If you haven’t seen Black Mirror on Netflix, a series where dystopian stories will give you pause as well make you gasp silently at the unexpected twists in the stories. The series is so good you will, as I did, discover the earlier seasons after watching the latest. The five excellent stories of this new season, teach us much needed money lessons.
Story one: Joan is awful. Read the fine print!
Joan and her fiance have settled down to watch Streamberry, their version of Netflix. Suddenly a suggestion pops up: Joan Is Awful. The program is uncannily exactly as Joan’s day was. She’s shocked and her fiance Krish is upset. She has confessed to her therapist that he cooks bland food and is like vanilla, compared to her ex. She has also fired someone in her corporate job. The movie stars Salma Hayek but Joan is horrified. She finds out that this show is AI generated and she cannot do anything to stop the show. She’s fired from her job in real life and Krish leaves her.
Her lawyer tells her she cannot sue Streamberry because she gave up the rights to her life story the moment she signed up to subscribe to the OTT platform, and the contract is watertight and cannot be broken.
How many of us sign on the dotted line without reading the fine print? How many times do we allow updates on our devices without understanding what that update will do to permissions you initially signed up for? You signed on loan papers because your husband is asking that of you, because your business partner asked that of you. We trust people but when there’s money involved, trust only yourself. Read every paper you are going to initial, every document they ask you to sign.
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Episode 2: Loch Henry. Don’t put your eggs in one basket
Loch Henry is a small town that has many secrets that come to light when a young man and woman come back home with a firm idea in their heads. They want to film an interview with the ‘egg man’, a local who has been saving unusual eggs so species will live. It’s a great idea, until their curiosity leads them to a story about a local man involved in serial murders. Although the young woman takes to this new story with alacrity, the young man needs persuasion. Their new film turns out to be award winning despite the ghastly personal price he pays.
Are you an investor who is set in their ways? Once you decide you will invest in say an FD, you don’t budge? Or are you the kind who is open to exploring a different method of investing? Some money in a mutual fund, some in a fixed deposit, some on something else? The more you read about managing money, the better your strategies will be. And just as the young man, you too will become a winner.
Episode 3: Beyond the sea. Testing out your retirement plan
This story is about two men on an international space voyage. The technology allows them to transfer their consciousness into a cyborg replica of themselves. One has chosen to move his family to a rural setting. It’s beautiful and rustic and nestled in nature. The other man has chosen to live in the city.
If you live in the city and have heard so many stories about a better life after friends have moved to a tier two city or perhaps moved to a beach house or even the mountains. Their pictures make you wish you could live like them too. You begin to make plans to move to a similar utopia. But just as the man in the story, perhaps your partner is not cut out for living in the lap of nature? Perhaps you will be bored out of your skull living far away from the city, with no one for company, no entertainment? There are as many stories of people who move back to the city losing money on the property they purchased… If you too have these dreams, try renting for a while, and see if your dream house in Goa or the mountain retreat works out for you and your family. Only then make that move.
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Episode 4: Mazey day. Always have a plan B
The protagonist of the story is a photographer. She is part of a pack that makes money by selling candid celebrity photographs. She is what is unkindly called a part of the evil pack of paps, the paparazzi. Sometimes her pictures earn her money so she can buy food, sometimes she doesn’t make any. In fact, she steals her roommate’s food. So when she gets a chance of getting paid more money than she has ever imagined for a picture of starlet Mazey Day who is probably a junkie, she sets out on a search.
If you too live from paycheck to paycheck, then this is your wake up call. Adulting means having a plan B. Something you can fall back on when the paycheck is delayed or an unexpected need for money arises. Because there’s only so much you can borrow or lean on friends for. If you are in a regular job, then learn to save. There’s no better time to start than now!
Episode 5: Demon 79. Save a little, but don’t forget to live!
A mousey worker at a department store is being insulted at every turn. But she swallows her pride and does her work. She has never stepped into a pub to have a drink, let alone have friends. She lives alone, and watches the telly. Her life is a tedious, routine, until she stumbles into a talisman that brings a demon into her life.
But it’s not about the demon who makes her do things that are completely out of character. The lesson that this story tells us is simple: learn to live a little. Most of us do the nine to nine, work in cubicles, have co-workers from hell, and a boss who thinks he can call whenever and that you will leave everything and comply with his bizarre orders. So who are you making money for? If the world ends tomorrow, what use is all that money? If you’re creating a retirement fund, what happens if you are too old to enjoy that ski trip to the snowy slopes, and you’re unable to learn how to scuba dive? So take a deep breath, and learn to enjoy your money. Life is unpredictable, live a little.
Manisha Lakhe is a poet, film critic, traveller, founder of Caferati — an online writer’s forum, hosts Mumbai’s oldest open mic, and teaches advertising, films and communication. She can be reached on Twitter at @manishalakhe.