Walter White’s Smart Money Moves

By Sean Bryant
September 2, 2017

If you’re a TV fan, you’ve probably watched AMC Networks’ Breaking Bad.

The popular series follows the exploits of Walter White as he turns to a life of crime by manufacturing meth in order to pay off his hospital bills. One of the reasons I, like many viewers, was drawn to the show was because of its highs and lows. While I have no idea what the life of a meth manufacturer is actually like, Breaking Bad seemed to be a realistic snapshot of this lifestyle.

On closer analysis of the show, there are a lot of financial insights that we can take away. I’m not saying that you should turn to a life of crime to make your millions, but I am suggesting that you can apply these anecdotes to your personal or professional financial life.

If you dig a little deeper with me, perhaps you’ll also discover some smart money moves unveiled through the life and times of Walter White.

Create a Scalable System to Maximize Earnings

One of the aspects of the show that made it seem believable was the fact that Walt didn’t just jump in and become an overnight drug lord. In fact, for most of the series, he bumbled along trying to do things the easy and quick way instead of creating a system to maximize his earning potential.

For example, after cooking up a batch of meth, Jesse would spend the night slinging the dope for a few hundred dollars each night. In the end, Walt realizes that he will have to make a big change if they’re going to earn the $737,000 needed to complete his cancer treatments.

The takeaway here: If you’re doing grunt work to earn money, and everything you earn requires intensive attention, this might not be the best way to maximize your earning potential. Instead, try creating a system that works for you. Later in the series, for example, Walt works in Gustavo Fring’s lab and begins sending product overseas. This, in turn, allows him to augment his income without a lot of tedious and time-consuming work. With a system in place and clearly defined roles, every step of the process moves seamlessly and even assistants know exactly what to do. To learn a bit more about creating business systems for your own side hustle, try reading Michael Gerber’s book The E Myth Revisited.

Have a Savings Plan

Throughout the series, Walt hides his money in various locations. It makes sense – hard-earned drug money can’t exactly be deposited into banks. Even though hiding cash this way is a bit careless, it’s actually a good lesson for those who want to grow their wealth.

As Walt’s empire grows, so does his money. He systematically stockpiles it. And, Skylar even starts storing it in a storage unit – built into the garage wall – because there’s simply too much cash. Walt only uses what he needs to keep growing the business. The rest is left in his storage unit.

Using this fictional story, you can take a more practical approach to your savings. Because you likely bank electronically, you don’t need to dig holes in the desert to stash your cash. Instead, you can borrow tips from David Bach’s book The Automatic Millionaire and begin to save automatically. This will allow you to focus on earning more money.

Pass Money Onto Your Heirs

Walt earned far more than the $737,000 he needed to take care of both his own and his family’s needs. But he ran into a big problem. He didn’t know how to transfer the money to his son. Even if he figured out how to move the money, his son didn’t want it and the police would likely confiscate it anyway.

Fortunately for Walt, his rich friends had already established a foundation for drug abuse victims. This provided the perfect outlet. He could launder his money, create a trust, and pass millions onto his son after he was gone.

What can you learn from this – the legal way? Even when you have earned your money, it’s important to find a way to pass it onto your heirs. Seeking advice from a fee-based financial advisor, estate attorney or accountant will guide you toward the best financial options for you. Expert advice will also help you properly set up a will or a trust.

The Takeaway

Walter earned more than $80 million during his two year career as a drug kingpin. But he didn’t always make the best financial decisions with that money (it’s hard when people are trying to kill you, arrest you, and steal your goods). Nonetheless, as we’ve shown you in this story, you can still take away some important money lessons from Walt. Just keep this in mind: whatever you do, don’t bury your money in the desert. It could get stolen and you won’t earn any interest.

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