11 personal finance basics brought to you by 'The Golden Girls'

The Golden Girls: They provided big laughs -- and personal finance lessons. 

The quartet of charismatic retirees known as "The Golden Girls" taught us a lot about the power of friendship. But the popular sitcom that originally ran from 1985-1992 --  and still lives on in syndication -- also had plenty of personal finance lessons mixed in with the laughs. The obvious one, of course, is to save money by sharing a lovely Miami waterfront home with your three best gal pals. But here are 10 additional take-home tips from Blanche, Dorothy, Rose and Sophia that will help you fatten your wallet.

1. Keep earning money, even during retirement.
Sure, their retirement may have appeared cliché to the untrained eye -- house in Miami, lunches with the ladies -- but the Golden Girls had their way of bringing in income well into their 60s. Dorothy worked as both a professor and high school teacher during the series. And Rose was employed at a grief counseling center and later at a pet store, a job in which she experienced age discrimination for the first time. Watch the girls help Rose look for work after being laid off at the grief counseling center in the clip below.

 

2. Get your financial affairs in order before it's too late. And your spouse dies. And your kid blames you for being broke.
Poor Rose. She and her husband Charlie (fun fact: he's the only spouse of the "Golden Girls" audiences never see) were so in love, raising their darling family the St. Olaf, Minn., way. Unfortunately, Charlie, who met Rose when he sold her an insurance policy on her red wagon, wasn't so good with money. Although their five kids and neighbors thought Charlie was a good earner, the ugly truth is that when he died, he left Rose a financially-strapped widow. When Rose's daughter comes knocking for a cut of her father's fortune, Rose has to break it to her that there's nothing left and therefore nothing to give. Hiring a financial planner early on in their marriage and preparing a will and other documents could have helped Rose avoid this awkward conversation with her adult daughter years later.

 

3. Be generous with your money, if you can afford it.
The Golden Girls spent the series taking care of each other in countless ways. But sometimes their hearts of gold touched others in their lives. Like the time Blanche, arguably the most spoiled Golden Girl, received a big bonus check at work and instead of having breast augmentation, she gives the money to one of Sophia's friends to help fund the woman's stay at a nice nursing home facility. No doubt that Blanche is as sweet as a Georgia peach! Watch Blanche come to her big decision below.

 

4. Watch out for scam artists, especially the cute ones.
It's well known that con artists prey on the elderly. But sometimes, scammers are otherelderly folks.   The Golden Girls always knew to keep an eye out. Like the time a friend of Rose's deceased husband showed up and asked Rose out on a date. Sweet Rose was smitten, but it turns out the jerk was just after her money. You can bet she shut that down quickly!

 

5. There is no such thing as a free lunch. But there are about a million get-rich-quick schemes.
Absent-minded Sophia wasn't as daft as she liked to pretend. She was always looking for an easy buck and had more tricks up her sleeve than Houdini. Her scams and schemes never really caught wind -- from managing a Cuban prizefighter to pretending to be injured by a fly ball at a baseball game -- but Sophia was determined to die a millionaire. Remember the time she tried to rent out the house to weekend travelers or pretended  to channel Charlie in order to make a few extra bucks? Luckily, the other Golden Girls were always there to bail her out when she got herself in too deep. Watch Sophia try to make a quick buck by renting out rooms in the house in the clip below.

 

6. Keep yourself marketable during unemployment by any means necessary.
When the grief center Rose worked for closed down, the Golden Girl found herself suddenly out of a job. Lucky for her clients, she was willing to keep helping them during their troubled times and even coughed up her phone number for them to give her a call if they needed her. And boy, did they need her! In the days before cell phones, Rose's sad bunch rang her home number at all hours of the night and day, much to the chagrin of the other Golden Girls. Sorry ladies, but no resume gaps for Rose!

 

7. Grow your money by combining dollars on investments -- but don't let a certain Golden Girl hold the money
Sophia was wise in so many ways. The women often went to her for advice. She had no trouble cracking jokes about Dorothy's love life, commenting about Blanche's promiscuous ways, or criticizing Rose's intelligence. But when it came to investing money, well, she wasn't always so wise. There was the time when the women decided to invest in a Certificate of Deposit, and Sophia took the $3,000 and instead invested in a boxer (who's actually a pianist)! Not the wisest investment. And picture this: Sophia married, but without a new place to live. Instead of investing in a home, Sophia and her husband, Max, invested their money in a beachfront concession stand. The pizza business was a hit, until it went up in flames (just like the marriage). We love wisecracking Sophia, but don't trust her to make any investments. Watch the pizza business burn down in the clip below. 

 

8. Barter! And use that ugly painting you regret buying.
The Golden Girls weren't afraid to pool their money and invest (see No. 7). When Sophia talked them into buying a painting by a terminally ill artist in order for them to sell it at a higher value once he's dead, they decide to go in together. So what happened? You guessed it. The artist recovers  (thanks mostly to a blood donation from Sophia) and the girls are stuck with an ugly piece of worthless art. On top of that, their home's roof is desperately in need of expensive repairs. So to get the damage taken care of, they barter the painting for a fix. Works like a charm.

 

9. Don't let your emotions get in the way of making smart money decisions.
Feelings can really mess up your financial decisions. Sometimes, the Golden Girls succumbed to their emotions and made bad money choices, but they almost always learned their lessons in the end. For instance, Dorothy turned down her untrustworthy ex-husband, Stanley, for a loan despite the fact she still had lingering feelings for him. And later in the series, when Stan stumbled into a lot of money and tried to woo Dorothy back, she refused to be swayed by his new-found wealth until he proved he was a better man.  And there you have yet another personal finance lesson: money can't buy love. Watch Stan scheming away in the clip below.

 

10. It's just stuff. Don't sweat it. Your loved ones are your most valuable investment.
This lesson was preached in many ways throughout the series. For example, in the episode where Blanche's father passes away (watch the clip in No. 5), one of her valuables -- a commemorative plate for being crowned Queen of the Citrus Festival Ball -- breaks while she's at the funeral. Eventually viewers find that Blanche doesn't care about the plate. These are her girls and no material possession is going to get her through her time of grief like the ladies. Thank you for being a friend.

 


Meet some real-life Golden Girls: Two semi-retired women in their 60s who share a home together in Asheville, N.C.

About the author

Lindsay Foster Thomas is the Associate Producer of Marketplace's Wealth & Poverty Desk.

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