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SpongeBob’s Road to Real Estate

A Pants-Wearing Sponge Cleans Up in the Housing Market. Here’s the Takeaway.

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Against all odds, everyone’s favourite sea sponge is doing quite well for himself: he owns his own home! Say what you will about SpongeBob’s fashion, food, and career choices, this kid’s captured a milestone that’s a dream for many. And he’s not just captured that milestone, he’s slayed it.

SpongeBob’s hollowed-out pineapple home is allegedly worth $18 000 000 — almost 3X what Drake paid for his Toronto manse. Consider the view: “This post-modern tropical gem features 360-degree ocean views and three stories of nautical luxury,” boasts a  video on SpongeBob’s official YouTube account. 

Okay, so how did he do it, and what lessons can we soak up from this real estate rockstar? 

Millennial Bob: A fiscally savvy thirtysomething

Thanks to a glimpse fans once got of his driver’s license, we know SpongeBob was born on July 14, 1986 — so, he’s a millennial at age 35. Those who grew up watching SpongeBob SquarePants may find it hard to believe that he’s been more disciplined with his finances than the majority of us, but hey, crazy things happen under the sea. Let’s consider that Bob may be a financial wizard, and deconstruct his money moves.

He’s a famously devoted fry cook — some say the world’s greatest —  at the Krusty Krab, Bikini Bottom’s favourite fast-food joint. Work ethic? Check! Income? … inconsistent. In one episode, according to Spongepedia, Bob claims to make under ten cents a year. In another ep, we learn that he pays his boss, Mr. Krabs, $100 an hour for the privilege of working. We’ve seen him pocket an envelope of cash on payday, so he does get the occasional haul, but really Bob’s the original gig worker. 

The Takeaway

He’s been side hustling since he was 12— jouster, chef, lifeguard, lawyer, the list goes on. Bob started early, put time to work in his favour, and probably learned a thing or two about compound interest along the way. 

Is he investing? Probably. He’s sure invested a lot of time over at Mrs. Puff’s Boating School, where he’s failed to get his boating license 1 258 058 times. Silver lining? He’s saving money on gas and boat payments, and likely making that money work for him in the markets.

And finally, Bob knows a deal when he sees one. Submerged “land” is considerably cheaper to buy than its above sea equivalent. In Canada, a man recently listed  two lots, “presently underwater,” for the bargain price of $99,000. 

Is this the investment property to sink your savings into? We prefer drier. But hey, location, location… floatation!

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The Costs of Wizardry

From Muggle to Wiz, Wealthie runs the numbers.

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From the budding wizards at Hogwarts to the more seasoned wizzes of Lord of the Rings, wizardry is where it’s at. For anyone curious about a career in wizarding, Wealthie looks at the costs of getting off the ground. (haha see what we did there?)

Looking the Part: $35+

A robe was just a scratchy cloak until Madam Malkin came along. She cornered the market on fashion and function. We hunted for the ones that Harry and his pals made famous, but they’re only sold at Universal Studios. So, if you’re a label lover who wants the real deal, you’ll have to budget for it.

Tickets to Universal: $315 PLUS flight and hotel! That’s a lot of IRL money. So, while you’re saving up we’ve found good alternatives at well.ca, Walmart, and Amazon, ranging from about $35-$60, with hood, embroidery, and lining. 

Pro tip: sew in a few pockets to make room for spells and potions. 

Carry a Big Stick: $4.50 and Up

The pièce de résistance!  If you’re serious about wizardry – which we know you are – you’ll need a wand. Wands are an opportunity to express yourself. Are you a no frills kind of wiz? A 14-inch gold-tipped standard, or a basic lucite will run you about $4.50 to $5.50. 

Are you a wizard who loves movies and history? Maybe you’d like to bid on Glynda the Good Witch’s wand, which sold for $400 000 back in 2019!

Hocus Pocus: Misc.

Every great wizard has some potions up their sleeve. Since we could use some money to launch our career, we’re costing out potion ingredients for a spell to help you win at Bingo

2 tbsp Pepper

2 tbsp Mustard (yellow works best)

10 freshly picked Honeysuckles OR 20 grams of Organic Cloves

1 sealable glass bottle to hold all ingredients.

Most of these items, you’ll find at home for free, so cast your spell and let’s get you some dough for a bestie!

A Wizard’s BFF: Priceless

Every wizard needs a companion — one that strikes fear into the souls of their enemies, and is also extremely cute. Like an owl! Did you know that owls are able to turn their heads a full 270 degrees? Oh, and owls have adapted to nearly every ecosystem on the planet? Hoo knew?!

The Eurasian Eagle Owl generally costs between $2,800 and $3,800. Suddenly, a rat like Scabbers looks like a steal. You could train a raven, or adopt a cat. You can even adopt a Great Horned or Saw-Whet Owl for $25 to $100 monthly. Don’t forget to factor in costs for  food, training, and exercise. 

Owning a pet is a pretty serious business, even with magical super powers. So you may want to start by testing out your powers of convincing on the Muggles in your home. 

The wizardry game is a long game. And a fun one. You’re now armed with the tools you need to become a wizard. So, come up with a Wizard name, and don’t forget to trademark it!

Thoughts on pursuing your dreams:

Don’t let the Muggles get you down.

– Ron Weasley

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The Cost of Being Batman

Running the numbers on this Caped Crusader. 

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Yes, Batman’s got a lot to juggle, keeping Gotham safe from the Riddler and Penguin. But, that’s not all that’s on his mind. Like any business titan, running a multi-billion dollar enterprise while moonlighting as a caped crusader, Batman’s got to stay on top of his budget. 

Wealthie looks into the BatWallet to investigate how this superhero stays in the black.

$13.04 billion: Total net worth

Ten years ago a group of econ students (and obvious DC Comic fans) at Lehigh University estimated Batman’s wealth at 11.6 billion USD, ($13.04B in today’s dollars). It’s mostly the result of inheritance after his parents’ brutal murder. But, B. Wayne deserves some credit, too. He’s put his money to work at Wayne Enterprises. Being mega wealthie is actually Batman’s superpower. He doesn’t have superhuman strength, x-ray vision, or even spider powers. He just knows how to make every buck count.  

$137 million: Market value of Wayne Manor

Bruce inherited his 42,500 square foot, 11 bedroom, luxury lair from his parents when they died. Since then, it’s been destroyed several times by various enemies. 

Without considering the costs of all those rebuilds, here’s what Batman budgets annually:

$1.6M: annual upkeep

$37,000: property taxes

$27,000: house insurance (and that’s monthly!)

$41,250: The Batsuit

This is what the costume worn by Michael Keaton in Batman Returns fetched at auction. If you’d prefer a functional memory cloth polymer cape (the kind that stiffens to facilitate flying from building to building), that’s going to set you back $40,000 on its own. 

$11, 588, 928: Annual life insurance policy

It’s not cheap being a batguy in the big city. According to Vantis Life, a US insurance company that scores factors like dangerous situations, exposure to firearms, and alcohol consumption, Batman is one of the most valuable clients in Gotham or anywhere.   

$1.5MM: Salary for Alfred Pennyworth

The starting salary for a butler is around $30/hour. However, the highest paid butler on the planet — a guy named Gary Williams, who works for a billionaire in Miami — rakes in a reported $2.2 million a year. Keep in mind that Batman’s right hand has a fairly extensive job description, and some top shelf job experience.  Alfred’s LinkedIn page includes stints with British spy agencies MI5 and MI6. He spends as much time supporting his boss in special ops as he does delivering tea. He’s also been on the job since Bruce was seven, so we’ve factored in a few substantial raises.       

$12.3MM: Estimated Price to Buy the Daily Planet 

That’s right, Batman is technically Superman’s boss, having bought the newspaper where Clark Kent works as a bespectacled reporter. It wasn’t cheap (and print media is a risky investment these days). But the cost of owning the competition: Priceless. 

Financial advice from Batman’s nemesis:

“If you’re good at something, never do it for free.”

– The Joker, ‘The Dark Knight’

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Big Bird by the Bucks

A bird’s eye view of our Feathered Friend’s financials.

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For more than 50 years everyone’s favourite feathered friend has been Sesame Street’s more recognizable face/beak. But how is Big Bird doing financially, as a bird in the big city? Wealthie looks at the numbers:

$160,000: The cost of the Big Bird suit, an eight foot, video-enabled vessel covered in more than 6000 turkey tail feathers.

$314,072: The reported annual salary of puppeteer, Carol Spinney, who originated Big Bird in 1969 and played the character until his retirement in 2018. Today, Sesame Street’s friendliest fowl is played by Matt Vogel, who apprenticed under Spinney to get Big Bird’s mannerisms to really take flight. 

$1: Amount earned by Big Bird for his first ever job, helping Mr. Handford stack newspapers before the morning rush. The episode aired in 1995, which means Big Bird would have made $1.80 in today’s dollars. (It’s not a lot, but hey, he’s only six and a half. Also, we’ll explain “inflation” in another piece!)

$3,599,000: Cost of a brownstone in East Harlem, the neighbourhood where the fictional strip of Sesame Street, including Big Bird’s nest, is said to be located.  

$180,000,000: The amount that Sesame Workshop (the company that owns Sesame Street) paid to the estate of Big Bird creator, Jim Henson, for the rights to all Muppets.    

$600,000: Approximate production budget for each episode of Sesame Street.

Thoughts on getting a jump on your financial health:

Early bird gets the worm. But cookie taste better than worm. So me sleep in. 

Cookie Monster

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The Value of Bingeing Animal Crossing

Tom Nook and Econ 101

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Animal Crossing: New Horizons is one of the most popular video games of 2020/21. The game has already sold over 26 million copies, and has become the best-selling title ever for the Nintendo Switch. The premise of this smash-hit might surprise you, though: players don’t fend off malevolent aliens or tame fantastic beasts. Instead, AC:NH is fundamentally about working hard in order to pay off the mortgage on your house.

For many people, this goal will sound remarkably similar to everyday life, even if Nintendo’s version involves adorable anthropomorphized animals. But the game’s highest concentration of players are between ages 15-30 — older Gen Zs and younger Millennials — for whom the prospect of having their own home may still be more dream than reality.

Young people also love the game. If your kids are playing, here are a few valuable financial lessons you might tease out for them.

1) Don’t fritter away your money — reinvest in yourself

There are lots of ways to earn “Bells,” the game’s fictional currency. Players can fish, gather fruits and vegetables, dig for treasure, or build furniture, to name but a few. This is like adult life, where you have to find the vocations you enjoy and are good at. And once you’ve got some money burning a hole in your pocket, the temptation might be to immediately spend it on swag you don’t necessarily need, like new duds or cool stuff for your home. Resist this urge, and put that money towards getting established. Focus on buying better tools, and rake in even more Bells!

2) Save your cash and make it work for you

It isn’t as immediately gratifying, but savvy Animal Crossers can also keep their hard-earned Bells in the game’s bank, where they’ll generate interest. (In fact, fiscally prudent gamers were doing such a good job saving their money that Nintendo actually had to lower the interest rates offered by the in-game bank in order to “to boost virtual spending.”) The lesson here is that if you want to be able to afford that fabulous mansion with the claw-foot bathtub later, get started on saving early! Compound interest — where you generate interest on your principal investment, and then later, make even more money on that interest —  can really add up over time.

3) Get in the real estate game

Players start off living in a cramped tent. (Think of your first place after leaving home, the one where your bedroom was an actual closet.) Happily for gamers, the banker raccoon, Tom Nook, is happy to offer interest-free mortgages so you can expand your fledgling business enterprises, and he never hassles you about the money you owe. In real life, mortgages aren’t quite such a fabulous deal: you’ll have to make monthly payments to the bank, and you’ll definitely have to pay back more than just the initial loan. But you’ll be building equity by putting money into your own investment, instead of someone else’s. 

Who knew a best-selling game could be so instructive? In both the real world and Animal Crossing, the prudent investor tends to end up comfortable enough to afford the luxuries they skimped on earlier.