If there is anything that insomnia and not finishing your reading until 1:00 a.m. teaches you, it’s that The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air reruns constitute the best programming on TV. Period. Fading off to sleep last night, I heard Carlton lecturing Will on the merits of opening some kind of investing account with a sum of money Will had stumbled into. Carlton’s rant piqued my interest because I finally realized that wrapped up in all the nerdiness and awful Tom Jones impersonations, were several lessons about managing your personal finances.
1. Your Education Is Invaluable
Carlton reminds me of myself at a young age. Always focused on where he would go to college, and being successful in life, that he very often missed out on being a kid. That’s alright though because Carlton transferred into Princeton (in real life you can’t do that) and probably went on to become a successful lawyer just like the Big Guy.
2. You Are Never Too Young to Plan Ahead
This ties in with Carlton’s educational planning, but relates solely to finances. While his big sister Hilary was out spending the family fortune, Carlton was investing his graduation money in his Roth IRA. Carlton frequently lectured his family members on the merits of financial investing and saving, and is a voice for frugality in a household that spends lavishly and foolishly (i.e. Geoffrey the Butler).
3. It’s Cool To Be A Nerd
Carlton’s nerdiness paid long-term dividends. Even though most boys probably idolized Will for his arrogance and outgoing personality, Carlton benefited largely by just being a juxtaposition to Will. Where Will could impress people with his good-nature, Carlton could impress them with his knowledge and sizable bank account. Carlton made it cool to read the Business section of the Times on Sunday mornings. He showed us it’s ok not to listen to Jazzy Jeff, but to jam out to Tom Jones.
4. Gambling Is Dangerous
Carlton had a highly-publicized affinity towards gambling. Every time he and Will were near a casino Carlton would forget everything he usually preached, and blow all his money at the tables. For such a cautious guy, this weakness can only be seen to point out the hubris that sometimes accompanies such frugality. Lesson: there’s a little bit of Carlton in all of us.
5. It Is Nice to Be Born Rich
Carlton arguably had it easier then many of us, and it is harder to respect someone who ascends from family wealth. However, Carlton continued to persevere in spite of his family money, unlike Hilary, and always seemed like he wanted to accomplish more than his parents.
6. It Is Nicer to Want to Become Rich on Your Own
Tying in with the previous point, it is clear to me now that Carlton’s ambition is what makes him so likable. There was never any incentive for Carlton to push himself to achieve great things, and in fact, it always seemed that the Big Guy appreciated Carlton’s accomplishments less than he did for all the other kids. Carlton still pushed himself to achieve, and that should be the greater message we glean from his goofy dances and incessant ramblings about personal finance.
It’s helpful before the semester starts to put things in proper perspective and maintain a sense of humor both about law school and about life. As we begin to get caught up in the everyday monotony of class and work, think about Carlton Banks and the lessons he taught us all during the formative years of our youth.