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What Disney princesses can teach girls about finances

Dawn Papandrea

September 11, 2015

In parenting circles, there is a lot of healthy debate as to whether Disney princesses are good role models for young girls. From a financial perspective, those tiara-wearing singing gals offer a mix of both positive and negative money messages.

Take a look at some princess-inspired financial lessons that we can draw from Disney's animated, long-haired royals:

Old-fashioned princess thinking: Someday my prince will come.
From Snow White to Cinderella, the theme of a handsome prince swooping in to save a helpless princess with a kiss is the opposite of what a financially independent woman's mindset should be.

Modern makeover: Be like Tiana. “Princess Tiana from 'Princess and the Frog' demonstrates and teaches that hard work and determination can make your dreams come true,” says Leslie Tayne, an attorney specializing in debt relief and author of “Life & Debt.” Her lesson is that you can attain the things you desire and deserve on your own terms, which is why Tiana builds her own source of wealth, regardless of princess status.

Along those lines, women should have accounts in their own name even after getting married, says Dan Fisher, a financial adviser and founder of the Chicago-based Financially Fit Women, which specializes in coaching and empowering women to understand their long-term goals. “Women need their own bank accounts and credit cards,” he says, “because good credit is the foundation of building a solid financial future. Without it, it can be impossible to obtain loans and access credit.”

Financial lessons from Disney Princesses

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Opening one or more credit cards in your name, using them wisely and paying off the balances in full every month is the quickest way to begin building a strong credit file, he adds.

Old-fashioned princess thinking: I'll give up my voice to find the man of my dreams.

Ariel signing a contract to relinquish her voice to Ursula is like co-signing a loan for a deadbeat boyfriend, choosing a credit card with awful terms or falling for a financial scam. In other words, not thinking through the consequences of a financial contract can come back to bite you later, says Allison Alexander, financial adviser at Savant Capital Management in Rockford, Illinois.

Modern makeover: Be like Belle. “One of 'Beauty and the Beast' Belle's favorite things to do is reading, and an educated investor always makes the best decisions,” says Alexander.

Whenever you're about to sign any financial contract such as a loan or mortgage, says Tayne, make sure you are aware of all the terms (such as forbearance and delinquency), and not just the interest rate.

And when financial matters and confusing fine print turn into a beast, who better to call upon than your financial fairy godmother? “Work with an adviser who can be your advocate and who you trust so you can make the best decisions for yourself,” adds Alexander.

Old-fashioned princess thinking: Being a Sleeping Beauty and ignoring your finances.
Even though this one is not really Princess Aurora's fault, the movie's outcome sends the message that things have a way of working out even if you literally sleep through a crisis. In reality, sleeping through your formative years – your 20s and 30s – means missing out on a chance to get ahead of the game with retirement savings or building a strong credit profile, says Alexander.

Modern makeover: Be like Merida. As a skilled archer, Merida from “Brave” sees her target and goes after it. Before you can achieve a financial goal, however, you have to define it, says Alexander. That means creating a budget that allows you to strategically tackle any debt you may have, while also saving for your future.

“Keep a register of your expenses for an entire week and look at regular recurring monthly bills to get a good hold on your patterns,” she suggests. From there, you can see where you can cut back to advance toward your goals. “If you have debt, still contribute to a 401(k) up to a company match percentage if there is one, but anything in excess of that, and if you get raises or bonuses, put that money toward debt.”

Old-fashioned princess thinking: Assuming that happily ever after is inevitable. Everyone expects their marriages to last forever, but unfortunately, situations change and unexpected things happen. Sadly, many women are not prepared financially.

Modern makeover: Be like Elsa. She didn't sit back and accept the traditional gender role that was expected of her (in her case, having to be the “good girl” she was expected to be by concealing her true self). Instead, in the face of challenges and hardships, she was able to “let it go” and build a frozen kingdom or her own.

As a woman, statistics show that it's likely you'll outlive your spouse, says Fisher, and unfortunately, the divorce rate is what it is. “Don't let someone else direct everything, and do not give control of your money to your prince,” says Fisher. “If you end up single later in life as a result of divorce or death, you won't be in a good position.”

Although ruling your own financial kingdom isn't as easy as wishing upon a star, you can have the fairytale ending you've always dreamed of with smart planning, strong credit, and good financial habits. You might even have some extra money to splurge on that tiara you've always wanted.


If you liked this story, you may like this: A Star Wars geek's guide to managing credit




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