The FI community doesn’t encourage a lot of TV and movie watching (remember one of the pillars of FI is cutting cable). However, I find there are some ways that entertainment can explain the concepts of FI pretty well. The Escape Artist’s top 10 tv shows on financial independence did something like this before and has served partially as inspiration for this series. With that, we started a series of posts that highlights those examples, which we’re calling FI Lessons from the Media.
Brooklyn Nine Nine depicts the antics of a fictional New York City police precinct (affectionately nicknamed the Nine Nine). We mainly follow Jake Peralta, one of the best detectives at the Nine Nine, but shown to be immature personally and professionally. Gina Linetti, a childhood friend, serves as the eccentric personal assistant to the precinct’s captain after Jake had gotten her a job there (fun fact: both the actors who play Jake and Gina, Andy Samberg and Chelsea Peritti, also grew up together). As the show progresses, Jake grows increasingly more mature, but not without learning some important lessons first as this early episode below shows.
Episode Title: The Apartment
Season 1, Episode 18
Jake has been living in his grandmother’s rent-controlled and affordable apartment for most of his adult life. However, the building has gone co-op. In order to continue living there, Jake has to come up with the money to buy the apartment. Gina, having fond memories of that apartment from her childhood, decides to help Jake try to find a way to stay. She looks over his finances and sees they are in bad shape. He has spent his money on excess things like massage chairs, turntables, and renting the same movie multiple times rather than buying it.
After attempting to secure money for the apartment from banks, his boss, and even a loan shark, Jake is unsuccessful in buying the apartment. Gina has been looking for a real estate investment and eventually offers to buy the apartment and rent it to Jake. Surprised that his childhood friend has the money to make this type of investment, Jake rejects the offer and throws a tantrum. However, after thinking more about the way he acted, Jake goes back to Gina, apologizes, and realizing he needs to get his finances in order, tells her to move into his apartment and allow him to move into her smaller, cheaper place.
Concepts We Learn
I’m thrifty. I cut my own hair. I walk to work. I eat Scully’s lunch everyday. I’ve rented the same crap box since I was 20 ’cause it’s so cheap.- Gina
- Savings rate matters: As Gina mentions, she’s thrifty. She cuts down her expenses to live within her means (though as the quote above illustrates, not in the most ethical means sometimes). Gina has also not inflated her lifestyle drastically, having lived in her starter apartment for a few years. This allows her to see an investment and try to take advantage of it (it is debatable if this was a good investment, as the FI community tends to do with real estate, but that’s a topic for another post).
- Start early when it comes to investing: Jake and Gina are roughly the same age. Gina, having started saving earlier, is miles ahead of Jake when it comes to finances, though. Again she can invest when he can not. Jake does lament and learn though that he should have started to look at his finances before he was 33.
- It’s never too late to get serious about your finances: With that said, though, it’s important to not despair. After he saw how bad his financial situation was, Jake decided to take action to his situation and improve it. There are numerous examples of this throughout the FI community if you seek them out.
Bonus Lesson from Another Episode
Another good FI lesson comes from the episode Cheedar. Jake receives a sealed envelop with an inheritance from a rich uncle. He has one of his colleagues open the envelop and the precinct is elated when they find out it is stock. Even better, one million shares of a stock. However, disappointment occurs when they find out it is one million shares of Blockbuster video stock. This illustrates the inherent risk of individual stock picking. Remember, even the best stock picker of our time, Warren Buffet wants his money to go to index funds when he passes.
Have you seen or heard something that made you think “this is totally a great example FI”? Let us know in the comments below.