Money Lessons I Learned From Binge-Watching 'Game of Thrones'™


In just a few years, binge watching has gone from frowned-upon compulsion to popular craze, and with good reason.

“When the story is good enough, people can watch something three times the length of an opera,” Kevin Spacey, star of the habit-forming Netflix series “House of Cards,” said during the Edinburgh Television Festival.

And “Game of Thrones,” which kicked off its seventh season on July 16, has plenty of elements to reward the marathon viewer. But those who binge-watch the HBO show are getting more out of it than voluminous quantities of gratuitous gore and nudity.

Legit money lessons await those willing to read between the lines—and they work just as well in real life as in Westeros.

1. Beware the Iron Bank.

In the first season of “Game of Thrones,” King Robert Baratheon’s spendthrift ways have caused the crown to become deeply indebted to the Iron Bank of Braavos. If the debt isn’t repaid, the Iron Bank has been known to lend money to the crown’s enemies.

While Visa will not finance your violent destruction if you can’t make your monthly payments, it can certainly wreak havoc on your credit rating. Creditors can also make you pay painful penalties for falling behind, and compound interest can mean you owe a lot more than the original amount you borrowed, putting you even further behind.

So be like a Lannister, and always pay your debts.

2. Credit can help you crush your enemies.

Handled responsibly, a line of credit can be a powerful tool. It allows you to attain goals that might otherwise be out of reach, whether it’s buying a new car or a home. It can also be used to replenish your devastated military.

After suffering a humiliating defeat, Stannis Baratheon secures a loan from the Iron Bank of Braavos and uses it to rebuild his army.

While you may not be a megalomaniacal tyrant who kills family members and uses dark magic to attain greater power (we hope), a good credit score can help you attain the most favorable lending terms to reach your goals.

You can get there by always paying your bills on time, using no more than 30 percent of the credit you have available, and applying only for the credit that you need, as opposed to applying for lots of different credit in a short period of time.

3. Estate planning is good for your kingdom, however big it is.

The events of “Game of Thrones” are set in motion by one thing—poor estate planning. King Robert Baratheon didn’t put his plans for succession into writing until the last minute, and by then it was too late.

Estate planning can be unpleasant, since it requires us to get up close and personal with our own mortality. But if you want your assets parceled out in a particular way after you pass on, do it sooner rather than later.

Estate planning is a complex, detailed process involving laws that vary from state to state, so don’t think about undertaking this by yourself. Get a lawyer, and be prepared for a long, arduous process. But it can be worth the investment of time and money to protect your heirs and your assets. After all, if King Robert Baratheon had spent less time drunkenly hunting wild boars and more time with a reputable attorney, the crown wouldn’t have been passed on to a teenaged sadist and fewer decapitations would have ensued.

So get a lawyer, and get your affairs in order. Winter is coming.

4. Set aside some fire-breathing assets.

Daenerys Targaryen, the “Mother of Dragons,” starts off “Game of Thrones” in an unenviable position. The exiled daughter of a deposed king, she owns next to nothing, except for three dragon eggs. However, when they hatch, the dragons become powerful assets that rain terror upon her enemies.

The right asset at the right time can also help you get out of a seemingly hopeless spot, so make sure you have something set aside as well.

Generally, financial advisors recommend putting aside enough money in savings to cover at least three months’ worth of basic living expenses in a pinch. (The average yield on a savings account was just .1 percent as of the end of 2015, but some “high-yield” savings accounts offer 1 percent or more, so it’s worth doing some research.) That way, if you become exiled from your job, the assets you’ve been keeping in reserve will help you endure until you reclaim your throne.

An investment portfolio can also be a powerful ally in the face of daunting expenses. Investing your money may not yield immediate gains, but over time the market has yielded average annual returns of around 6 percent. So if you invest in a mix of stocks and bonds, by the time you need to tap that money for real estate or retirement, your portfolio balance can be a pretty formidable ally in helping you get what you want.