One of the most beloved Christmas stories of all time is “A Christmas Carol” by Charles Dickens. By this time, I am sure everyone has read the story or has seen the movie. With so many different interpretations and summaries online, I won’t reiterate the story to you. Over the course of the story, there are many life lessons that are referenced by Scrooge and the Christmas ghosts. However, these lessons tend to be more geared toward emotional aspects and how to live a more fulfilled life. But what about the lessons we can learn from Ebenezer Scrooge’s financial side?
Let’s call him Scrooge of Financial past. Everyone who knows the tale meets Scrooge as an uptight, business owner. He shrouds his hard earned money away, never to be seen again. The office is so cold that employees need to wear coats inside so they don’t freeze. His standoffish demeanor deters anyone from approaching or conversing with him. Simply enough, from the outside, Scrooge looks like a miserable old man.
Scrooge of Financial Past
Looks can be deceiving. Ebenezer Scrooge of financial past is a personal finance wizard! There are tons of lessons to be learned from his ways. At his core, Scrooge was a successful business owner who had enough money squirreled away to retire and be financially free whenever he wanted. He kept working because he wanted to. Without a huge family to spend time with, he was probably bored and wanted something to occupy his time with. So what helped Scrooge accumulate so much wealth?
Income Generation – To start, Scrooge owned his own successful business. Much is to be said about the quote from Farrah Gray, “Build your own dreams, or someone else will hire you to build theirs.” No one will argue that the business owner makes more money than its employees. Though not the only factor, being able to generate greater amounts of income can only increase your net worth, decrease the time it takes to build up, and achieve financial freedom faster.
Savings– I know what you are probably thinking, “You don’t need to make a lot of money to financially free. It comes down to savings percent.” I agree savings percent is huge in the personal finance game. Just as well by looking at Scrooge’s life, we can see how a high savings rate helped make it all possible. He rarely spent a dime he didn’t have to. Although at the end of the day, a 25% savings rate on $200k is equal to a savings rate of 100% of a person who only makes $50k salary. That doesn’t take into account taxes. The key is to pair these two together. High savings rate + higher income = faster financial freedom.
Frugality– In order to save such a substantial sum of money, Scrooge of financials past needed to be frugal. Part of frugality is cutting out expenses that were unnecessary or that could be lived without. Though the freezing workplace may have been a bit extreme, the idea is still valid. Even in today’s time, turning down the thermostat just a few degrees can save a ton of money.
According to Energy.org, “You can save as much as 10% a year on heating and cooling by simply turning your thermostat back 7°-10°F for 8 hours a day from its normal setting.” That is as easy as getting a smart thermostat and programing it to turn itself back while you are at work. Set it to change after you are gone for the day and then readjust for your comfort before you return. Without noticing a difference, utility expenses decrease. Cutting out or minimizing expenses and being frugal can help to improve an individual’s savings rate.
Scrooge of Financial Present
Ebenezer Scrooge has really stepped up his personal finance game. By increasing the amount of money made each year, tied with frugality and a high savings rate, an impressive net worth was established. And with it, financial freedom! But the story isn’t over. If it was, the ghosts wouldn’t have visited, no emotional life lessons would be taught, and it wouldn’t be the best selling Christmas story we have all come to know and love.
Scrooge of Financial Future
I quite like the sound of financial future, and Scrooge has set himself up in the best way possible for his financial future. Or has he? Net worth and money wise, absolutely; personally and emotionally, not quite. This is where the original story gets tied in. Toward the end of his days, Scrooge was still that grumpy old man no one cared for, which he reciprocated to everyone else. There is truth in the saying, “All the money in the world can’t buy happiness.” While it does make life easier to live without having any financial fears, the emotional feelings are still lackluster. What is the point of reaching financial freedom if you don’t have anyone to spend it with and nothing to spend your free time on?
Friends and Family – Scrooge spent all of his time in the pursuit of financial freedom and the future, he forgot all about the present. Personal goals were not set alongside financial goals and then soon forgotten entirely. Everything that was not money related seemed to be tossed aside. Distanced from family and friends without attempting to network and make new ones. Minimal or no social interaction with fellow peers. People are what make life worth living. Building quality relationships help the work/life balance and prevent being burnt out on the journey. Networking with like-minded individuals can also aide in any goal you wish to accomplish. If possible, we need to try to keep the quality relationships in-tact, and grow them just as we would our finances. Personal goals should also be set alongside financial ones to make a more well-rounded and prosperous life.
Charity/ Give Back to the Community – At the end of the tale after seeing all ghosts, Scrooge realizes his ways and decides to change them. He starts building mentioned relationships with the people around him. Also, actually spends some of his money for the greater good. Having clearly enough of it for himself, he starts giving some to those less fortunate. This lesson should be in all of our heads. Most of us don’t come from money, we build our wealth. We network with people who can help us along our journeys and side hustle or grind it out till we make it. No matter where we come from or how we got there, we should be striving to give back. Either back to the personal finance community, our geographic community, or just helping someone less fortunate. Helping doesn’t have to be monetary either.
Who knew Scrooge was such a personal finance authority? Knowledge is key and he has an abundance. In order to achieve financial freedom we should take a few pages out of Scrooge’s playbook. We should strive to make more money and increase income, be frugal and cut or eliminate expenses, and save as much as possible. Just don’t forget to maintain your relationships with friends and family during the pursuit and attempt to give back once your financial position allows it.