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Family finance lessons: Comedian Hari Kondabolu

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The most important lessons we learn about money don’t come from our accountants or our radios. They come from our family. 

On Money, we invite someone to tell us about the money tips they inherited from the people they grew up with. This week our guest is the comedian and writer Hari Kondabolu. You might have seen him recently on The Late Show with David Letterman or as a correspondant on Totally Biased with W. Kamau Bell.

Kondabolu’s parents both worked at hospitals, and taught him saving and fiscal responsiblity were important at an early age. Kondabolu took his parents advice, but he feels like one of his most important financial lessons was gleaned elsewhere: the board game Monopoly.

“You have this bank and you have to buy property with it, and there were repurcussions if you didn’t pay for something on time,” says Kondabolu. “You know people landed in your hotels and even if they didn’t have money they had to figure it out or they were out of the game.”

Kondabolu’s family used house rules that made the game even tougher.

“We played with debt so you’d be in negative numbers and owe people forever,” says Kondabolu. “It was so dark, and awful and strangely accurate!”

That fear of losing everything only reinforced Kondabolu’s parents’ advice: Save, save, save. And that lesson became particularly important when Kondabolu, an up-and-coming comedian with an unstable income, turned 25 and left his family’s health insurance plan.

“They don’t have that in Monopoly, ‘Oh I got sick and I’m uninsured so I need to sell my one house, not a hotel, my one house!” says Kondabolu.

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