give – and it just might be your budget, because people with little to no free time often wind up spending more money on meals outside the home and having to outsource basic chores.
They make some questionable choices, too. For details, see “How Sleep (Or Lack of It) Can Affect Your Bottom Line.”
The other thing that might collapse under the strain: your health. That’s not a cheap fix, either.
4. Have a backup plan
Save for a rainy day. Or, maybe, for the day when all kinds of stuff is raining down from the heavens thanks to superheroes bouncing off skyscrapers and throwing trucks at cars. At one point Stark muses, “How quickly can we buy this building?” because he knows he’s about to level it.
Fortunately most of us don’t bring down multistory edifices, but we can expect things to go wrong. Automobiles break down, kids get sick, appliances need replacing.
A basic emergency fund will take care of most problems. The more you save, the more prepared you’ll be. No one expects to find his car vandalized. But if that happened to you tomorrow, would you be able to come up with the deductible?
Today isn’t forever. Just because things are going well for you now doesn’t mean you’ll always have the world on a string. Invest your money carefully; if one part of your portfolio goes south, the rest will keep you solvent.
In addition, create a workable budget so you can live well but also well within your means. This will help you save up that emergency fund, and it also guards against lifestyle creep: If your hours are cut or you are laid off, you’ll be equipped to manage until times are better.
5. Patience is a virtue — learn it
The screening was preceded by at least half a dozen long movie trailers. (I stopped counting after the Adam Sandler one.) I thought the audience was going to start chanting, “We want the show! We want the show!”
(I also thought I might be the one leading the chant, but that would have been unseemly for someone my age.)
Your finances won’t fix themselves the instant you decide they need fixing. Get a plan in place and watch your dollars, not the clock. Solvency may take time. But it’s utterly worth it.