Today is July 4th, and all across America, families will be celebrating our nation's independence. Hopefully, you have the day off from work and can enjoy some beautiful weather, good food, and a cold drink of your choice.
When you think of the 4th of July, you usually think of children waving sparklers, barbecues, and fireworks. Besides the Americana mentioned above, you may also think of the movie Independence Day, where we celebrate Will Smith and Jeff Goldbloom fighting; not just for the nation's, but the world’s independence.
Never one to pass up an opportunity to combine finance and science fiction, I reached out to my favorite money bloggers and asked them if they wanted to team up and discuss the wisdom of Independence Day. The responses I received were fun and exciting.
Independence Day (1996 Film): Financial and Life Lessons
“If you feel compelled to leave these cities, please do so, in an orderly fashion.” – President Thomas J. Whitmore:
Anyone living in a high cost of living city should feel compelled to leave because where you live has a significant impact on your net worth. It's tough enough for most people to save a large percentage of their income. When you live in a high-cost area, you are putting yourself at a considerable disadvantage. Move to a low-cost area, live in a reasonably-sized house, and get to financial independence much sooner.
Scott from Making Momentum
Sometimes You’ve Just Gotta Punch Debt In The Face
Will Smith crashed into the desert after a tantalizing battle in the sky with one of the alien ships. Fed up, clearly stressed and angered from the situation at hand, Will Smith busts open the cockpit and smack the alien in the jaw, proudly proclaiming “Welcome to Earth.”
When you’re in the battle for financial betterment, sometimes there is only one option left: punch debt in the face. You’ve said enough is enough and you’re fighting for your financial life. Your mindset is now set on conquering that debt. “Welcome to Debtfreevile.”
It might be a long, drawn-out fight. Gradually, that principal owing will decrease.
Grinding and pressing forward, like Will Smith dragging the unconscious alien through the scorching desert, you might have moments of frustration along the way, comparable to Will Smith flipping out during the long desert trek. But you’re committed, and the only option is a victory.
With the proper mindset, you can overcome the great alien evil that is consumer debt. To win the war, you’ll need a battle plan through a commitment to beating debt and a repayment strategy to do so. Plus, you can use reinforcements in the way of additional funds to throw against that debt via side hustles and cost-savings in other areas of your budget.
Eventually, you blow up that invading mothership and defeat the threat that was your debt. The first step that got you there was punching that debt in the face.
Aaron at Personal Finance for Beginners
President Thomas J. Whitmore: Where do you get funding for something like this?
Julius Levinson: You don't actually think they spent $20,000 on a hammer, $30,000 on a toilet seat, do you?
A budget is one of your most valuable personal finance tools. With a budget in place, every dollar you earn has a specific purpose of helping you reach your financial goals. A budget is a key to progressing past the point of living from paycheck to paycheck.
Without a budget, you might wonder how a large chunk of your money was vaporized by an atomic alien laser beam of unidentified expenses. One morning, you wake up to a notification that your paycheck had been deposited into your checking account. By the end of the same day, it’s gone.
Budgets give you a specific financial plan. This works because, most of the time, your income and expenses will be fairly consistent from month to month.
But what should you do when that isn’t the case?
In the example of the Independence Day scene quoted above, we see that it can be helpful to fudge the numbers in your budget a little bit – provided that you’re doing so in a way that plays to your financial advantage.
Sure, you might not be able to list a $20,000 hammer as a line item on your budget, but there are ways you can help cushion your budget to make sure you’re prepared for a personal financial crisis or ready to respond an invasion of unplanned expenses:
- Pay yourself first. Part of every dollar you earn should go toward your financial future. Even if you don’t see an immediate need to save money, you can be positive the day will come that you wish you’d started saving earlier. Whether it be for a down payment, wedding, or car repairs… One day you’ll wake up and need it.
- Underestimate your expenses. When building your budget, err on the side of caution. Estimate the amount of money that you spend on gasoline during the summertime when prices are high. Give yourself enough money to cover your utility bills during the hottest and coldest months of the year. Round your expenses up to the nearest $5-10.
- Include “discretionary income. ”While you might find it satisfying to have a detailed, perfectly adhered-to budget, it’s just not realistic for most people. When creating a budget, don’t feel the need to assign every single dollar you earn to a specific category. Instead, set aside 5-10% of your income as “discretionary income,” and be okay knowing that its purpose might change from month to month.
When it comes to your budget, yes, precision is essential (if you’re spending all of your money on food, you’ll want need to know this).
However, if you are going to fudge the numbers, make sure you do so strategically and always in your favor. You never know when an alien expense or UFO (“unidentified financial opportunity?”) will come knocking at your door.
Dr. Breath Easy Finance
Marty: I know, Ma. Just try and stay calm! David: Tell her to pack up and leave town.
The best way to approach the bear market is the exact same way the professionals advise us to approach a real-life bear. What to do when you encounter an actual grizzly bear? Here’s what the experts say when you encounter an actual grizzly bear or an alien
- Do not run, stay calm – Meaning, do not leave the market in a BEAR market.
- Avoid direct eye contact – Stop checking your stock every day, save yourself some anxiety and the urge to sell at a loss
- Walk away slowly, if the bear is not approaching. Adjust your asset allocation when the market is good, don’t get too comfortable with high-risk investments.
- F the bear charges, stand your ground (you cannot outrun the bear). DO keep your money in the market; you cannot time the market.
Who are you when the market tanks or when the alien wants to take over the world? Are you a Marty or a David? Stand your ground.
Look at us. Everybody's trying to get out of Washington, and we're the only schmucks trying to get in. Julius Levinson
“What I'm trying to say is–if you stay I'll hurt you.” David Levinson
This is long-term stock market investing.
If you want to participate, there will be ups and downs. You will watch your portfolio experience volatility and even drop by 20%, 40%, or more in the short-term.
But, you have to learn to be okay with the hurt. When you care about something or someone, you are “all in” even through the hard times, right? It's the same with your retirement.
In the long-term, the market performs favorably consistently. Don't feel scared and panic sell after a market drop. Just hang on tight. One day you'll look back over the last few decades and say “HELLO, BOYS! I'M BACK!” (Russell Casse).
Chris from Money Stir
“Good morning. In less than an hour, aircraft from here will join others from around the world. And you will be launching the largest aerial battle in the history of mankind. “Mankind.” That word should have new meaning for all of us today. We can't be consumed by our petty differences anymore. We will be united in our common interests.” President Thomas J. Whitmore:
Brian from Debt Discipline
Russell Casse: All right, you alien assholes! In the words of my generation: Up Yours!
Russell had the right attitude when it came to fighting aliens, and you could learn from him too if you're in debt. The emotional and mental part of paying off debt might be your biggest challenge. The math part is natural, but changing your behavior to be successful with your money will take work.
Like Russell, you need to tell creditor, and lenders, “Up Yours!” Get mad and build a plan to pay off debt. Using a pay off method like the debt, snowball builds momentum and small wins to help you reach your goal. It's never a wrong time to get your financial act together, although the sooner, the better, let this 4th of July be your independence from debt!
When I launched the idea for this post, I reached out to a few blog network groups and asked if people wanted to contribute. What surprised me was how many of them had not seen the movie. I understand not everyone is into science fiction, but it wasn’t about the genre, it was the age of the viewer.
One blogger told me they were five when the movie came out, and they would have to watch the film on Netflix. I’m sure that somewhere in my basement I have the film on VHS, and at one point I probably rented it at Blockbuster. I recall seeing Independence Day in the movie theater.
I had assumed that most of these bloggers were closer in age to me and that they had the same experiences. It's an easy enough mistake to make but is a mistake nonetheless. Experiences matter; it is one thing to experience a phenomenon and live through it and then another to just have read about it.
Movies like Independence Day or Jurassic Park were massive blockbusters, and technological marvels in an era where cell phones were a novelty for the rich and AOL was the new hotness. Looking back, the movies may not seem as impressive in a high def., 4k-resolution world.
These young bloggers didn’t just miss out on pop culture; they missed out on the market hysteria. I remember in the 90s overhearing the sergeants in my army unit talking about how much money they were making in their mutual funds. The market was on fire, and everyone was cashing in. That is, of course, until early 2000 were when the market tanked.
I was starting my career in financial services at the peak of the stock bubble. As the bubble burst, I remember the panic. I remember the tears. Potential clients who worked with other firms were calling us for help; they had lost money in stock mutual funds and owed money in capital gains taxes. (If that sounds like a typo, it proves my point about the experience.) You can lose money in mutual funds, and the fund can still pay out a taxable capital gain.
Just like how most younger bloggers may not be able to relate to the hype around popular movies like Independence Day, they may not be able to relate to why older investors have an aversion to risk. When you live through and experience two major market downturns, that experience has a lasting effect.
Sure, it all worked out in the end, but it didn’t feel like it was going to work out when it was going on. It was like that awful summer when the movie Titanic was a hit, and every other song on the radio was the Céline Dion theme song. I don’t want to live through it again.
All the same, we would not be able to celebrate all of these memories without our independence.
So, Happy Independence Day to you and your family on this fourth of July.