Prudential Investment Managers

Prudential Investment Managers

August 2017

5 things ‘Game of Thrones’ can teach us about investing


While thronies all around South Africa take in the conclusion of the penultimate season of this hit show, Prudential Investment Managers examines what it can teach us about looking after our money.

1. “Winter is coming”

This chilly tagline has been around since the first episode of the first season, and while it certainly has a lot to do with the weather, there’s also a deeper meaning in there somewhere. ‘It’s never too soon to start planning for the future,’ is what Ned Stark really means when he first utters the line…Especially when said future likely entails the zombie apocalypse.

This advice holds especially true when applied to investment; more so when you consider that only 6% of South Africans are suitably prepared for retirement (and we’re all living longer than ever before). The best way to ensure that your golden years are suitably gilt-edged is to start saving early. Click on the links to read our guides to saving in your 30’s, 40’s and 50’s.

2. “A Lannister always pays his debts”

The Lannister family motto may have sinister, mafioso undertones, but this doesn’t mean you shouldn’t pay attention to its real-world significance. Far from it, in fact – a recent World Bank report described South Africans as ‘the biggest borrowers in the world’. Just because you’re able to afford that swanky new car today, doesn’t mean you’ll still be able to repay the loans when you start a family and you’re suddenly down to one salary. Choose your debts wisely, be aware of your limitations, and make sure you contribute to an emergency fund.

While some debts, like home loans, could be described as good debt, high-interest credit card loans are unequivocally bad. Follow the Lannister motto, always be able to repay the Iron Bank, and your financial future will surely be bright.

3. “It is a big and beautiful world”

As the series has progressed, new threats, territories and possibilities have revealed themselves, reminding us all that nothing and no one exists in a vacuum. The world we live in is sprawling and complex, but – thanks to modern technology – we’re able to keep abreast of the distant forces that affect our financial wellbeing.

While none of us can possibly control what Trump, North Korea or the gold price will do next, it’s easier than ever before to reduce our risks by diversifying our assets and knowing what the alternatives are. In addition to investing across different asset classes, it’s also a very good idea to include a variety of offshore investments in your portfolio. Remember, South Africa comprises less than 0.5% of the global economy…

4. “I did warn you not to trust me”

Themes of trust and betrayal are taken to the extreme in ‘Game of Thrones’, but we can still learn a lot from the profligate backstabbing that plagues Westeros and Winterfell. As characters plot to hoodwink others they discover that they too have been betrayed and are forced to run for their lives. And no one, no matter how influential, is spared…

While it’s unlikely that you’ll be eaten alive by rats or have molten gold poured over your head, the same concepts apply in real life. Be careful who you go into business with and remember that borrowing money from close friends and family is seldom a good idea – especially if you may not be able to repay the loan. Don’t let money drive a wedge between you and your nearest and dearest.

We all face trust issues when it comes to financial matters, which is why it’s so important to find a financial adviser you can trust. The same goes for insurance brokers, estate agents and stock brokers. And remember, if anything does go wrong, the Consumer Protection Act is there to look after you…Which means you probably won’t have to endure being eaten by your own hounds or stabbed in the eye.

5. “Valar Morghulis”

If there’s one thing that Game of Thrones has made patently obvious, it’s the unassailable fact that “everyone must die.” Over the last seven seasons – as Joffrey Baratheon, Ned Stark, Rob Stark and many members of the Lannister family have come to sticky ends – the show has given us loads of practical insights into the do’s and don’ts of estate planning… 

  • A will is not an estate plan. If Ned Stark had established a trust for his children before he died, his daughters Sansa and Arya could have been financially secure.
  • Name successor trustees in case something happens to the original one. When Ned Stark’s widow Catelyn died at the red wedding there was no one to look after the remaining Stark children or their assets.
  • Make regular asset inventories. Daenerys Targaryen may always seem cash-poor, but her vast army of ‘unsullieds’ and Dothraki, and her two remaining dragons, make her very rich indeed.
  • Nominate your children’s guardian in writing. Lady Catelyn Stark asked Brienne of Tarth to look after her daughters, but she didn’t put anything in writing. We all know the complications this caused.

So while you may not be as keen on financial planning as ‘Game of Thrones’, some of the lessons of the hit show should make you re-think your priorities. While we wait for the next (and final) season to air, be sure to speak to a financial adviser about your investments, and see which Prudential unit trusts might be suitable for you. 


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