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10 Things Arrested Development Taught Us About Money

We can learn a lot about money by watching Arrested Development.If you love the show Arrested Development as much as I do, you’ve already cleared your schedule on May 26 when the show returns on Netflix for a fourth season featuring 15 simultaneously released episodes.

Frozen bananas? Check.

Kidding aside, underneath the Bluth family’s wacky antics is a theme all-too-important to financial blogs that came of age during the Great Recession (like this one). The series, after all, follows a family propelled to riches by developing chincy cookie-cutter houses only to be tragically undone by the housing market’s spectacular collapse.

So lesson number one:

1. Watch out for bubbles.

If only J. Walter Weatherman could have illustrated why you “never bet it all on new construction!!”

2. There’s always money in the banana stand.

From jail, George Sr. desperately tried to tell anyone who would listen about a significant emergency fund stashed in the family’s seaside business. The foresight to save was smart; the decision to stash the money in a combustible wooden shack, not so much. We recommend a savings account.

3. When times get tough, get a job.

Some Bluths were better workers than others. Michael tried to hold down the family business and his son dutifully peddled frozen bananas. Maeby gets the employment prize for accidentally landing a job as a Hollywood studio exec while still in high school. And you can give Buster credit for trying his hand at construction … while he still had his hand, of course.

Lindsay even got a retail job but was so ashamed to be working she told her family she stole the clothes she was buying with her employee discount. And does Tobias deserve credit for his unsuccessful attempts at landing acting gigs? The jury’s out. He probably should’ve gone back to being an analrapist.

4. Save on your biggest expenses.

The Bluth family wasn’t good at tightening their belts when things got tough. Lindsay kept up her frivolous shopping – including spending $400 on diamond cream. Gob dished out thousands for suits, the Aztec Tomb, and his yacht, the Seaward.

Props to the Bluths, however, for shacking up together in the company’s model home and – for a while – relying on the trusty old stair car to get around. You have to watch out for “hop ons”, but at least you don’t have a car payment.

5. Invest internationally.

George Sr. saw opportunity amid chaos. Unfortunately, developing property in Iraq turned out to be “light treason.” Exporting the highly dangerous kitchen appliance he invented, the Cornballer, fared only slightly better. We’ll stick to international stock funds.

6. Expensive clothes may bestow confidence, but not competence.

Yeah, the guy in the $4,000 suit is going to explain this joke to you. Come on!

7. Don’t forget charity.

It’s always good to remember the less fortunate, even in completely self-serving ways, like Lindsay’s ever-changing causes (the wetlands, circumcision, and monkey freedom, to name a few). Good things come of it, like the relationship that blossomed after Buster accidentally bid on Lucille Austero at a charity auction.

8. Exploit, exploit, exploit.

As children, George Sr. would often provoke the boys to fight one another. He believed it created a competitive spirit. He also thought tapes of the footage would be a big hit in the burgeoning home video market. He soon franchised the concept with such titles as “Boyfights 2,” “A Boyfights Cookout”, and “Backseat Boyfights: The Trip To Uncle Jack’s 70th.”

Pure genius.

9. For God’s sake, marry for money.

Had he never learned his bride-to-be had the mental capacity of a kindergartener, Michael surely would’ve married Rita and been millions richer because of it. To the rest of the Bluth family’s dismay, however, he learns the truth about Rita and calls off their nuptials. Probably a mistake.

10. When all goes to hell, pass the booze.

Lucille: Get me a vodka rocks.

Michael: Mom, it’s breakfast.

Lucille: And a piece of toast.

Lucille may have been broke, but unlike her kids, she was too sauced to care. Lesson? I’ll leave that up to you.

Okay, what’d I forget? What financial lessons have you learned from Arrested Development?

Published or updated on May 21, 2013

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About David Weliver

David Weliver is the founding editor of Money Under 30. He's a cited authority on personal finance and the unique money issues we face during our first two decades as adults. He lives in Maine with his wife and two children.


We invite readers to respond with questions or comments. Comments may be held for moderation and will be published according to our comment policy. Comments are the opinions of their authors; they do not represent the views or opinions of Money Under 30.

  1. I learned from Buster that there is good money to be made in being a coma test subject

  2. Maureen says:

    Yes, I saw #6 at my last job in corporate American many, many times.

  3. Nick says:

    Loved this article and the show!

  4. […] Development launching on Netflix this weekend (SO EXCITED!), David at Money Under 30 explained the 10 things AR taught us about money.  I’m going to try to not watch all of the episodes this weekend… we’ll […]

  5. David Counsell says:

    You used the company credit card to pay for that?! Well good for you. Though you don’t want to spend company money unnecessarily, get a job that provides for those high cost health benefits etc.!

    Also, consider moving close to family! Though you might not want live WITH your siblings like the Blueths, there have been many good articles published recently on the financial benefits of living near family.

  6. Perfect. Wish I would have thought of this!

  7. Justin says:

    1) Save money by carpooling. Gotta watch out for hop-ons.
    2) Teach your kids about money and have them get a part-time job, such as a movie studio assistant who turns into a producer. MARRY ME!
    3) Improve your career by taking on multiple roles, such as an analyst, a therapist, an entertainer, a cleaning lady, an actor, etc etc

  8. Grace says:

    This is hysterical. Well done!!

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