24 Biggest Financial Lessons We Learned From Breaking Bad

by posted in FOREX TRADING, Investments, MAKE MONEY, TRENDING

Your instinct may be to turn to Dave Ramsey, Warren Buffett, or Jim Cramer for financial advice. What if I told you that Walter White belongs in your circle of financial advisors?

Faced with a medical scare, White pivoted from a modestly paid high school chemistry teacher to a generationally wealthy kingpin by repurposing his skillset. As White morphed into Heisenberg, he (and his associates) learned several financial lessons from which we can all derive value.

Whether you are a student, employee, employer, or entrepreneur, it might be time to break bad money habits and cook up some new strategies. Looking beyond the action and illicit activity, Breaking Bad has plenty to teach us about entrepreneurship, investing, and fiscal responsibility. Take a walk on the wild side of financial advising.

1. Leverage Your Existing Skills and Knowledge

Bryan Cranston in Breaking Bad
Image Credit: High Bridge Entertainment, Gran Via Productions, and Sony Pictures Television.

Do you have skills that you have yet to monetize? Perhaps you’re a master woodworker who could parlay your hobby into a high-profit business. Perhaps you are a high school chemistry teacher battling cancer who could…actually, never mind. 

If you have extensive knowledge or skills that aren’t currently making you money, consider parlaying those skills into a revenue-generating operation. Just keep it within the law.

2. Hire the Best To Take Your Business to the Next Level

Breaking Bad episode One Minute
Image Credit: High Bridge Entertainment, Gran Via Productions, and Sony Pictures Television.

Loathsome as they may be, cartels have perfected the art of efficient organizational structure. In the Breaking Bad universe, Don Eladio gives the orders and oversees big-picture operational strategy. Underbosses like Hector Salamanca oversee the fine details of distribution. Gus Fring runs a chicken joint, providing a legitimate facade to disguise the business. Muscle like the Salamanca Twins remove the thorns from the organization’s side.

Identifying employees who can elevate your business’ ceiling and delegating responsibilities based on those employees’ strengths can take your organization to the next level.

3. The Quality of Your Product or Service Can Unlock Financial Windfalls

Bryan Cranston and Aaron Paul in Breaking Bad (2008)
Image Credit: High Bridge Entertainment, Gran Via Productions, and Sony Pictures Television.

At the outset of Season 4, chemist Gale Boetticher discusses with Gus Fring the quality of a product he had sampled at Fring’s request. In this conversation, Gale explains the difference between offering a very good product and a great product—a lesson every professional would be wise to heed.

“Mr. Fring, I can guarantee you a purity of 96%,” Boetticher explains. “I’m proud of that figure. It’s a hard-earned figure. However, this other product is 99 (percent)…that last three percent—it may not sound like a lot—but it is. It’s tremendous. It’s a tremendous gulf.” Find a way to unlock that extra 3% in your life, and you may be leaps and bounds ahead of even your most competent competitors. 

4. Expand To Keep Up With Demand

Bryan Cranston and Aaron Paul in Breaking Bad
Image Credit: High Bridge Entertainment, Gran Via Productions, and Sony Pictures Television.

If you find yourself turning down clients or customers because you need more time or resources to shoulder their business, it may be time to expand. As Walt and Jesse realize that dealing out of an RV is insufficient to meet growing demand, Walter partners with Gus Fring to harness his cutting-edge cooking infrastructure and expand the operation.

If you have overflowing demand for your products or services, find a way to harness that demand through scaling up or forming strategic partnerships.

5. Conduct Constant Market Research To Gain an Edge

Bryan Cranston in Breaking Bad
Image Credit: High Bridge Entertainment, Gran Via Productions, and Sony Pictures Television.

During his rise to the top of the game, Walter White encounters many competitors who occupy his professional field. From the Salamanca family to Declan, White is constantly evaluating his competitors. Whether White talks hostile action to fell those competitors, negotiates a distribution deal to reduce tension, or lets the smaller fish continue peddling an inferior product, White is rarely caught off-guard or outmaneuvered by his competitors’ operations.

6. Don’t Make a Financial (Or Strategic) Mistake More Than Once

Bryan Cranston in Breaking Bad
Image Credit: High Bridge Entertainment, Gran Via Productions, and Sony Pictures Television.

Throughout Breaking Bad, Walter White trusts individuals with glaring red flags, whether the emotionally volatile Jesse Pinkman or strong-armed partners affiliated with the cartel. Had White learned from being burned, he may have scaled down his operations and retired happily in Belize. Alas, White repeated numerous mistakes and paid the price of foolhardiness. 

7. Use Varied Motivational Styles

Giancarlo Esposito, Jonathan Banks, Bryan Cranston, and Aaron Paul in Breaking Bad (2008) episode Box Cutter
Image Credit: High Bridge Entertainment, Gran Via Productions, and Sony Pictures Television.

In a discussion with Mike Ehrmantraut about a pending threat to Walter White’s life, Fring disagrees with such strong-armed business tactics, stating he doesn’t “believe fear to be an effective motivator.” This provides insight into the minds of successful employers and businesspeople, who know that employees and competitors respond differently to varied motivational styles.

8. Have a Healthy Risk Tolerance

Bryan Cranston in Breaking Bad breaking bad cliffhangers
Image Credit: High Bridge Entertainment, Gran Via Productions, and Sony Pictures Television.

While financial influencers like Grant Cardone frequently urge listeners to push all their financial chips to the center of the table, the story of Walter White proves that risk aversion can be healthy. Instead of being satisfied with his fast-earned fortune, Heisenberg becomes hooked by the easy money and develops an air of invincibility. Ultimately, failing to be satisfied with consistent, indiscriminate financial gain leads Walter White to his demise.

Rarely is a one-size-fits-all leadership style effective in the long term.

9. Make Sure Your Business Is Legal

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Image Credit: Shutterstock.

Whether it belongs to Heisenberg, Bernie Madoff, or Al Capone, an illicit operation can only last so long. If your means of making money falls outside the law, it’s not sustainable. Legal compliance should be a primary concern for any businessperson. 

10. Know the Risks of Rapid Expansion

Bill Burr and Lavell Crawford in Breaking Bad (2008)
Image Credit: High Bridge Entertainment, Gran Via Productions, and Sony Pictures Television.

If you were to summarize the reason for Walter White’s demise in one word, “greed” would work. While White had untapped demand, his partnerships with Gustavo Fring and other questionable business partners (in the name of expansion) proved personally and financially perilous. Had White taken the time to build his own lab and expand his business more deliberately, he may have found more sustainable means of growing his operation.

Individuals or organizations who expand too rapidly without assessing risk can fast-track their financial downfall.

11. Start Saving for the Future Now

Anna Gunn and Bryan Cranston in Breaking Bad
Image Credit: High Bridge Entertainment, Gran Via Productions, and Sony Pictures Television.

When evaluating Walter White’s highs and lows, you have to ask how he could have avoided the heartache and headaches that come with a life of crime. Had Walter White begun saving and investing wisely earlier in life, he may have had the financial resources to cover healthcare and provide for his family.

Too many people forego compound interest in favor of food delivery, high-interest car loans, and other mistakes that lead to long-term financial insecurity. Avoid the moral conundrum Walter White faced by investing today for the financial storms of tomorrow.

12. Don’t Keep Too Much Cash on Hand

cash flying out of wallet
Image Credit: Billion Photo/Shutterstock.

As the Whites collect cash they cannot wash, Skylar hoards the money in a storage unit and throughout her home. In today’s inflationary environment, most cannot afford to let substantial sums of cash deteriorate as it sits in the bank or your home’s air ducts. 

13. Flashy Sports Cars Are Rarely Good Investments

Breaking Bad TV Series (2008)
Image Credit: Sony Pictures Television.

Walter buys Walt Jr. a flashy Dodge Challenger while sporting a brand-new Chrysler 300 as the White family becomes unfathomably flush with capital. Conspicuous consumption is a no-no for anyone running an illegal racket, but it’s also a lesson in poor financial management for those with less money than the Whites.

Many American car owners are shelling out more than $1,000 per month for financed vehicles that depreciate as soon as you buy them. While the Whites likely paid in full for their gaudy vehicles, many Americans are drowning in vehicle-related interest payments they can’t afford.

14. Choose Your Business Partner Like You’d Choose a Spouse

Bryan Cranston, Charles Baker, Matt Jones, and Rodney Rush in Breaking Bad (2008)
Image Credit: High Bridge Entertainment, Gran Via Productions, and Sony Pictures Television.

Throughout Breaking Bad, Walter White typically stumbles into business relationships. In an industry occupied by the desperate, ruthless, and morally bankrupt, he had little choice but to work with untrustworthy cretins. 

In your law-abiding life, you can afford to be far more discerning about your business partners. Be as critical of prospective partners as you would a romantic partner, as your partners may hold your financial future in their hands—those hands should be Purell-clean.

15. Don’t Burn Professional Bridges

Bryan Cranston and Dean Norris in Breaking Bad
Image Credit: High Bridge Entertainment, Gran Via Productions, and Sony Pictures Television.

In Walter White’s line of work, hostile takeovers are often followed by hostile exit strategies. White was linked to more than 200 untimely demises, and it’s no coincidence that his habit of burning professional bridges contributed to his undoing.

You can enact accountability in your professional life without unnecessarily alienating others and sullying your reputation.

16. Insure Yourself and Your Business

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Image Credit: Shutterstock.

Had Walter White purchased the Gold-level healthcare plan, he may not have resorted to such combustible professional ambitions when he discovered a serious health condition. Going uninsured in life and business is rarely advisable. Pay premiums now to avoid personal and financial ruin when the unexpected inevitably occurs.

17. Don’t Keep Your Professional Life a Secret From Loved Ones

Anna Gunn as Skyler White trying to protect her baby, Holly.
Image Credit: Sony Pictures Television.

While not every business is suited to be a family business, the ramifications of your professional life can cause blowback for loved ones. Just ask Bernie Madoff, whose family members took their own lives after discovering his professional misdeeds. Walter White held secrets from his loved ones, creating deep-seated resentment and distrust.

Involving your family (even at a surface level) in your professional life can be a source of pride. Perhaps more importantly, your loved ones may be better able to overcome unexpected tragedy if they understand the nature of your professional life and income. 

18. You Don’t Have To Spend It Just Because You Have It

Someone handing over a lot of money.
Image Credit: Shutterstock.

Sports cars aside, Walter White maintained a relatively modest lifestyle despite earning a generational income. White subscribed to the Warren Buffett school of financial restraint. Despite his grisly fate, White’s commitment to anonymity (see his Pontiac Aztek as proof) is a lesson that those in any financial bracket should embrace.

19. Money Does Not Solve All Your Problems

Breaking Bad TV Series (2008)
Image Credit: Sony Pictures Television.

While having financial security can make life easier, the blind pursuit of wealth can also create substantial problems. If you compromise yourself morally or neglect other aspects of your life in the pursuit of fortune, you may create more hardship than you bargained for.

20. Separate Bank Accounts Can Drive a Wedge in Your Marriage

Anna Gunn in Breaking Bad
Image Credit: High Bridge Entertainment, Gran Via Productions, and Sony Pictures Television.

Getting married is the ultimate step to signal you’re in this thing called life with someone you trust. While maintaining separate bank accounts can make sense in certain instances, shared finances can foster greater transparency that keeps partners close. 

When Skylar discovered the deceit, Walter White’s initial decision to hide his finances from his wife led to a shattering revelation. Perhaps more than any other decision, Walter’s financial secrecy (and hidden fortune) sowed the seeds of his marital estrangement.

21. Pay Your Taxes

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Image Credit: Shutterstock.

There is growing sentiment that taxes are a rip-off and Americans see little benefit in paying Uncle Sam. Yet, paying taxes is a condition of remaining free, and the case of Breaking Bad’s Ted Beneke exposes the perils of withholding your tax payments.

Rather than paying an overdue tax burden, Beneke took advantage of Skyler White’s financial assistance by leasing a Mercedes and investing in his business rather than paying his tax bill. This leads to headaches that could have been avoided by paying a qualified accountant.

22. Know Your Value

Breaking Bad (2008)
Image Credit: Ben Leuner,AMC.

Following the death of Gale Boetticher, Walt finds himself facing near-certain death at the hands of Gus Fring. In a high-stakes negotiation, Walt convinces Gus that his multi-million-dollar facilities are worth nothing without the master chemist. White identified, quantified, and communicated his value, sparing his life. 

Let this be a lesson in negotiating pay raises, sales contracts, and new jobs in your own professional life.

23. Don’t Be Afraid To Start Your Own Venture

Bryan Cranston in Breaking Bad
Image Credit: High Bridge Entertainment, Gran Via Productions, and Sony Pictures Television.

Working for the high school, Walter White (the chemistry teacher) could afford a modest home and vehicle. However, only after he branched out on his own did White realize the immense financial value of his skill set. 

While working for others may limit your financial risk, the giants of history have struck it rich and forged their legacies by starting their own ventures. If you have the entrepreneurial itch, scratch it.

24. Your Emergency Fund Should Come Before All

Cash in hand, holding money, man, give, pay, dollars
Image Credit: NATNN/Shutterstock.

While an emergency fund alone may not have allowed Walter White to afford medical treatments and avoid a high-risk professional lifestyle, it couldn’t have hurt. Too many Americans (myself included) prioritize wants ahead of needs, and their savings, emergency funds, and quality of life in retirement suffer as a result. 

Learn from Walter White’s mistakes and build up a multi-month emergency fund before it’s too late.

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