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10 Epic Personal Finance Lessons From 'Game of Thrones'

Michelle Lambright Black
10 Epic Personal Finance Lessons From 'Game of Thrones'

Game of Thrones begins its final season on Sunday and will be coming to an end. Soon, there will be no more of the bloodshed, the back-stabbing, the dragons, the "I can't look" moments, or the personal finance lessons.

Wait -- the what?

It's true. If you watch and listen carefully (when you're not screaming into a sofa cushion), you can pick up a few solid tips on how to handle your money, including your savings , investments and debt.

It's all there — in between all the scheming and slaughter, of course.

Check out these 10 financial lessons you can pick up from Game of Thrones . Warning: There will be spoilers. And dragons.

1. Always pay your debts

Macall B. Polay / Courtesy of HBO
The Lannisters -- including Queen Cersei and Ser Jamie -- are known for paying their debts.

"A Lannister always pays his debts," Game of Thrones tells us. House Lannister may have a checkered history of greed, murder, betrayal and even incest — but you can always count on the Lannisters to pay back what they owe.

That stellar track record helped the Lannisters — including patriarch Tywin, Queen Cersei and Ser (Sir) Jamie — become one of the wealthiest families in the Seven Kingdoms.

If you have a history of repaying your debts, it can be a powerful asset in your own wealth-building endeavors.

Good credit can save a ton of money by opening doors for financial opportunities you wouldn't have otherwise, such as being offered a great rate on a mortgage .

2. Don't take shortcuts

Macall B. Polay / Courtesy of HBO
Theon Greyjoy and his family take shortcuts in life, but it doesn't go well for them.

The ironborn, led by House Greyjoy, are a people known for taking shortcuts in life. They're pirates and thieves who take what they want.

Ned Stark hoped to neutralize the ironborn by taking on young Theon Greyjoy as his ward, but Theon takes a shortcut of his own — and seizes the Starks' Winterfell. But things don't go well: He's captured and tortured horribly.

Taking shortcuts with your finances can backfire, too. For example, you may decide it's easier to go all-in on one stock you like, rather than using an automated investing service to diversify your portfolio. You'll be very sorry if your chosen stock craters.

By disciplining yourself to follow smart financial strategies, you'll set yourself up for success in the long run.

3. Don't let financial setbacks stop you

Courtesy of HBO
Daenerys 'Mother of Dragons' Targaryen always comes bouncing back.

Life hasn’t been easy for Daenerys Targaryen, better known as the Mother of Dragons, Khaleesi, the Unburnt, Breaker of Chains — you know the drill. (We could be here all day rattling off titles for the fair-haired Dothraki queen.)

Yet despite many setbacks, she never allows her circumstances to defeat her. She seeks good advice, and she works hard to regain what's taken from her.

When you're faced with financial setbacks, you can learn from Daenerys. Do you have bad credit ? Does your bank account look like it’s been pillaged by a Dothraki horde?

You can bounce back, too — even if you don't have fire-breathing "kids" to help you. All you need is a solid plan, some hard work and a little patience.

4. Changing allegiances can pay off

Macall B. Polay / Courtesy of HBO
Tyrion Lannister isn't afraid to switch sides.

After years of abuse from his family, Tyrion Lannister decides it’s time to switch sides. He allies with Daenerys, who wants to take back the throne from the Lannisters.

Here’s the financial lesson for you: Just because you’ve always done things a certain way doesn’t mean it's the best way.

Dumping your longtime savings account and switching to another bank might give you a much better interest rate on your money. Going with a different car insurance company might lower your premiums.

It’s wise to shop around from time to time to make sure you're getting the best deal. You might feel more appreciated if you take your business elsewhere, the same way Tyrion feels gratitude from his new queen.

5. Don’t spend like a king

Helen Sloan / Courtesy of HBO
The reign of the Mad King was followed by an era of reckless spending.

The reign of the Mad King and his House Targaryen comes to an end early on in Game of Thrones when Robert Baratheon leads a rebellion and seizes the Iron Throne.

But King Robert then develops a reputation for womanizing and spending without restraint. The result is a mountain of debt for the kingdom of Westeros, totaling approximately 6 million "gold dragons" (the local currency).

The king dies in a hunting accident after drinking too much wine.

Your lesson is to avoid being overindulgent with spending and building up your own mountain of debt. Because the consequences also can be dire — for your mental health, your credit scores and your overall financial well-being.

6. Invest in your future

Helen Sloan / Courtesy of HBO
The conniving Littlefinger knows how to play the long game -- until it's cut short.

Even if you're not born into wealth or privilege, you can still reach great heights. Lord Petryl Baelish, better known as Littlefinger, is a prime example of someone who works his way up to power and wealth.

But Littlefinger lies, manipulates, betrays and murders his way to success. Sisters Sansa and Arya Stark eventually decide they've had enough of the dishonesty — and of Littlefinger. (The North remembers, Lord Baelish.)

Still, his ability to play the long game is a financial lesson worth learning.

Saving for retirement is something you should start as early as possible. An IRA or a 401(k) , especially one with an employer match, can help you get going.

7. Unpaid debts have consequences

Helen Sloan / Courtesy of HBO
Cersei understands that leaving a debt unpaid can cause serious problems.

Another Game of Thrones saying is, “The Iron Bank will have its due." The Iron Bank of Braavos is an incredibly wealthy and powerful bank that doesn't take debt lightly.

When Cersei Lannister takes the Iron Throne, she inherits a debt to the bank of 6 million gold dragons. Her father warns Cersei, “If you owe [the Iron Bank] money and you don’t want to crumble yourself, you pay it back.”

The cunning queen finds a way to pay back the debt — which involves wiping out the entire Tyrell line and seizing their wealth.

Obviously, you want to avoid taking extreme measures to pay off debt, but you never want to skip out on it either. You'll do serious damage to your credit scores, your creditors may sue you for the money, and your wages can be garnished.

8. Identity theft can be a killer

Helen Sloan / Courtesy of HBO
Arya Stark uses the faces of the dead to disguise herself.

Arya Stark is another GoT character who isn’t given a fair shake in life. But her resilience helps her survive.

Arya learns the art of disguising herself using the faces — identities — of dead people, so she can kill off her enemies.

In the real world, identity theft can be deadly to your credit. It’s important to monitor your credit reports from the three major credit bureaus closely, so you can fight back quickly if someone tries to open fraudulent accounts in your name.

Freezing your credit can provide the ultimate protection against identity theft, which remains a growing problem. The Federal Trade Commission says about 445,000 ID theft reports were lodged in 2018, up 20% from the previous year.

9. You can't know what the future holds

Helen Sloan / Courtesy of HBO
You can't peer into the future, like Bran Stark.

Poor Bran Stark. His parents and brothers are murdered, he survives an attempt on his own life, and he loses the use of his legs.

After everything Bran is given to deal with, it seems only fair that he is rewarded with a super power. He becomes the Three-Eyed Raven and is able to see into the past and catch glimpses of the future.

But you don't have that same privilege. You can't see what's ahead in your life — so you need a will.

An AARP survey reveals that only 4 in 10 American adults have a will or living trust. Having a will is crucial for protecting your loved ones, so they won't have to rely on courts to decide what happens to your possessions after you’re gone.

10. Be prepared for the worst

Courtesy of HBO
Winter is coming, along with the Night King.

"Winter is coming."

That most familiar line from Game of Thrones is the motto of House Stark, whose members live in the North and know that Westeros winters — ushered in by the Night King — can be long and deadly. Those who fail to prepare may not survive.

The financial takeaway for you is that it's vital to have emergency savings, so you can be prepared for the unknown. You never know when job loss, illness or other financial disasters may strike.

If you want to weather the storm when and if it comes, you need to prepare in advance by setting up your emergency fund .