23 April is National Shakespeare Day, in celebration of the day the Bard was born (and died).
Shakespeare’s works are baked solidly into British culture. From modern-day iterations of his work, such as West Side Story, to the invention of everyday words like “lonely” and “critic”, his influence remains an integral part of our culture.
One thing you might never have considered, though, is what Shakespeare could teach you about money. Indeed, within Shakespeare’s works are universal lessons that can be aptly applied to your financial circumstances.
Without further ado, here are four fascinating lessons Shakespeare can teach you about your money.
1. Spousal communication is key when it comes to your finances
One of Shakespeare’s most revered plays, Romeo and Juliet, tells of “star-cross’d lovers” who meet their fates not at the hands of a villain, but because of one simple thing: miscommunication.
If Juliet had only warned Romeo of her plans to fake her own death and escape Verona together, the play might have ended much more happily.
While your circumstances are less tragic than those of two 16th-century teenagers, Shakespeare’s fatal tale of miscommunication could motivate you to talk to your spouse about the important things in life.
Indeed, 62% of participants in a Royal London study say that money is the most common cause of arguments with their significant other. You may see money as an “unromantic” subject, meaning you might not raise financial conversations with your spouse as often as you’d like.
If your financial goals aren’t aligned, you could find that issues arise in future that might have been solved with a simple conversation.
Instead of falling into fatal miscommunications like Romeo and Juliet, you and your partner could work together to create the life you want. Your financial planner can help mediate these conversations, helping you decide what’s best for your finances together.
2. Your financial ambitions shouldn’t outweigh your quality of life
Shakespeare’s spookiest play, Macbeth, is about a decent, successful, respected man who ruins his own life.
At the start of the play, three witches give him a prophecy: that he will one day be King of Scotland.
Hearing this, Macbeth’s “vaulting ambition” overtakes his rationality. He gets what he wants and becomes king, but at the cost of his innocence, sanity, marriage, and, eventually, his life.
When it comes to your own future, you might have ambitions to earn a certain amount of money before you retire. Having this figure in your head can be helpful when it comes to saving, but it could also lead you to focus too heavily on the number in question, rather than what this money can do for you.
Plus, in pursuit of your financial ambitions, you could find yourself sacrificing things that are important to you, such as time with your family, or your mental and physical health.
When it comes to your financial ambitions, take heed of Macbeth’s actions.
Finding a balance between working and saving hard, and spending time with your loved ones, could reduce your stress and help you live life to the fullest.
3. It’s never too late to turn around your love-hate relationship with money
In Shakespeare’s best-loved comedy, Much Ado About Nothing, protagonists Beatrice and Benedick have hated each other for years. But by the end of the play, their toxic relationship has blossomed into true love.
If you have a toxic relationship with money – perhaps you’re prone to overspending, or you find dealing with your finances stressful – you’re not alone.
In fact, a study by Perkbox revealed that up to a quarter of Brits feel stressed about money every single day. In light of the cost of living crisis, it is easy to feel sensitive about financial matters.
While some financial stressors can’t be waved away with a positive mindset, re-establishing a positive relationship to your money can be extremely helpful.
You could try some mindfulness exercises if you find yourself inhibited by financial anxiety. For example, you could regularly list the amazing opportunities your money has afforded you in previous years, and the things you’d like to do with the money you earn in future.
Just as long-standing enemies Beatrice and Benedick found themselves falling in love, you could change your relationship with money for the better, no matter your age.
4. Positive returns on your investments are never guaranteed
Shakespeare’s play The Merchant of Venice explores themes of prejudice, religious persecution, and of course, money.
In the play, Antonio, a merchant, has most of his wealth tied up in ships at sea. He is unable to secure a loan based on the value of his investments, so he approaches Shylock, a moneylender with a reputation for charging supremely high interest.
Shylock agrees to lend Antonio a hefty sum with no interest, on one condition – if the loan goes unpaid, Shylock will require a pound of Antonio’s own flesh. Confident that the contents of his ships will enable him to pay the debt, Antonio agrees. However, his ships are lost in a sea storm, leaving him in grave trouble.
Antonio’s mistake is a crucial lesson to all investors: don’t put all your eggs in one basket (or ship).
Diversification is a key part of a successful investment strategy. Investing in a range of sectors, companies, and geographical regions can help ensure you don’t take a huge hit if one market falls. For example, if the UK stock market falls, growth in markets in the US, Asia or elsewhere can help to shore up your wealth.
While Antonio’s failure to diversify did not result in him losing a pound of flesh, it’s a cautionary tale about what can happen if you put all your eggs in one basket.
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Your financial planner can help you maintain a positive relationship with money, helping you to rewrite your own story when it comes to your wealth.
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The value of your investment can go down as well as up and you may not get back the full amount you invested. Past performance is not a reliable indicator of future performance.