What Comic Book Characters Taught Me About Personal Finance

Today is a great guest post from Brian Scheur. He writes over at  My Next Buck and he’s a regular on  twitter. Brian writes about making more, saving more, and spending your money wisely, so if you haven’t already subscribe to his blog

I love comic books. I read them weekly and have for the past several years. There are lots of lessons that the heroes in these books share with us. Sometimes those lessons are how to be a better or stronger person. Sometimes those lessons are how NOT to take over the world and/or universe. I have found all sorts of financial nuggets from some of my favorite heroes and villains and wanted to share them with you. I hope you enjoy.

Batman
Bruce Wayne/Batman – Money doesn’t make you happy, it’s just a tool to be used. Everyone knows Batman is broody and dark. He is also just as crazy as his villains. His inability to get over his parents’ death has led to his lifelong mission of crime fighting. Bruce has all the money and resources one could ever wish for, and he would trade it all to have his parents back and go back to the joyous child he once was. Instead of using his money to live a hedonistic lifestyle to compensate for his loss, he uses it to aid his mission. Truly, money is just a means to an end, and happiness needs to come from within. If you take a look at JD’s post here on The Psychology of Happiness you will see Bruce fails to meet most of the criteria.

Elongated Man
Elongated Man – Daily maintenance is essential to make sure you are on the right track. Elongated man has to take his Gingold regularly to maintain his elasticity. Similarly, I need to track my spending regularly in order to hold myself accountable and make sure I am not stretching myself too thin financially.

Lex Luthor – A ridiculous amount of money doesn’t mean you have to be a d-bag. Lex is superman’s archenemy. From real-estate scams in the movies, to practically purchasing his seat as President of the US in the comics, anyone behind the scenes can tell that Lex is an utter tool. That said, he is the wealthiest tool in all of comics. Money corrupts and Lex is not an exception to the rule. I would like to think Luthor sets an example of who I would not be if I were the richest man in the world.

Hal Jordan
Hal Jordan/Green Lantern – Doing what’s right in the face of great fear. We are faced with tough money decisions often in our lives. It takes mental awareness and will power to make the right decision at times. Maybe the best thing for your financial situation is to say, “no” to your friends to going out one night. It’s not always the easiest or coolest thing to do, but sometimes it’s what is right. Also Hal and the Green Lanterns are cool because of the rings they wield. Ladies, check these things out, if a green power ring was mass marketed, I am sure diamonds would no longer be your best friends.

Wonder Woman – No one cares what your vehicle is. Yeah, Wonder Woman has a sweet ride (an invisible jet), but really, it’s not like she can show it off to her friends. She isn’t taking the jet for a Sunday stroll so everyone can see it – it’s invisible! Knowing that so few people are ever going to see my car is why I bought a Hyundai Sonata as opposed to a pimped out BMW or Lexus.

B'Wana Beast
B’Wana Beast – Being resourceful is crucial to winning the war with your finances. B’wana Beast is an odd dude. His superpower is that he can combine two animals by taking their greatest strengths (think of an elephant with the speed of a cheetah). We become resourceful by combining unrelated items from time to time to bend it to our needs (lifehacker is notorious for this kind of thing as is a roll of duct tape). By using what I have at my disposal I cut down on waste and on my spending by not buying repetitive items that serve the same purpose (what would be the point of combining a leopard and a panther – two animals with such similar skills?).

Barbara Gordon – A catastrophe doesn’t have to ruin your life. It’s hard to empathize with Babs. She gets shot by the Joker and ends up paralyzed in a wheelchair. Instead of feeling sorry for herself, she made herself useful and became the intelligence analyst for an entire network of superheroes. She reminds me that no matter how bad things get, especially with regards to your finances, its essential to pick yourself up off the ground and keep on plugging away at life. I think a lot of people that have a mountain of debt could learn from Miss Gordon’s example.

Superman
Superman – Being bulletproof is the coolest of superpowers. Think about it, the strength, speed, flight, and heat vision is all well and good, but who would care if they could just shoot your a–? Being bulletproof is important for Supes, and it’s important to me. Ramit Sethi talks about having a bulletproof financial system, complete with automation. I am happy to say my finances are automated from top to bottom, which, indeed, makes me bulletproof.

The Penguin
The Penguin – Leading too high profile a life raises suspicions. Whether it’s an audit from the IRS or trying to keep up with the Jones’ in your neighborhood, nothing good is going to come with having too high of a profile for your disclosed income. For Oswald Cobblepot, he ends up with a Batman in his one-spectacled grill; for me it would likely be the tax man (I am not sure which is scarier). I am cool living within my means (all of which are legal); it makes sense and allows me to meet all of my goals and I can be proud of that.

Nightwing
Nightwing – There will come a day when you have to be your own man (or woman). It was a harsh reality when I was on my own. I went almost two years without having knowing anything about money before I finally grew up and realized what I needed to do to not have to rely on my family forever. Dick Grayson transitioned from Robin to become Nightwing and step out of Batman’s shadow. It was important for the character to grow up and accept a new type of challenge without his mentor and partner watching over him. Most of us go through something like this our first year or so out of college. How nice does it (or will it) feel to be completely independent and able to take care of yourself as your own adult?

Characters pictured and described above are the properties of DC Comics.

3 Responses to What Comic Book Characters Taught Me About Personal Finance

  1. The most important lesson is that neither superheroes or supervillians wait for other people to pull them around by the nose. They don’t wait to have everything spelled out for them — they do their own research and reasoning — and they act as soon as they have things reasonably figured out. When necessary, they seek the advice of others (Pr. 15:22), but they still make their own decisions and accept responsibility for them. You don’t need superpowers for this; a piece of paper, last months bills and stubs and unflinching honesty are sufficient. The paperwork might be optional, but the honesty is mandatory.

  2. Alright, first off, great idea and excellent list of potential role models. It’s amazing the sort of lessons you can gleam from unexpected sources. And the lesson you drew from Wonder Woman is just plain hilarious.

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