Money Lessons I learned from Scrooge McDuck

“No man is poor who can do what he likes to do once in a while.” -“Uncle” Scrooge McDuck

I am a huge Disney fan and one of my favorite characters is Scrooge McDuck. He was a Scottish Pekin duck that lived in a huge mansion in a city named Duckburg and had a money bin the size of a skyscraper. For those of you not familiar with this cartoon character I will give some background information.

Scrooge McDuck was created in the 1940’s by Carl Barks for the Walt Disney Company. He was modeled after Ebenezer Scrooge, the main character in Charles Dickens’ 1843 classic, “A Christmas Carole.” Like Ebenezer, McDuck is a tightwad and whose miserly behavior made him a fortune through frugality and hard work. In addition, he has strong similarities to the wealthy American industrialist Andrew Carnegie, who was also a Scottish immigrant, that made his fortune through work and ingenuity. Scrooge also shows similar traits of John D. Rockefeller.

Rockefeller was at one point the world’s richest man and first ever American billionaire. Considering he was a billionaire in the early 1900’s he is still considered as the richest person in modern history. When a reporter asked him, “How much money is enough?” He responded, “Just a little bit more.”

Scrooge’s penny-pinching ways are a constant theme throughout his life, but his belief in thrift, square business dealings through honesty and ingenuity are the reasons for his success. He is often criticized for being tight-fisted and cheap, but admired for his values and work ethic. Even though he is immensely wealthy, he does not shy away from an opportunity, no matter how arduous, to earn more. He often laments that the young want to start in at the top instead of working up from the bottom like he did. The lessons Scrooge teaches his nephews Huey, Dewey, and Louie in the series are always to be smart, have morals, values, good work ethic and to play totally aboveboard meaning fair and square. A short biography is provided below.

Bio

Name: Scrooge McDuck

Birth year: 1867

Nationality: Scottish

Gender: Male

Nickname: Uncle Scrooge

Occupation: Entrepreneur and Business Magnate “Adventure Capitalist”

Education: Informal (school of hard knocks)

Known for: Swimming in his money bin

Amount of wealth: unknown but estimated in the billions

Hobbies: Treasure hunter and adventurer

Relatives: Donald Duck (nephew) Huey, Dewey, and Louie (grandnephews)

Life Lessons from Uncle Scrooge 

Humble beginnings. Scrooge truly started from the bottom. He was not born into wealth and started without a dime. He was born to poor farmers and started working as a young boy to earn money. A true Dickensian existence he lived, as he and his family were poor.  Regardless, no matter how poor you are, you still have worth. Therefore, know your worth and do not accept anything less. Remember this: “I believe that virtue shows quite as well in rags and patches as she does in purple and fine linen. – Charles Dickens. His first job was as a shoeshine boy in Scotland.  This is where he earned his first dime, which he never spent, but would save as a reminder of the importance of hard work. This is the start of his thriftiness and the secret of his wealth.

Scrooge also worked as a cabin boy on a ship to America. He left Glasgow, Scotland as he decided he would be able to make his fortune in America and was inspired to do so after earning his first dime, which was an American coin. He learned from a young age that life is full of tough jobs, but he wasn’t afraid to get his hands dirty. He prospected for gold in the Klondike and that is how he made his first million. His past is not so rosy as not all of his business dealings are done legally, but he learns from these experiences and changes his ways to only doing business fairly.

Education. School of hard knocks. McDuck had no formal education because he went to work at an early age, but became a self-taught and lifelong learner by reading.  His extensive travels and business dealings to seek out opportunities allowed him to learn numerous languages where he is able to cut out the middleman as he states he has outsmarted the smarties. There is no one job or niche that secured his wealth. He would go on to diversify his mining money into as many opportunities and investments that he could use to grow his money.

He teaches his nephews the principles of economics, including the history of money, and inflation. Scrooge always does his due diligence and researches any investment before investing because knowledge, discipline, and understanding are the foundation to building a profitable wealth portfolio. Note this witty adage: Wall Street is the only place that people ride to in a Rolls Royce to get advice from those who take the subway. – Warren Buffett

Invest in yourself. Scrooge knew that investing in a good education pays the best dividends. He became an avid reader and linguist. This allowed him to do business with people all over the world. Thus, increasing his fortune as there is plenty of money to be made internationally. Scrooge would often say that “knowledge is power.” Due to his research in looking for investment opportunities he built a huge personal library.  The secret of wealth is not complicated, but it does require you learn how money works by becoming financially literate. Therefore, your home should look like a Barnes & Noble if you want to build and keep a fortune.

Work ethic. Scrooge believes in hard work and not being a spendthrift are the first steps toward success, he understands that real success comes in working smarter and not harder. Generating multiple streams of passive income, such as ownership of a business or other enterprises are the keys to building lasting wealth. Staying away from get rich quick schemes and knowing that time is your ally not your enemy.

Investments. Scrooge McDuck was shrewd and close-fisted when it came to spending money, but was big on saving. He preferred to have his money work as hard for him as he worked for it through investing in a diversified portfolio of holdings such as art, gold, diamonds, farms, newspapers, rubber, real estate, and other assets. Buy assets that go up in value. Cars and clothes do not. However, rare coins, stamps, books, and art do. He believes in “trickle back economics” in where he gets a piece of the profit from every investment he makes such as from customers buying products from a company he invests in or owns.  He limits and cut costs to the bone and only spent when ready or necessary and always would seek to gain a profit.

Inflation. Scrooge teaches his nephews about inflation in the animated short entitled Scrooge McDuck and Money (1967). Basically, as the price of good and services rise the value of currency falls. Meaning that the money in the bank today will be worth less tomorrow. He wanted to teach his nephews that without something solid and secure behind the money, then you get inflation where money becomes worth less and less. A dollar would not be worth the paper it’s printed on. He says “it’s what you can buy with what you have got that counts.”

From worker to owner. Scrooge was bright and not afraid of hard work. He listened to the sound advice of his father and decided he would work smarter not harder. It took him mere months to save enough money to go to overseas to America instead of years through his ingenuity. Businessman was his goal through ownership of numerous commodities. Put money to work for you. Money does not sleep.  He even owed the very banks that housed his money! The money is in ownership. He had a simple business motto: Keep it simple so he could run the business himself.

Find your passion. Scrooge always did what he enjoyed which was earning a living and gaining vast sums of money through investing and treasure seeking. Passion means you go the extra mile and continue working even after the clock strikes five. You don’t need vacations or breaks when you’re having fun and doing what you love. When it starts being more work than fun, it’s time do something else.

Treasure hunter. Scrooge likes a challenge. When he learned about the value of artifacts he started to seek out treasures from all over the globe. He works well under pressure and in tight situations that arise from these excursions as he knows pressure makes diamonds; not only in jewelry, but in character.

The infamous Money Bin. Scrooge used to keep his money under his mattress, but when it got too high he decided to build a money bin to keep it more safe and secure, which is why we use banks. It was a three-cubic-acre building and the vault housed the very first coin he ever made called his Number One Dime. He placed it placed on a velvet pillow in glass enclosed case. The Dime’s origins are described in the story called Getting That Heathy, Wealthy Feeling (1964). The bin housed only some of his money that he earned by himself from his personal dealings as he is once heard telling his nephews that the money stored here is “petty cash.” He would often swim in it. It was constantly under attack from his enemies, but he always thwarted them in the end.

Emergency Fund. Scrooge knew that, if something can go wrong it will. He believed in keeping savings and liquid assets just in case. At one point, he hid assets as startup capital should he ever need to start over.

Morality. Scrooge is aggressive when it comes to life and his pursuits, but exhibits strong amounts of self-control. He also has a temper just like his maternal nephew Donald Duck. He does not however use lethal force as he does not want to deal with feelings of guilt, anger, or despair. When helping others, he does not wait or request a thank you. He simply does what he is going to do. He does not believe in burning bridges, but understands that an enemy can be made and is not to be underestimated. He has said that only in fairy tales do bad people turn good, and that he is too old for them and old enough to not believe in fairy tales. “You have enemies? Good. That means you’ve stood up for something, sometime in your life.” – Winston Churchill

He does not believe in cheating and dishonesty as those traits are not prosperous. He also believes in keeping his promises once his word is given. He has once said “Scrooge McDuck’s word is as good as gold.” He practiced what he preached: thrift and integrity. He constantly preached budgeting and being square. If you live your life like you are being followed around all day by a reporter, and everything is on the record, then you may do things differently. Scrooge also believes in the golden rule: treat others as you would want to be treated.

Attitude. Scrooge is very optimistic. There is always another rainbow. Plenty to go around. More than enough for all. The glass is always half-full. Opportunities are always just around the corner.

Resilience. Scrooge is never one to walk away from a challenge or money making opportunity. Regardless of how difficult the terrain or objective may be, Scrooge McDuck can grind it out with the best of them.  He has also shown great physical fitness through beating bigger characters, swimming, running and the like. Meaning he still continues to exercise and maintain a stamina that allows him to be mobile and agile well into older age. He has learned to quickly adapt to his surroundings and thrive in any environment and come out on top. He credits his success, which is due to his determination, grit, and will power, on the fact that he is “tougher than the toughies and smarter than the smarties.” Do not give up so easily. When times get tough, get tougher. Work harder, but also smarter.

Persistence. Scrooge is generous and kind in his older years to his nephews, but in his younger days the slaps of life hardened his character. Failure is not an option. He has learned to endure the difficulties of life with a tough exterior and personality to match. Do not be too soft or you will be taken advantage of by others. A great quote by Churchill: “If you’re going through hell, keep going.”

Charity. When Scrooge left for America his mother asked him to write to them and he promised his mother that he would send money home. There are times when he has donated to the poor or given money to the Salvation Army as well as gifting those who have helped him and have less than him. One of the best lessons in life is that you can help others including family. In life, you can’t get something for nothing. You have to give to get.

Family. Although Scrooge has no family of his own, he does have his nephew Donald and his great-nephews Huey, Dewey, and Louie. These are his greatest and most prized possessions: his kin. In one episode of the animated television show Ducktales (1987), episode twenty-two entitled Down and Out in Duckburg which aired on October 13, 1987, the family ends up in the poorhouse. They decide to stick together in the tough times even as people mock and mistreat them. They all even end up washing dishes together to eke out a living.  In the end, they stick together as a family, tough it out and regain his fortune. The lesson here is to not ever take for granted or underestimate the importance of family.

Value of money. Scrooge always knew the value of a dollar. He would teach his nephews this through his actions and his words. He was a skinflint who only parted with money when absolutely necessary.

In another episode of the show, the boys asked for a raise in their allowance. Their Uncle Scrooge denies their request as he told them if he raised their allowance they would “grow up to have no respect for money, learn to live a wasteful life and end up out in the street begging for a few measly coins.” If the government just creates money, it loses its value. If everybody had lots of money, prices would go up, and then everyone has to have more money which leads to chaos.

This episode entitled “Dough Ray Me” aired on November 3, 1989 and was the 82nd episode of the series. The boys are able to duplicate money and the self-duplicating coins spread through Duckburg. The town is drowned “funny money” and buried in a “cash avalanche” causing sky high inflation.  The episode provides a very funny narrative through its series of events that show how inflation works.

The most notable theme is that money’s only value lies in how hard it is to obtain; “easy or funny money” loses value and leads to inflation. In this story, the boys learn a life lesson in everything that glitters is not gold. There is a price to be paid for everything and the bill always comes due. For example, future inflation grows to gargantuan proportions and money becomes worthless in this episode.

  • During the “cash avalanche” a newspaper is selling for “only” $200.
  • A lollipop costs a little girl $5,000; she hauls up a wagon full of money, saying in that case, she’ll take two.
  • A bus fare costs one poor guy an astounding $10,000 in exact change, which he heaves aboard in a huge sack.
  • At the dentist’s office, one man is told fillings for his two cavities will cost $40,000 per filling for a total of $80,000. He remarks by saying “Well, at least some prices haven’t gone up…”
  • Even the nephews complain at one point that it will cost them $30 just to use a gumball machine.
  • Money is so abundant that the Beagle Boys (series villains) try to rob a bank that has now become a money landfill to the cheers and applause of the bank employees.
  • In a twist of fate, the “funny money” implodes and everything goes back to normal proving that you really cannot make or get something for nothing and the coins are essentially worthless.

Many revelations are shown throughout the episode. For instance, even the show’s villains think the townspeople are acting unusual and overly generous. The triplets realize spending all their money on the first day of summer was unwise. They start to gain a respect for money in understanding that you need to know more than the price of everything or you will know the value of nothing. Like the Marshmallow experiment or test, that it is often called, of 40 years ago done at Stanford, the boys learn patience is a virtue and delayed gratification and self-control are important characteristics to have in life if one is to be successful.

Profit even in bad times. Profit also can come from unexpected events and misfortune. In one of the comics, a classic tale published in 1951 called “A Financial Fable,” where all of Scrooge’s money is lost in a cyclone blasting all the money to citizens in town is a great example. One day his money bin just explodes and all of his wealth ended up in the hands of the townspeople of Duckburg. He lost all his possessions and wealth, but looked for a way to make it all back. Instead of getting angry or wallowing in despair, Scrooge kept his head down and worked by growing crops on a farm he owned outside the town.

The newly minted rich townspeople stopped working to enjoy their new money and the trappings that go along with wealth. They did not believe in saving for the future, spending wisely, investing or delayed gratification. They spent with reckless and wild abandon. Scrooge’s crops just so happened to reach harvest exactly when the town was running out of food and, since the other farmers had quit growing crops, Scrooge had an effective monopoly on a vital good of commodities. He sold eggs for the price of one million dollars! Of course, Scrooge quickly recouped his fortune from selling his crops to the town at the sky-high prices (millions of dollars) that he was able to set due to the lack of competition. He was able to name his price for his goods and he made them high. This is how fortunes are made.

A monopoly. Like the game with the guy in the top hat, monopoly is all about collecting the most properties, cash, utilities and other holdings to win. A monopoly is a business or industry that is dominated by one corporation, firm or entity. Basically, you cannot buy products or services from virtually anywhere else other than this one place. Monopolies are the extreme result of capitalism. Without any restraints, and absent any regulations, the enterprise becomes so big that it owns all or nearly all of the market (assets, commodities, and supplies).

Anti-Trust laws. Laws were put in place to stop this practice of being a monopoly to ensure the marketplace stays open and competitive. This started in 1890 with the Sherman Anti-Trust Act that was used to break up John D. Rockefeller’s Standard Oil company. Monopolies are illegal because businesses can become discriminate and hurt the public because customers will be at the businesses mercy. Although Scrooge is the richest duck in the world, he believes in healthy competition and obeying the law.

Budgets and Bargain hunting. Scrooge finds deals galore, sticks to a strict budget, and likes anything for free or at a discount. He even teaches economics and inflation to his nephews in how you must manage the household finances through budgeting which is financial discipline. He says proper budgeting should leave a profit. Then you invest the profit. Money should not be idle and should be put to work. He allows the boys to invest in his company and become shareholders to grow their own money into wealth. After consulting his nephews, he requests a small fee and tells them that good things are never free. Remember this: When your good at something never do it for free. –  The Joker, DC Comics

In life you make mistakes, but the key is to learn from them. The key to building wealth is to stay out of debt and pay cash for large purchases like cars and appliance. Credit is no replacement for cash. Cash is king.

Bottom Line. Fictional characters can teach valuable lessons in life, such as morale character and finances. The only place that success comes before work is in the dictionary. Working, saving, and investing is the true path to wealth and success.

 

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *