My 5-year-old son and 9-year-old daughter love the Teen Titans. So do my 15-year-old niece and my 25-year-old nephew.
I had hoped that they would be watching Jim Kramer or Suze Orman by this time (it’s never to early to start realizing that one pair of earrings is all you need from your crib years to your college years, right?), but converting them from Robin and Starfire to Jim and Suze doesn’t seem like it’s happening anytime soon.
So remember what your grandma said: If you can’t beat ’em, realize that you’ll be lonely, alienated and potentially a history-making paragon of defeat (think Leonardo DiCaprio and Titanic) unless you join them.
So join Team Teen Titans I did. And, ironically, like all good teammates, I found out that I’m better off with them than without them. Robin, Starfire, Beast Boy, Cyborg and Raven have actually been better financial role models for my kids than two mid-50-year-old television personalities ever could be (who watches television anymore, anyway?).
Here are seven reasons why I’ll bet my retirement money that the Teen Titans will retire young and rich.
1. They all live together. Literally, like five to one crib. (The MTV type of crib… not the diapers.com type.)
The financial lesson: Housing is the most expensive monthly liability most of us will have in our lifetimes. Consequently, it is as clear as Google Glass that sharing a living space is one of the smartest decisions we can make. It’s why marriage is a genius institution (cheaper living expenses), recent college graduates are the smartest human beings among us (they still live four to a house, dorm style) and the Blackish Johnson family knows the supreme value of in-laws (they can contribute to the monthly mortgage).
2. They have avoided the high-rent district: Teen Titans Towers is nowhere near Batman’s Gotham City or Spiderman’s New York City.
The financial lesson: OK, so they have tagged on a little bit of a commute to get from the middle of nowhere to the urban enclaves where the Bad Guys typically strike. But run the ROI on living in Teen Titans Towers vs. living in NYC, and I’m sure it will decidedly tip the scales in their favor. Now run the ROI on living in Atlanta vs. NYC, and you might just start packing your bags. (Note: Web designers in Atlanta can typically command the same rates as web designers in NYC, but two-bedroom apartments definitely don’t rent for the same amount.)
3. They have a unique skill set that will always be in demand: crime fighters extraordinaire.
The financial lesson: Just like computer analysts, software developers and orthopedic surgeons, fighting bad guys is a skill set that is highly valued and not going anywhere anytime soon. If you want to make money hand over fist, get a degree in a science/technology/engineering/math field and slide into one of the five million jobs that are expected to go unfilled by 2020. You, too, will be on the road to retirement by 40.
4. They have a side hustle: training other people to be superheroes.
The financial lesson: Those who can’t do, teach. Those who can do, do and teach, and make even more money.
I’m not quite sure how much training people to be superheroes yields, but teaching SAT classes can pay $80 per hour. Web designers can charge up to $120 per hour. Even tutoring elementary school kids can be extraordinarily lucrative. Side hustles are fantastic things. They give you emotional freedom (“I always have something I can fall back on”) and financial freedom (save every dime from the side hustle for retirement, rainy days or start-up capital for your next venture.)
5. They have strong financial leadership in their house: Robin the tightwad.
The financial lesson: Money cannot be saved by one man or woman alone. Robin definitely pinches his superhero pennies, but also doesn’t let anyone else in the house spend on frivolous things. Hungry? No problem, Robin still has a sandwich that he saved from Monday. Solid financial leadership is key to wealth creation. If you are managing to a budget, but your other household members don’t see a price tag that they don’t like, your savings plan will crumble like the Sandman on a windy day.
6. They are constantly striving to learn new things. Exhibit A: They removed their smile bones (also known as their teeth) to learn how to eat without chewing.
The financial lesson: The world and the global economy are moving at a breakneck pace. In order to keep up, we need to all be fearless about learning new skills, transitioning careers and participating in the “maker” economy that values those who have the ability to create things. Carol Dweck, a Stanford psychologist and author of the book Mindset, indicates that there are two types of people in life: those with a fixed mindset who believe that you either have “it” (intelligence and capability) or you don’t, and those with a growth mindset, who believe that you can learn something new at any given juncture. No doubt Professor Dweck would be proud of the Teen Titans for acquiring the new-found skill, in their ripe old teenage years, of eating sans smile bones. (Don’t try this trick at home, people.)
7. They re-use, reduce and recycle rather than spending incessantly to keep up with the Teen Joneses. Exhibit B: Beast Boy’s room is made of garbage.
While constructing a room from garbage may not exactly be the example we want to follow, the point is that a mentality of “recycled goods are even more good than new goods” is really, really good. By not trying to keep up with the Joneses’ fancy new duvets, settees and etageries, you will find yourself retired and chilling on the French Riviera, while the Joneses are still paying off their credit card debt in high-rent Gotham City.
So the next time your kid (or grown-up in training) wants to watch yet another episode of Teen Titans, take a ride with them to Teen Towers and try to count how much money you could save if you got a little Teen Titans discipline in your wallet. Repeat after me: roommates, low-rent district, strong financial leadership, continuous skill improvement, side hustles and rooms made of garbage. OK… maybe the rooms made of garbage is taking the financial lesson a wee bit too far. But rooms made of recycled goods are all good. Teen Titans Go!
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