5 key money lessons from Netflix

5 key money lessons from Netflix

I’ve long held the controversial opinion that you learn more about the world and society from fiction than non-fiction. The same is true for TV and film. This means you can learn key money lessons from Netflix.

While watching Netflix, I started thinking about what I could learn from some of the series I’ve watched. Seeing as money and finances plays such an important role in everyone’s lives, it’s also a key theme in many shows.

As a result, there’s a lot to be learnt about personal finance and managing money in many TV series. In this post I will highlight just some of the key lessons that can be learnt from five hit Netflix shows. I will also explain what you can do to avoid making the same mistakes as the characters.

Beware: There may be spoilers ahead…

The Politician

A show all about student politics and aspiring to be US President one day, it features jealously, privilege and a healthy dose of backstabbing. It also contains plenty of money lessons.

In season 1 episode 2, a very wealthy dad decides to cut off two of his sons. Instead of the millions they would have inherited, he leaves them with just one item – The Harrington Commode.

The sons then exclaim: “But we have to pay taxes on the value of that. You’re sending us off into debt.” To which the dad simply replies: “I know.”

This is an important lesson in inheritance and tax planning. A lot of people don’t consider the tax implications of who they leave assets to in their Will. The beneficiaries can be left with large tax bills, which they cannot afford.

Seeking advice from a tax adviser and discussing your options can prevent this from being an issue. Some choose to make gifts while they’re still alive to mitigate the tax owed. If you live for 7 years after making a gift, inheritance tax is no longer payable.

Friends

While not a Netflix original, all 10 seasons are available on Netflix. The key money question that has been troubling fans for years is how does Monica afford her New York City West Village apartment on a relatively low salary?

In the first season Monica tries to explain this by saying the apartment is in her grandmother’s name. “If anyone asks, tell them an 80-year-old woman lives here,” she says. After her grandmother moved to Florida, Monica began to illegally sublet the rent-controlled apartment.

While this may appear like a win for Monica, the lesson here is not to illegally sublet properties. If you are illegally subletting an apartment you will not be properly protected by insurance if something goes wrong.

If you are the renter, you are also not protected. You will not be able to declare any rental income properly. This could cause a multitude of problems for you, from tax penalties to five years in prison – certainly not something to be taken lightly.

Renting out a property can be a great source of additional income if done through the correct channels. As a bonus, your first £1000 of rental income is tax free.

Jane the Virgin

This may not be the most ‘highbrow’ show on Netflix, but it does contain a lot of important money lessons.

When Jane and Rafael’s son is born, they argue about his trust fund and inheritance. The good thing is they know to update their Wills and finances as soon as he is born. This is such an important thing to do as we never know what is going to happen next and it is crucial to make sure your loved ones are taken care of if anything were to happen to you.

The show also tackles issues of insider trading, financial crimes and bribery. These issues won’t affect the majority of people, but there have been plenty of cases of people inadvertently getting caught up in insider trading. Remember it is illegal to trade stocks and shares based on any information that is not publicly available. This can include information from your job, a friend or family member or even after a conversation in a bar – which happens in Season 2 of Jane the Virgin.

Tiger King

There’s a lot to unpack in this series, which I look at in more detail in this post. Essentially the key money lesson from Netflix here is the importance of having an up to date and legal Will.

So many people neglect their Will, but they really are the only way to ensure your assets are distributed how you wish.  The case of Don Lewis and Carole Baskin also highlights the need to take proper legal advice and execute it properly.

Make sure you, your lawyer and your executors have a copy of your Will kept in a safe but accessible location. This should help avoid any doubts about its accuracy and prevent forgery attempts. But, don’t be too scared about forgery, it’s very uncommon!

Schitts Creek

This show is more of a lesson in how not to manage money rather than how to protect wealth. The show centres around a very wealthy family who lose their fortune overnight and have to move to a small town they once bought as a joke. Firstly, this is probably a good example of how not to waste your money, regardless of how much you think you have.

Another key lesson from this show is to pay your taxes. This may seem like an obvious point, but a lot of people fail to file and pay them correctly. In this show, the fault appears to lie with a business manager come accountant who had not paid any taxes. This leads the IRS (the US tax authority) to come after the protagonist family and repossess all their possessions and assets.

For most of us without millions in the bank, it will be our own fault if we don’t pay. This is straightforward if your only source of income is from your job – your tax contributions will come out of your pay cheque. However, with more and more people having side hustles and making additional income, many more may find themselves liable to extra taxes.

How to avoid tax penalties

To avoid unnecessary penalties from HMRC you should keep track of all your income and file a Self-Assessment tax return if necessary. Your first £1000 of extra income is tax free but after this you will have to pay tax on your earnings.

Gifted items can also accrue tax as they are considered a ‘benefit in kind’. Properly reporting these is essential. There is a clear ‘paper trail’ of evidence as you’ll probably have been posting the items on your social media or blogging about them.  

If all else fails, make sure you have a good accountant you can trust – they pay for themselves in the long run!

If you found this post about the money lessons I’ve learnt on Netflix interesting, please like it and share across social media or send it to your friends. I’d also love to hear your thoughts and experiences, so please do leave a comment! Have you been watching more Netflix recently? What do you think the key money lessons from Netflix are?

28 responses to “5 key money lessons from Netflix”

  1. Liz – I love anything and everything Hollywood. Given the choice between Starbucks and Coffee Bean, I'll always choose the latter, I'm addicted to shoes and I'm a huge fan of Archie comics. I blog at: http://piecesofliz.com
    Liz says:

    great lessons here on finance! I love finding lessons too from shows or movies.

  2. Karen – Hello! I’m Karen. I'm in my twenties and I write about a variety of topics including: lifestyle, university advice and some of the lessons I've learnt in this complicated thing called life. I hope my blog brings you some positivity, humour and motivates you. For more information about my blog and contact details, visit my about page. Thanks for stopping by x
    Karen says:

    I’ve watched Jane the Virgin on repeat and never really thought about the financial lessons they were teaching.
    This was a really insightful post!

    Karen x| The K component

  3. Karen – Hello! I’m Karen. I'm in my twenties and I write about a variety of topics including: lifestyle, university advice and some of the lessons I've learnt in this complicated thing called life. I hope my blog brings you some positivity, humour and motivates you. For more information about my blog and contact details, visit my about page. Thanks for stopping by x
    Karen says:

    I’ve watched Jane the Virgin on repeat and I’ve never really thought about some of the money/financial lesson they were teaching.
    This was a really insightful post!!

    Karen x| The K component

  4. mindhealthwarrior – Full time stay at home mom. Hoping to keep it that way. Blogging about mostly mental health. Decided to start learning how to use a professional camera. I hope to be able to help people with mental health awareness and also write posts about individual mental illnesses that will include help/tips.
    mindhealthwarrior says:

    I never would have thought about this. Great views and post.

  5. Unwanted Life – Unwanted Life's a blog about invisible disabilities (mental and physical health) combined with my personal experiences and knowledge to help destigmatise mental and physical health conditions
    Unwanted Life says:

    I haven’t watched Friends in more than a decade, but I could have sworn Monika inherited the rent capped flat which caused it to be so cheap, rather than subletting it from her grandmother.

  6. Lisa's Notebook – I'm Lisa, a Content Creator and Blogger from Bath, helping brands and businesses connect with their ideal clients. I'm also a mum of one, cat concierge, gardener, beauty, gin and tea lover, and Plantagenet enthusiast! Find me over on: https://www.lisasnotebook.com.
    Lisa’s Notebook says:

    This is such a great post, I’d never stopped to think about what our favourite shows could teach us about money and finances but you’re absolutely right! All the same, I did admire Monica’s savvy, haha!

  7. Great post! Thank you for sharing! This is very interesting! I’ve only watched friends but I want to give the others a watch to spot these things!

  8. Jenny in Neverland – London – Twenty-something lifestyle blogger from Essex. Book lover, Slytherin, organisational wizard and enjoys Motorsport, Disney and Yoga.
    Jenny in Neverland says:

    Ooh this is a great post. I rarely think this deeply about the shows I watch but you’re so right in everything you say! I loved Jane the Virgin – one of my absolute faves and it definitely brings up some good points about money and finances considering the characters backgrounds!

  9. Thecaskconnoisseur – Hello Everyone, This is Luke here, the aim of my Website is to provide an insight into The UKs Brewing Industry and also The Whiskeria Industry, I am really looking forward to bringing you many reviews for you to indulge yourself into.
    Thecaskconnoisseur says:

    I am one for Netflix, I do struggle to find things that I would enjoy, I do enjoy a lot of the documentaries 😁

  10. I’ve never really thought to seek financial advice from Netflix but your post may have changed my mind lol. Schitt’s Creek sounds particularly fascinating. Thanks for compiling this list 🙂

  11. Great post! You did an excellent job of succinctly summarizing these shows… I actually haven’t watched most of these but I was able to understand the gist of the storylines and the lessons learned. It’s funny how money is such a taboo topic, but we can easily see money lessons and class issues in modern TV so easily.

    • Thanks so much! It’s so true- if only we spoke as openly about these issues as they do on TV!

  12. Jaya Avendel – Jaya Avendel is a micro-poetess and word witch from the Blue Ridge Mountains of Virginia, passionate about life where it intersects with writing and the dreamscapes lost in between. A diversely published writer, she creates poetry, prose, and writing guides to help you improve your craft!
    Jaya Avendel says:

    I love Schitt’s Creek, but never really thought about the money lessons behind it! Thinking back over the history of the family, I realize there are many financial lessons to be learned, not just about losing money but also about honestly working for it.
    Thanks so much for sharing!

    • So true- there’s so much we can all learn from the show. I think that’s what makes it a really good read!

  13. I skipped over the Politician as that’s quite high on my watchlist haha, but I read the other 4 (all of which I’ve binged) and completely agree with what you mean! Especially with Schitts Creek. I loved Jane the Virgin and that’s quite an interesting perspective as I’d never looked at it that way before x

    • Thanks so much! It’s amazing how many different ways and perspectives you can watch TV with x

    • Thanks so much! I’m glad you enjoyed reading the post 🙂

  14. Maisy – 21, YA and NA Book Blogger, besides books I am a lover of musicals, Disney and makeup. Aspiring Writer of YA fiction.
    Maisy says:

    I always loved Jane the Virgin for that reason, it was so funny and dramatic but it also had some serious and sensible topics hidden under the surface xx

  15. Very insightful, Katie! Fiction often CAN teach us valuable life lessons 🙂 Managing money properly is life <3

  16. What an interesting post – admittedly have only seen Friends put of this list but it does pose some questions. I know we see all of the main 6 at work at some stage during the seasons but I’m staggered how little time they seem to spend working!

    Have you ever watched Sherlock and wondered how he and Watson can afford to pay for so many taxis across London?

  17. Michelle (Boomer Eco Crusader) – Canada – Hi there! I’m Michelle and I live in Kitchener, Ontario, Canada. I am married with two young adult daughters. I’m a big fan of reducing waste, using less plastic, decluttering and simplifying life as much as possible.
    Boomer EcoCrusader says:

    Ha ha. I remember watching Friends in the 90s and thinking the same thing. Most sitcoms are like that when you think about it. And Schitt’s Creek – What’s not to love about that? There are so many things to unpack there. A Canadian classic!

    • Haha yes! It makes no sense if you stop and watch it. So true about Schitts Creek, a great show but also so much to unpack and think about!

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