In our last column, we time-traveled back to childhood to identify early lessons about the meanings of money and material things, and we looked at connections between those lessons and the way we handle money as adults. If you see such links, and you’re not happy with their effects on your current financial life, it’s time to make the move from self-exploration to self-change.
There’s nothing I love better than 90s nostalgia (grunge, “Friends,” jelly shoes). One of my favorite parts of watching this year’s Super Bowl was getting a little dose of 90s comedy gold in the form of a mini Seinfeld reunion. Seeing Jerry, George and yes, even Newman, hanging out in the coffee shop took me back to the time when the Spin Doctors and Boyz II Men ruled the airwaves.
I’m not going to say that everything I learned about money was learned from Seinfeld, but deep in the humor (sometimes very deep), there were some pretty important life lessons about money and business. Here are five lessons I gleaned from binge-watching Seinfeld in the days after the big Super Bowl reunion.
Frugality is not a bad thing. (Seinfeld episode: The Deal)
Re-gifting has actually entered into the common parlance since it made its debut on Seinfeld. If someone gives you a present that you don’t like or aren’t using, why would it make sense for you to spend some money to buy someone else a present when you can re-gift the previous present and make everyone happy? One of the outcomes of the recent recession is that frugality is back in vogue. So you shouldn’t worry about people calling you cheap – re-gifting just makes more economic sense when times are tough (or even when they’re not) than needlessly spending money when you don’t have to.
Don’t rely on word of mouth: Do your own research. (Seinfeld episode: The Stock Tip)
If someone came up to you on the street and gave you a hot tip about the stock market, would you take it? Hopefully you wouldn’t run out and plunk down a bunch of your hard-earned savings without doing your own research first. Investing is not something you should rush into lightly, a lesson that Jerry had to learn the hard way.
When things aren’t working for you, change it up. (Seinfeld episode: The Opposite)
It’s been said that doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results is the definition of insanity. If you’re in business, and business isn’t doing well or is starting to slow, doubling down on the strategy that got you into your predicament in the first place probably isn’t the best idea. This would be a time to actually take a page out of George’s book and completely flip your personal or business script. At one point, Jerry tells him, “If every instinct you have is wrong, then the opposite would have to be right.” George actually succeeds (for a bit) by doing the opposite of what he would normally do. You don’t quite have to take it to that extreme, but sometimes a change will do you good.
Specialization can help you stand out. (Seinfeld Episode: The Soup Nazi)
On the other hand, if you find something that you’re really, really good at, ride that expertise to superstardom. Although diversification is a solid business strategy, if you can own a certain product, market or skill, your singular focus will cause you to stand out in a crowded marketplace. According to Aspire Business Development, a certain restaurateur wouldn’t have been nearly so popular if he owned a regular diner instead of concentrating on his passion: making great soup (and only great soup)!
People who try to get rich quick seldom do. (Seinfeld episode: The Bottle Deposit)
If there was one overriding money lesson from Seinfeld, it was that it’s really hard to make a quick buck. Kramer in particular was always trying some newfangled get-rich-quick scheme, which seldom had legs. Even in situations where there was some thought and planning put into the scheme, such as the transportation of bottles across state lines to double returns, in Seinfeld, as in life, getting rich quick, though appealing, is seldom as successful as taking an idea, nurturing and growing it, and building something sustainable that will stand the test of time. Or try saving instead.
What about you? Any money lessons (or favorite episodes) you’d like to add? Tell us about them in the comments section!