Life and Financial Lessons From a TV Show

One of my favorite television shows as a child was Lost in Space.

When I saw that Netflix was rebooting the show, I was excited to dive back into the reruns of my childhood.

Spoiler Alert: the following may contain spoilers. If you have not watched Lost in Space, you may wish to Pin this article for later. I’ll be here waiting for you. 

My grandfather used to say, “if you want to see what the future will look like, go and watch science fiction from a few years back.” While I do not have a Robby the Robot yet, I think he would have felt proven correct if he could have seen what our iPhones and Alexa devices look like now.

In the geek household, we take geeking out about Sci-Fi serious and often get into lengthy (and sometimes heated) discussions about sci-fi. In this review, we will discuss the life and financial lessons of the Netflix show, Lost in Space.

LOST IN SPACE Reviewing the Life and Financial Lessons

1. Dr. Smith

Those who watched the original show will remember Dr. Smith as a lazy fifth wheel who often served as the antagonist on the show. He was a significant foil to most of the Robinson family’s plans. However, he eventually came to care for the Robinsons, as seen when he sacrificed his return to earth to save their lives.

Thus far, Netflix has taken Dr. Smith’s role to the 10th degree. Dr. Smith isn’t even really Dr. Smith. The character stole the real Dr. Smith’s credentials to board a Jupiter ship. The character is wonderfully evil and is a cocktail of personality disorders. The Geek clan and I often found ourselves yelling at the tv as we binged on the show.

The lesson to be learned from Dr. Smith is to be careful of who you trust.

Not everyone is who they appear to be, primarily online. The anonymity of the internet and the low barrier of entry to start websites and blogs has to lead to everyone with an opinion being able to peddle goods and services on the internet.

These are not just some unscrupulous individuals, cooking up blogs to push some Amazon affiliate links or eBooks. Recently, we have seen larger companies that have invited fake “Gurus,” built them up, and had them quoted by major media outlets.

When it comes to your family and finances, make sure you know the individuals you rely on for advice.

2. Have a Backup Plan

One plot twist in the show was when the Robinsons went searching the wreckage of the Resolute to find radio equipment. It turns out that Don West had been running a smuggling operation and ditched the backup gear to smuggle booze.

While having booze could come in handy during some emergencies, having the radio equipment would have saved everyone some blood, sweat, and tears.

The lesson learned was that no one ever expects the trip to turn out bad.

In fact, many times, the more often we take a trip from A to B, the more complacent we become. Things can, and often do, go wrong, and you cannot prepare for every possible emergency or contingency.

However, you can prepare for the most likely of curveballs that could come your way.

For example:

  • Do you have an emergency kit in your car?
  • Do have an emergency kit in your office.
  • Do you have a small sewing kit in your office?
  • Could you handle it if the power went out for a day or two?
  • Do you have enough water and food to last if the power was out, and the stores were closed for a day or two? Don’t forget about your pets in that equation.
  • Do you have a financial preparedness plan?

Often when I discuss contingency planning with people trying to retire early, they are glib about the risks and say something along the lines of “If I plan for every possible risk, I will die before I could retire.”

Having a financial preparedness plan is not to keep you working forever, but to help you retire early.

When you have a plan in place, you can retire with safety and confidence and not need to worry about some asteroid that may send you back to work.

3. Watch Your Children

This is becoming a bit of a cliche on sci-fi shows. The parents wander off to do some task, and the children are left up to their own devices and get into some easily avoidable predicaments. I realize this makes for good drama, but sometimes it’s so infuriating to watch.

Caugh, Carl, Caugh – I watch sci-fi shows where many parents have no clue what their children are up to. Stranger Things – excellent show, but those parents need some Dr. Phil

My initial reaction is, why are these parents so naive? How do you not know sending 100 children to earth will evolve into some real-world version of Lord of the Flies. Leaving your kids alone with an alien robot should send up red flags, long before “Danger, Will Robinson” sounds.

It all seems like silly plot themes until I think of my own professional experience. I have learned that most parents see their children through Beverly Goldberg glasses.

For nearly 20 years, I have had clients parade their adult children into my office to discuss estate planning. If I had a dollar for every child who said they didn’t want any of their parents’ money and suggested the parents spend it themselves, I would be a wealthy man.

Almost every parent thinks they can travel off to whatever is next in life, and the children will get along just fine.

The reality is children fight. In-laws fight.

When money is involved, people come out of the woodwork and fight. I could write a book just on the crazy things I have seen siblings do to each other, only to be vindictive and controlling when settling and administering estates.

I hope that one day I can tell you this isn’t true more often than it’s not. What I see is that it’s the families that swear the estate will settle without a hitch are the ones who have nightmare issues. The reason is simple: complacency and overconfidence is the destroyer of financial success. Families that realize money can create problems look for a way to plan to protect the family dynamics.

4. Don’t Trust the Government

The first season of the show sets up the robot to be initially seen as the evil aggressor before his reboot. Having watched Sci-Fi for a lifetime, I had a sneaking suspicion that, somehow, the government was behind his attacking the Resolute.

It was not shocking to learn that I was right, and now I look forward to the next season that will show how that story unfolds.

Now, I am not saying that the government is keeping alien robots in captivity. I do not deny it either!

The life lesson to be learned is that we shouldn’t blindly trust the government. Before you think I am a traitor to my country or wearing a tinfoil hat, let me explain.

When I first became a planner in 1999 and went to school, the prevailing theme was to max out your Roth IRA and convert your Traditional IRA to a Roth, because taxes were at record lows and they would only go up. Since then, tax rates have fallen again and again.

When Social Security was passed, FDR promised the benefits would not be taxable to the beneficiary.

Today, Social Security benefits are taxable if your income exceeds a certain amount. The social retirement age has been changed multiple times, and not just for new people, but for those counting on it being at the original age.

When the Greenspan commission altered Social Security benefits in the ’80s, we were promised decades of surpluses.

The government, despite their best intentions, are not very good at keeping promises. I would not recommend that any family build a financial plan where its success is dependent on the government doing or not doing something.

Build your plan independent of the government using a great mix of taxable and non-taxable accounts. Take full advantage of any programs and incentives that you are entitled to. Please do not go to heroic measures to optimize some benefit or cost in the distant future, as it may not exist at that time.

For more for geeky financial lessons, check out: The Financial Wisdom Of Grand Admiral Thrawn.

Do you watch Lost in Space? Is there anything that you have learned and can share? What do you think about these lessons? 

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