3 personal finance lessons from A Charlie Brown Christmas

3 personal finance tips from A Charlie Brown Christmas

On first viewing, A Charlie Brown Christmas may seem like any other eternally beloved holiday classic about an 8-year-old boy sinking into an existential crisis over superficiality and rampant consumerism. (Yeah, that old story again!)

“I think there must be something wrong with me,” Charlie Brown confesses to Linus at the top of the special. “I just don’t understand Christmas, I guess. I like getting presents and sending Christmas cards and decorating trees and all that. But I’m still not happy. I always end up feeling depressed.”

Tucked within Charlie Brown’s yuletide crisis of faith, however, are smart money lessons to be learned—most of them from Chuck’s more pragmatic counterpart, Lucy. On the surface, the elder Van Pelt may seem as jaded as the rest of the gang: “Look, Charlie, let’s face it. We all know that Christmas is a big commercial racket.” On the other hand, she exhibits some pretty levelheaded personal finance instincts, highlighting some valuable money takeaways for kids of all ages.

1. Delayed gratification

Patty: “Try to catch snowflakes on your tongue. It’s fun!”

Lucy: “It’s too early. I never eat December snowflakes. I always wait until January.”

It’s possible Peanuts creator Charles Schulz was aware of the famous Stanford “Marshmallow Test” when he wrote A Charlie Brown Christmas in 1965. He was tapped in to child psychology and lived just up the road in Sonoma County. Given Lucy’s precocious penchant for brain science (she does run that “Psychiatric Help” stand, after all), it isn’t too surprising that she understands the benefits of forgoing something today for a sweeter opportunity tomorrow. But does Lucy know that exhibiting self-control can lead to things like increased SAT scores and more savings?

2. Nickels are nice…because cash is king

Lucy: “Boy, what a sound! How I love to hear that old money plink! That beautiful sound of cold, hard cash. That beautiful, beautiful sound. Nickels, nickels, nickels. That beautiful sound of plinking nickels!”

Perched behind her famous “Psychiatric Help” stand, ready to hear about Charlie’s holiday sorrows, Lucy’s no dummy: Chuck’s gotta pony up before she’s willing to dispense advice. (She knows her worth.) Lucy’s parents clearly have taught her the value of a nickel—and, presumably, a dime and a quarter. It’s never too early for a kid to learn math skills (and smart spending) by counting coins.

3. Think old for a more secure financial future

Lucy: “I never get what I really want. I always get a lot of stupid toys or a bicycle or clothes or something like that.”

Charlie: “What is it you want?”

Lucy: “Real estate!”

Another fun experiment out of Stanford had researchers show college-age kids computer renderings of themselves at an older age. The result? They planned to save about twice as much for their twilight years as the kids who only could see their current selves. Lucy has a pretty clear vision of herself as a real estate scion down the road. And to think, she did this all before the Oldify app—which is a fun exercise to try with your own kids at home. They’ll giggle seeing themselves as bald as Charlie Brown. But you’ll know you are helping to plant the seeds for a future of financial security, just like Lucy.

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