Once Upon a Bankruptcy

Did our childhood stories and fairy tales seed the debt crisis? See if you can spot your fate among the fables.

from sooverdebt.com
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Snow White

Summary:
Snow White's stepmom is jealous of her beauty and convinces her to eat a poison apple. The dwarfs put Snow White's corpse in a glass coffin, and Prince Charming shows up and kisses her, breaking the spell and saving the day.

Intended message:
Love conquers all, good triumphs over evil, etc.

Unintended message:
Sometimes people do things even when they know it might be a bad idea. But if we're lucky/kind/beautiful enough, someone will come along and save the day!

How it keeps us in debt:
None of us are dumb. We know we shouldn't take on debt. But deep down, I think many of us believe something will come along to save us. An inheritance, a six-figure job, a wealthy husband or wife … Even if we don't consciously admit it, we believe it just might happen.

Robin Hood

Summary:
Robin Hood steals from the rich and gives to the poor. The new king is taxing everyone's pants off. There is an archery contest where the winner gets to kiss Maid Marian, so Robin Hood enters in disguise. He wins, he's discovered, and there's a huge brawl. People end up getting put in prison. Robin Hood helps them break out, steals all the king's gold, and marries Maid Marian.

Intended message:
Sometimes you have to break the rules, especially if it involves helping people who are being treated unfairly.

Unintended message:
We deserve to have the same things as the wealthy. So what if we have to do it in less-than-honest ways? It's OK as long as everyone benefits.

How it keeps us in debt:

We grow up thinking, "That's not fair!" every time we see someone who has more than we do. We get sucked into advertising that tells us we can have all those things, too — it doesn't matter how broke we are, because we can use convenient financing! We tell ourselves it will benefit us and/or our families in the long run.

A Christmas Carol

Summary:
Ebenezer Scrooge is an old fart who hates Christmas and hoards money. He screws his employee, Bob Cratchit, out of every dime he can despite the fact that Cratchit has all these sickly children. Scrooge has some trippy dreams where the ghosts of Christmases Past, Present, and Future show him how he'll end up if he doesn't change his ways. Scrooge freaks out and goes to celebrate Christmas with the Cratchits, who generously allow him in despite the fact that they probably secretly want to punch him in the face.

Intended message:
Don't be all evil and greedy or you'll regret it later. Have a giving heart.

Unintended message:
Life is short; better spend that money!

How it keeps us in debt:
No one wants to be a Scrooge. We spend an insane amount of money on gifts to show how generous and caring we are. We don't just buy for our family; we buy gifts for our coworkers, our kids' teachers, the neighbors we don't actually talk to, and even our pets! We live in the moment instead of considering what the future might hold because we're convinced that having fun now will pay off later.

Aladdin

Summary:
Aladdin is this vagabond who finds a lamp with a magical genie inside. He wishes to become a prince so he can make Princess Jasmine fall in love with him. The evil sorcerer, Jafar, steals the lamp and exposes Aladdin as a fraud. Jafar also makes himself ruler of the world. With the help of his friends, Aladdin saves the day, and everyone forgets he wasn't a real prince because he's just so darn nice. He marries Jasmine, and they live happily ever after.

Intended message:

Don't judge a book by its cover.

Unintended message:

If you want to be accepted, you have to pretend to be something you're not.

How it keeps us in debt:
So much of the urge to spend comes from trying to be like everyone else. Look at your credit card statements — are you using credit to buy clothing, finance vacations, and furnish your expensive home? Many people feel the need to keep up appearances even when they know they can't afford it.

Are you living in a fantasy world?

We're all adults here. Of course we're not seriously influenced by children's stories! Or are we?

If you're still adding to your mountain of debt, you're absorbing messages from somewhere that tell you it's OK. The reality is, debt never leads to a happy ending. Couples don't divorce because they were so debt-free, they fought all the time.

If you want a real-life lesson to share with your kids, let it be the story of how you stopped believing in fairy tales and became debt-free.

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