Update Your Will, Jon Snow: Finance Lessons From Westeros

For our Ramparts readers who watch “Game of Thrones,” you know that this Sunday’s series finale will likely keep you on the edge of your seat. Fans have followed along diligently for eight seasons, keeping tabs on intricate story lines, nervously wondering if their favorite character will survive another episode, and discussing wild theories as to how the show will end. But, have you ever sat back and thought about key character traits, and how these characters would fare when it comes to financial planning? Below, we look at some fan-favorites, and distinguish what kind of financial plans would be smart money moves for each to make.

**Before reading, please know that some spoilers may be included below!

Samwell Tarly

What makes Sam unique?

  • Highly educated, has a high potential earning trajectory
  • Is supporting an adopted child
  • Has another child on the way
  • Son to Lord Randyll Tarly, could be a top-ranking lord within House Tarly

Financial planning concerns and takeaways:

One of Sam’s most pressing needs is to account for thorough estate planning, especially if he is not technically married to Gilly, but is supporting her son and has another child on the way. Life insurance would be smart – if his son is not his direct heir, he could still name him a beneficiary if anything were to happen to him and Gilly. Sam is in a unique position as well, being as educated as he is, to make big strides with potential future income, which is another aspect where life insurance would come into play. A prenuptial agreement is also recommended – with potential family wealth in the picture and his high earning potential, a prenup would protect the assets he is bringing to the table if he and Gilly were to break up down the line.

For young adults like Sam who are also looking to further their education, we always recommend considering the “ROI” (not only of money, but time too) of moving in this direction. Sam is committed to becoming a Maester, which we can compare to obtaining an MBA in this scenario. Is getting an MBA necessary to propel your career? Of course, it’s a large monetary investment to continue your education, so analyze the direct impact it will have on your earning potential.

Daenerys Targaryen

What makes Dany unique?

  • Unusual, high-net-worth assets through her three dragons
    • Valuable and irreplaceable
  • Orphan and widow
  • Young professional with successful “business” and many employees/followers

Financial planning concerns and takeaways:

If we classify Dany’s dragons as assets, they can be seen as a massive percentage of Dany’s net worth, given how valuable and irreplaceable they are. Making sure they are properly insured is critical in this sense.

If we look at her current role throughout the Seven Kingdoms, and liken that to the responsibilities of a business owner, there are other key steps she should take to ensure her continued financial success. She must set up a proper succession plan. Being young and wildly successful in this “business” of ruling, she has many employees (the Dothraki, Unsullied, etc.) who rely on her. Having a defined succession plan in place will identify a successor should something happen to her, so this “business” can continue as normal.

Jon Snow

What makes Jon unique?

  • High-risk job being part of the Night’s Watch and leader of Winterfell
  • Doesn’t necessarily know family lineage
  • New relationship pending

Financial planning concerns and takeaways:

As we know, Jon’s family lineage is a bit murky. At the same time, he follows a personal philosophy that his Stark family comes first, so estate planning is very important for him. Naming a beneficiary in advance and having clear directives in his Will can ensure his true wishes will be executed. Updating his Will is also a good idea, given ever-evolving family developments (like new relationships, deaths, etc.), so on a frequent basis, he should reconsider plans and/or wishes he has laid out.

He could also benefit from a life insurance plan, mainly due to his high-risk career. Not only was he part of the Night’s Watch, but now being a leader in Winterfell, he is inherently at greater risk and will experience frequent warfare scenarios to defend his kingdom. If anything were to happen to him, a life insurance policy could help his family pay for funeral costs, and maintain their current lifestyle.

Cersei Lannister

What makes Cersei unique?

  • Widow, childless
  • Comes from considerable family wealth
    • Has significant debts to the Iron Bank, which backs the throne
  • High-profile, high-risk career

Financial planning concerns and takeaways:

If we look at Cersei’s role as a business owner (Queen of the Seven Kingdoms), what is interesting about her is that she is carrying the weight of this family operation (brothers have never been interested/as involved as her in ruling King’s Landing). As CEO of this long-running family business, she has to directly deal with the Iron Bank and the debt that her kingdom owes. Getting her on budget – both personally and for her business – is a smart money move. She has to feed her growing army, continue to pay key employees (like her security staff with the “Mountain,” and trusted advisor, Qyburn). Readjusting her budget and aiming to cut down on the debt she owes to the Iron Bank will set her business up for better success.

On a personal level, she should also set up a Power of Attorney document – she is coming from great wealth and given her prominent, powerful role, she should protect herself and be more cautious. In the event she becomes incapacitated, a PoA for legal and medical reasons will allow her to ensure her wishes are carried out.