Financial Lessons From Walter White


What NOT to Do With Your Money, Breaking Bad edition!

I would like to thank Netflix for introducing me to binge watching TV.  Without it, I would have never been introduced to AMC’s Breaking Bad and come across all of these wonderful financial lessons to share with you courtesy of Walter White and Jesse Pinkman.

The Emmy’s were last Monday night and Breaking Bad won best drama, Bryan Cranston won best actor, best supporting actor Aaron Paul, and best supporting actress Anna Gunn.  Thus reinforcing that Breaking Bad is the greatest show of all time.

However, for the one adult left on this earth who has not seen it, I will provide a brief spoiler-free synopsis of the show.  Walter White is a high school chemistry teacher who is diagnosed with cancer.  When he finds out that the cancer treatments are going to be more than he can afford, he turns to former student and crystal meth cook, Jesse Pinkman, to form a partnership to make all the money he could ever need.  What happens from there I will leave you to watch.  Now, aside from the obvious illegality of cooking and distributing methamphetamine, Walter and Jesse’s antics provide some strong examples of what not to do when handling your finances.

Heisenberg’s Healthcare

I am not sure why Walter’s health insurance would not cover his cancer treatments.  I still struggle with this since he was a high school teacher and most of the public school systems I know have excellent health insurance coverage.  With that said it is an important lesson to have an appropriate amount of coverage at a price that you can afford.  Coverage options will change as you age; but in today’s ever changing healthcare and health insurance world, it is important to take the time to review your coverages annually.  I review insurance coverage with my clients as a regular part of our planning process.

How Not to Work Like Heisenberg

Walter made $80 million dollars.  That is a ridiculous amount of money to make in a little less than 2 years.  What did he do wrong?  Obviously it was all made illegally so he gave it to the wrong criminals.  Since he couldn’t deposit it into an investment account, he missed out on an opportunity to have his money work for him.  Sitting in the barrels it was only losing value because of inflation.  If he had a balanced portfolio that hypothetically earned 7% he would have potentially made $5.6 million in one year.  The lesson is to make sure that your money is working for you because retirement isn’t cheap and one day you are going to need it to live on.

How Safe is Money in a Barrel? 

Burying your $80 million in barrels in the desert like Walter is not the smartest idea.  Besides not earning any interest on the money it is easily stolen by other criminals like Uncle Jack.  All joking aside it is important to make sure your accounts are protected by either the Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation (FDIC) for bank deposits or the Securities Investor Protection Corporation (SIPC) for brokerage accounts.  While Walter’s $80 million would not have been fully protected when it was stolen, he didn’t even get the $250,000 of FDIC coverage for bank deposits or the $500,000 of SIPC protection for brokerage accounts. (Please note that SIPC protects investors if a broker-dealer handling your money goes bankrupt and takes your money with it.  SIPC does not protect investors from stock market losses.  An explanatory brochure is available at

If Jesse Can Learn Chemistry Your Kids Can Learn Finance

Walter’s new found wealth causes him to make many bad decisions.  He spends freely buying a car wash (to launder his money), a fancy condo (because his wife wants him out of the house), and worst of all a new car for his son.  This does nothing to teach him the value of money or working(change to “work”).  It is important for parents to provide for their children, but it is more important to provide a good financial role model.  Talking to your kids about saving, investing, budgeting and working creates a solid foundation for good financial habits.  We work with our clients to create engaging conversations with their family around the issues that wealth and money create. As I have learned with my three kids they learn best from my example but they listen best to another expert.  If you want to learn more about how we engage family conversations around wealth contact us below.

What Walt did Right, but Not Very Well

Jesse and Walt had Saul Goodman, the criminal attorney that could easily be found in the yellow pages.  Saul was an expert in helping his clients clean up criminal matters. When Walt and Jesse got into any kind of trouble they had Better Call Saul.  I believe everyone needs help in their financial and legal matters, which is why it is important to select the proper experts. For example, if you need help crafting a trust agreement you should consider selecting a board certified estate planning attorney which is often not the attorney that helped you close your real estate purchase.  Working with experts helps to ensure that the job is done properly.

As Walter and Jesse took us on an emotional journey, it was amazing to see the evolution of a man that was originally driven by money and leaving a legacy for his family turn into this evil maniac.  I was really sad yet fulfilled when Breaking Bad ended.  It led viewers, including me, down the roller coaster that is and was, Breaking bad.

More Thoughts From The Factory On Main


Peter Huminski

The opinions voiced in this material are for general information only and are not intended to provide specific advice or recommendations for any individual.

Breaking Bad appears on AMC.

Image Credit: AMC