Money tips from Game of Thrones

Money tips from Game of Thrones

Between all the sex, violence, dragons and zombies, Game of Thrones (and the books that inspired it) can provide several valuable lessons about managing your personal finances, as well as helpful examples and cautionary tales (spoilers for previous seasons to follow): 

Rub two coins together to breed a third

“They’re only numbers – numbers on paper. Once you understand them, it’s easy to make them behave.” – Littlefinger

Lord Petyr “Littlefinger” Baelish starts the series as King Robert’s Master of Coin (the royal treasurer). While this position earns him little respect in a kingdom where bloodlines and battle glories are valued over financial savvy, it allows him to engage in plenty of self-serving schemes and plots, right under the royal nose.

Rather than simply counting the King’s coins to spend on wine, women and song, Littlefinger takes an active role in managing the kingdom’s wealth: investing it here, withdrawing it there, and finding ways to keep the kingdom afloat.

Instead of locking your own money up in a vault (or bank account), consider looking for ways to increase your wealth. Depositing some of your money into a savings account or term deposit can allow you to earn interest, and there are many other investment options available to think about.

Watch your spending and borrowing

Bronn: I’ve never borrowed money before. I’m not clear on the rules.

Tyrion: Well, the basic principle is, I lend you money, and after an agreed upon period of time, you return it, with interest.

Bronn: And what if I don’t?

Tyrion: Well, you have to.

Bronn: Well, what if I don’t?

Tyrion: This is why I don’t lend you money.

When Tyrion Lannister later takes over Littlefinger’s position as Master of Coin, he discovers the truth – rather than getting the crown’s money from investments, or even stealing it, Littlefinger’s been borrowing it. And between financing the late King Robert’s extravagant lifestyle, waging the War of Five Kings, and paying for King Joffrey’s upcoming wedding, the Iron Throne is now millions in debt.

Every loan is a risk, so try to borrow money carefully, and consider what benefits it may bring you. For example, borrowing money to buy a home or a car can cost a lot in interest and fees, but you’ll own an asset that’s valuable (e.g. a home or investment property) and/or useful (e.g. your own set of wheels). But borrowing to pay for one-off luxuries or unplanned expenses (e.g. weddings with 77-course feasts) could risk leaving you trapped in debt, without much to show for it, as your interest charges build up.

Always pay your debts

“A common saying, but not their official motto.” – Maester Luwin

The unofficial Lannister words can be a promise, a sinister threat, or both. Tyrion Lannister goes out of his way to repay kindnesses done to him, such as tossing his coin purse to Mord the jailer at the Eyrie, or offering to double any competing offer for Bronn’s sellsword services. Cersei Lannister never forgets a slight against her, and repays them with everything from barbed putdowns to bloody (and explosive) murder.  

If you want to save money, it’s often wise to try and pay your own debts as quickly as you can afford. The longer you owe a debt, the more you’ll be charged in interest, and the more your loan will ultimately cost you. Making extra repayments can help reduce your loan principal, shrinking your interest charges and bringing you closer to making an early exit from your loan.  

The Iron Bank will have its due

“Across the Narrow Sea, your books are filled with words like “usurper” and “madman” and “blood right.” Here, our books are filled with numbers. We prefer the stories they tell. More plain. Less… open to interpretation.” – Tycho Nestoris of the Iron Bank of Braavos

When grumpy grammar nerd Stannis Baratheon started planning his second attempt to seize the Iron Throne, he applied for a loan from the Iron Bank of Braavos to pay for his war. However, the bankers turned him down, pointing out the odds of victory weren’t in his favour. It took an earnest speech from Ser Davos “Onion Knight” Seaworth vouching for Stannis’ personal integrity and pointing out the unreliability of the Lannisters, who presently held the throne and owed substantial debts to the Iron Bank, to bring them around.

A similar process takes place whenever you apply for a loan at a modern bank, with a few key differences. Rather than counting your troops and provisions, lenders will look at your current income, assets and other debts to work out if you can comfortably afford to repay this new loan. They’ll also conduct a credit check, looking at your history of borrowing and repaying money to determine if you’re financially responsible. If the bank thinks you can’t afford a loan, or if the risk that you’ll default on your repayments is too high, they may reject your application.

But just like Stannis, you may still be able to get a loan with just a little help – not from a straight-talking ex-smuggler, but from a guarantor. This is typically a family member who agrees to take on your debt if you’re unable to afford it – for example, if a first home buyer can’t afford a large deposit, their parents can use their equity in the family home to guarantee the new loan. This is a big responsibility, so make sure any potential guarantor is aware of the risks involved.

Winter is coming

Tyrion: I’m a bit short on castles at the moment, but I can offer you gold and gratitude.

Bronn: I have gold. What can I buy with gratitude?

After King Tommen’s coronation, house patriarch Tywin Lannister drops a bombshell to his daughter Cersei – the family’s famous gold mines (their only source of income) have been dry for years. Effectively bankrupt and faced with an uncertain future, all of Tywin’s deft political manoeuvring in recent years has been to put his family in a better position for the lean years to come.

It’s worth remembering that financial hardship can strike at any time. You could lose your job, or have to pay for major car repairs or medical bills. It’s sensible to have a backup plan in place in case calamity strikes, such as keeping some money in a savings account for a rainy day.

Another option is to choose loans that offer flexible features, such as a redraw facility or offset account. If you’ve been making extra repayments towards a loan to help lower your interest charges, you may be able to “redraw” this extra money if you need it back in your pocket in a pinch. Money in an offset account can also help reduce your interest charges, and can be quickly transferred to wherever it’s needed most.

Always read the terms and conditions

“The Dothraki don’t believe in money.” – Ser Jorah Mormont

When Viserys Targaryen arranged the marriage of his sister Daenerys to Khal Drogo, he believed he was making a simple exchange – Drogo gets a queen (rather, a Khaleesi), and Viserys gets an army of Dothraki warriors to reconquer the Seven Kingdoms. Unfortunately, he didn’t know that Dothraki economics is less about transactions and obligations than it is about gifts and plunder. And when Drogo eventually offered him the golden crown he wanted, it was not at all what he expected…

While modern financial matters don’t involve gruesome murder, it’s still important to understand exactly what any transaction involves before making an application or signing an agreement. The cheapest deal isn’t always the best deal, and knowing the potential risks and rewards can help give you a better idea of whether a loan or other financial product is ultimately suited to your situation.     

Rise again, harder and stronger

“Some at the Iron Bank will be disappointed. They’ve grown rather fond of your interest payments.” – Tycho Nestoris 

The freshly-crowned Queen Cersei Lannister came up with a novel solution for her ongoing debt problems – invading the rich Tyrell lands and sacking their seat of Highgarden. When offering to repay the Iron Bank with the looted gold, Queen Cersei discussed taking out a new loan to fund her war against Daenerys Targaryen, which the banker was happy to offer.

While theft and murder is not an acceptable solution to debt problems, refinancing a loan may be worth considering if your financial position improves. For example, many first home buyers can only afford a small home loan deposit, meaning their mortgages are rarely the most affordable options available. But after a few years of paying their home loan and building up equity, they may become able to refinance to a loan that offers lower interest rates, cheaper fees, or features and benefits that are better suited to their needs.

Valar morghulis.

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Learn more about bank accounts

Can you open another account at the same bank?

Yes, you can open another account at the same bank if you already have an account there, but some banks place a limit on how many specific accounts you can open.

Generally, though, it is possible to have more than one everyday account, one personal account and one joint account, or have different types of accounts – such as a transaction account and a savings account.

Keep in mind that some bank accounts come with fees, so you could be charged twice for having two types of the same account at the same bank.

Also, if you have more than one high-interest transaction account at the same bank, only one account will be able to earn the highest rate of interest.

Can foreigners open bank accounts in Australia?

Many Australian lenders allow foreigners to open bank accounts in Australia. Often, this can be done before you arrive in the country – with no Australian address required. When you get to Australia, you can pick up your debit card, using your passport as identification.

Can you find your bank account number online?

If your bank offers online services, you should be able to find your bank account number online by logging into your account on your bank’s website and checking your details there.

Keep in mind that each type of account you have with a bank comes with a unique account number. This means if you have a bank account as well as a savings account, for example, your bank account number and your savings account number will be different.

If you don’t have access to your bank account online or can’t login, you should be able to find your account number on a mailed bank statement, if you have one.

Alternatively, you can call your bank’s customer service number or visit a branch to retrieve your account number.

How can I find bank accounts in my name?

To find ‘live’ bank accounts in your name, you’ll have to ask individual lenders, which involves contacting them one by one and proving your identity each time. To find ‘unclaimed’ bank accounts (those that have been inactive for at least seven years), you can use this website.

How do I open a bank account for a child?

There are few better ways for a child to learn about money management than through savings. And there’s a plethora of bank accounts designed specifically for young people and children.

A bank account for a child can be opened online, over the phone or in a branch in a few easy steps. The minimum age a child can open a bank account for themselves usually ranges between 12 and 14.

If the child is too young to open the account, you can do it for them as their legal parent or guardian. 

To do this, you would need to be over 18, have an Australian residential address and currently reside in Australia (or have proof of residency).

You would also need to provide:

  • Identification for yourself and the child
  • Your tax file number (TFN) or TFN exemption

Depending on the bank account, you might be able to choose what level of access the child has to their bank account (online and via the phone).

How can I wire money to a bank account?

You can wire money to an Australian bank account either through your own bank or by using a money transfer company such as Western Union or MoneyGram. Either way, you’ll need the other person’s name, BSB number and account number. If you use a money transfer company, you might also need to provide the recipient’s address for large payments.

Can I close my bank account over the phone?

In most cases, you can close a personal or business bank account over the phone. In fact, this is the best way to ensure you’ve closed an account properly.

By speaking to a banking representative, you can capture and close out any pending transactions, or interest owing/payable on the account being closed.

In the instance where the account is a joint account, or you have multiple bank accounts you want to close, your bank may send you a form that you need to fill out and return.

Either way, you would be advised over the phone of the steps you need to take. Calling your bank ahead of closing an account is often a smart course of action.

Can I open a bank account in another country?

Despite having a bad rap for facilitating tax evasion, it is possible and legal to open a bank account in another country, also known as an ‘offshore account’.

Some people choose to open a bank account in another country to invest overseas, for higher interest-earning potential or to access foreign banking services.

The process for opening an offshore bank account differs depending on the financial institution and country in which you’re opening the account.

Typically, you will need to provide identification such as a passport, a local bank statement and a signed declaration proving the source of the money being used to open your account. Usually, deposits into offshore accounts can be made by international money transfer.

How do I close a bank account?

Closing a bank account is one of those tasks that’s easy to put in the too-hard basket. There are quite a few steps involved, some which may require you to hang on the phone for a while.  

Here’s a handy checklist of items to tick off, so the job gets done quicker. If you don’t do your banking online, the following steps can also be done at a branch.   

  • Cancel any scheduled or recurring payments
  • Update your direct debit details (such as loan repayments) with creditors
  • Export your payee address book (to keep a record of saved third-party bank account details)
  • Transfer the balance of your account (to the new bank account)
  • Close your account online, or by calling the bank or visiting a branch

How do I open a bank account for a baby?

If you’ve just welcome a new baby into the world, congratulations. Opening a bank account for your child can be a wonderful first gift.

Before you can open your child an account, you’ll need to have a birth certificate or passport for your baby.

As the parent or guardian, you’ll also be listed as a joint holder on the account. This means you’ll need to have proof of your identification and address (a driver’s licence, passport, birth certificate or Medicare Card).

Many banks and credit unions offer baby banks accounts. Usually, you can apply online; otherwise you can head into a local branch or office with your documents.

Do I need to open a business bank account?

Just because you’re in business doesn’t necessarily mean you need a business bank account. You could be a sole trader not registered for GST, and use your personal bank account for business.

If you do want a business account, there are plenty of benefits attached to business transaction and savings accounts, as well as business term deposits.

There are business bank accounts designed for businesses with a high volume of transactions, and those for start-ups with a small amount of trade. You could also include an EFTPOS service with your account.

Some business bank accounts charge for the number of transactions per month, while others offer a pay-as-you-go fee structure, where you only pay fees for transactions you make.

It’s up to you whether your priority is mainly transactions, or earning the maximum amount of interest on your principal. There’s a business banking solution for you if you need one.

Can a debt collector garnish my bank account?

A debt collector can garnish your bank account, but only with a court order. This drastic action is usually taken only if you’ve ignored several notices asking you to pay the debt.

If this happens, there is nothing you can do to stop it other than immediately pay back your what you owe in full or make arrangements to pay it off in installments.

Once a garnishee order is issued, your bank will put a freeze on your account as it processes the order. This usually takes two to three days and you won’t be able to access any of your money during this time.

If you have Centrelink payments, they may be protected, depending on what the court order says.

Are bank accounts frozen when someone dies?

Yes, Australian bank accounts are frozen when someone dies. If you want to close the account of somebody who has died, you might have to provide proof of death and a copy of the will. You might also have to prove your relationship to the deceased person.

If you have a joint bank account with somebody who has died, you will generally be entitled to all the money in the account. Again, you might have to provide proof of death if you want to change the bank account from a joint account to a one-person account.

Can I start a bank account online?

Yes, most lenders that operate in Australia will let you set up a bank account online. The process is usually simple and takes five to 10 minutes. You will probably need to provide a passport or birth certificate, as well as a driver’s licence, Medicare card or another form of secondary identification. Requirements differ from lender to lender, so some institutions might ask for more or different forms of ID.