What House of Cards Teaches Us About Money

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House of Cards

Unless you’ve been living under a rock the past few weeks, you know that Netflix released season two of its popular drama, House of Cards, on Valentine’s Day. We were late to the game with season one, watching it late last year, and were eagerly anticipating the newest season of House of Cards. As an aside, if you are a House of Cards fan and have not seen the entire season I will not be sharing any spoilers so you can rest assured that it’s ok to read on and not get the dirt on the new season. 🙂

I’m quite certain that the viewership numbers for the new season of House of Cards has been through the roof. As I write this post, we only have the final two episodes to watch and I didn’t want to research it out of fear that I might catch a spoiler. 😉 That’s also not to mention the fact that I’ve read that Netflix doesn’t even publicly share viewership numbers anyway.

Anyhoo…if you’ve not seen the series it’s essentially based around the political scene in D.C. and the dark, seedy underbelly that goes with it. That’s putting it lightly too and the show really, on many levels, goes on to show how no one is immune from the ill effects of dirty politics and how much of it is built on, well, a House of Cards. Notice what I did there?! 😉 As we’re near the end of the season, yea I’m one of those people who chose not to control himself but binge watch the season I’ve also seen how much of what we see in House of Cards can also be applied to our financial lives. I know, I guess I just can’t turn off my PF radar. 😉

Money Lessons From House of Cards


There is only so much you can control: All too often, we try and control everything – I know that I’ve fallen into that thinking in the past. Focus on what you can control, like how much you’re saving, educating yourself and cutting your expenses. Thinking you can control what goes on in the stock market is like thinking a politician can be depended on…it ain’t going to happen!

Always be prepared: As happened in House of Cards, you never know when something is going to go sideways and you need to be prepared to handle the fallout from it. The obvious money lesson from this is having some sort of emergency fund. I don’t really care how much you have in it, ok I do, but you get my point. Start small and help it grow as you never know when you’ll need to tap it.

Have a backup plan: Just like a Lannister always pays his debts, a good politician is going to have a backup plan. It may be thought up on the fly, but the point is to have one. This may not fit perfectly with finances, but it does if you’re considering starting your own business. Not having a backup plan will only expose you to too much risk that may come back to bite you in the end.

Hedge your bets: Frank Underwood is a pro at doing this in my opinion. He’s always playing angles to make sure he puts himself in the best position possible. Admittedly, the hedging in House of Cards is nearly always on the nefarious side, but it can be turned on its side. Hedging can be done in a number of ways, but really comes down to investing and making sure you’re balancing your risk so you can still manage to come out ahead.

Know when to walk away: Just as Frank Underwood absolutely hates to lose, he also seems to know when to walk away. There are times in our financial lives that we simply have to walk away from something because it’d be foolish to do otherwise. Whether it means walking away from a stock that will just not gain back what it has lost or knowing when to give up a side hustle, it’s the wise ones who know when to walk away.

Make good alliances: Many in House of Cards are forming relationships based on what they can get out of it. I mean, after all, it is a show based on Washington politics! 😉 In regards to our money, I don’t think that we should be self-serving, but rather, looking for ways to breathe some altruism into our relationships. Surround yourself with wise financial minds and both are likely to benefit as opposed to being just a one way street.

Do you have a blind spot?: There was a lot of talk about blind spots in both seasons of House of Cards and believe that we can have them financially as well. Are you killing it with your investments, but watching money go out the window each month due to unwise spending? Are you a budgeting god but still carrying a balance on your credit cards? We all have blind spots and it’s those who recognize them that get ahead.

As you can tell, I really enjoy House of Cards and will likely watch it again in the future to pick up on some of the things I missed. I just want to know now, can I justify the hours I’ve watched it this week as research for the blog? 😉 If not, I guess at least it shows I’m always looking for new ways to think about money. 😉


Have you watched the second season of House of Cards yet? What is your financial blind spot? Do you have anything fun planned for the weekend?


Photo courtesy of: anntinomy

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John is the founder of Frugal Rules, a dad, husband and veteran of the financial services industry whose writing has been featured in Forbes, CNBC, Yahoo Finance and more.

Passionate about helping people learn from his mistakes, John shares financial tools and tips to help you enjoy the freedom that comes from living frugally. One of his favorite tools is Personal Capital , which he used to plan for retirement and keep track of his finances in less than 15 minutes each month.

Another one of John's passions is helping people save $80 per month by axing their expensive cable subscriptions and replacing them with more affordable ones, like Hulu with Live TV.


  • Ok, I’m embarrassed to admit this, but I’ve never even heard of this show!! I know – shame!! Sounds like a good one, though. I think we’re doing pretty good as far as blind spots right now, we’re just in that waiting game period. We’re keeping it cool this weekend – Rick had to work the last two weekend, so we’ll be enjoying some down time this weekend. 🙂 Have a great one, John!

  • Haven’t watched the second season yet, but my husband is OBSESSED.

  • Pauline says:

    Sounds like a cool series. I don’t want to watch new ones as I spend too much time on TV already but I’ll put it on the list for when I run low 🙂

  • I have not watched House of Cards season 2 yet – I haven’t watched Season 1 even! I used to be pretty into politics in the past so it sounds like a show that I would enjoy. I got NetFlix last month then forgot to cancel within 30 days so I have it for another month, but probably will cancel before end of February. It sounds like there are some good takeaways from the show, though. I think the hardest thing for anyone is knowing when to walk away. It’s so easy to stick with a job/investment/situation that you know is not ideal.

    This weekend our friend was going to bring her dog down (she lives a couple hours away) and let us watch her for a while. We *likely* will adopt her dog as it’s a good dog for people who have allergies and our friend is moving to Japan for five years starting in August. We are going to delay that for another weekend, though, as our cat is just now recovering (I thought Wednesday night would be her last night). Having the dog around might stress her out and that’s the last thing she needs right now.

    Hope you have a good weekend!

    • John says:

      Oh, I definitely think that you’d enjoy the show DC. There’s so much in it and especially since you enjoy politics I think it’d be right up your alley.

      So sorry about your cat, I can’t imagine watching a pet go through something like that and can completely understand not wanting to put that stress on her. Have a great weekend DC!

  • I finished the entire second season within 48 hours of it being released. I’m not proud, it was just that good. Enjoy the finale!

  • We are waiting until after the Olympics to start the second season. House of Cards and Scandal were two of my favorite shows from last year, but there is so much wrong there that it almost makes me sad to say that!

  • I watched a few of the first season, but my wife didn’t like it, so I have to wait until she is not around in order to catch it. I think it is a good show and thanks for showing the lessons that it teaches.

  • I love this show! Kevin Spacey is so good in this he really deserves the Emmy and the Golden Globe. I’m on episode 5 season 2. The Olympics have gotten in my way of watching it faster but my husband likes to take his time watching it so it works out.

  • Adam Kamerer says:

    I’ve heard so many good things about this show, but haven’t watched it. I need to do that before our Netflix trial runs out. (Now is only Comcast would let us watch without buffering the shows every 5 minutes.)

    • John says:

      It is really good Adam! Each episode is so jam packed that it can be a little hard to take in. I’ve heard about that issue with Comcast, thankful we don’t have them here.

  • I’ve heard good things about the show but haven’t had a chance to get caught up. That’s the good and bad part of Netflix. You can binge watch but it’s also easy to keep putting off starting a series, especially when you hear how obsessed everyone is over it. I don’t want to try to fit in binge watching into my life too! LOL! Have a great weekend!

    • John says:

      I agree, that is the good and bad part of Netflix. Thankfully it’s a short series as it was difficult enough to fit in 13 episodes in and of itself. 😉 Have a good weekend as well Shannon!

  • I LOVE this post!!!! I have not watched House of Cards yet, but my mother in law is obsessed with it and I made her give me a synopsis when she was here last week. And I think that just like the blind spots on the show, financial blind spots could bring you down. For me, I had a bunch of tiny blind spots like too many trips to Starbucks that added up to a big blind spot. Now that I have improved my financial vision to 20/20, I don’t miss them. As far as my weekend, I will be heading to Philly to celebrate my son’s birthday for the 5th time in three weeks (gotta love big extended families). 🙂

    • John says:

      Thanks Shannon! I definitely recommend it. Those small ones can really add up if you’re not careful. Sounds like a fun weekend, we have had the same thing happen as well. And, hey, that’s less presents you have to buy. 😉

  • I have 2 more shows to go in season 2, so I appreciate that you didn’t spoil anything 😉

    My financial blind spots are my career-related expenses, and expenses for my side hustle. I’m always telling myself that they’re tax-deductible, so I feel less bad about spending the money, but that doesn’t make it free! Just a 25% discount. Still, I have no idea how to budget for these expenses because they just “come up,” and then the next month I wonder why my credit card bill is so high 🙁

    • John says:

      Not a problem, I wouldn’t do that at all.

      Ah, that’s a good one! It’s so easy to fall prey to that and then you try and rationalize it with the deduction thinking and really, that doesn’t help in the long run.

  • Hope says:

    Hi John, I spent a couple hours finishing up season 2 of House of Cards at 3am this morning. All I’ll say is that it was worth staying up for. It’s such a dark show.

    Great post–my goal is to build my emergency fund up to a point where I have expenses covered for 12 months. I have 4 months saved and I’m totally motivated to keep saving. I never want to be this vulnerable in an economic downturn again, so it’s as much for my peace of mind as for actually needing the money in the future.

    The blind spot I have is not taking advantage of more earning opportunities. I have to make myself more available in the job market, and for some reason I keep missing the boat! I’m good at saving and spending wisely, which is great, but increasing my income is my big goal for this year.


    • John says:

      Sounds like we were Hope – we were up pretty late a couple of nights last week because you just can’t stop watching it!

      That’s a solid goal to have, we’re on our way to 12 months and having a 4 month start is awesome!

      That can definitely be a tricky one, especially while trying to be in the right place at the right time. Best of luck on your goal this year and thanks for stopping by!

  • I’ve never seen the show, but maybe we’ll give it a whirl on Netflix. Thanks for the recommendation.

    I like your last point, about having a blind spot. Mine is for opportunity costs. I’m pretty debt averse, and don’t often consider the opportunity costs of my financial decisions. We still carry a ton in cash (albeit for a rental property purchase), but rarely do we really think about the gains we miss from doing so.

    • John says:

      I would definitely recommend it, it’s hard to stop watching it.

      That is a good one. We’re sitting on a pretty big cash pile ourselves, though we’ve moved towards putting more in the market as we don’t want to miss out on anything. I can imagine it would be difficult to balance when involved in real estate investing.

  • You did an EXCELLENT job of coming up with lessons we can all learn from House of Cards. My husband and I just got the Netflix free trial going and started watching Season One and are on episode 11. All sorts of hell is breaking lose and I can only imagine what’s going to happen next. My favorite lesson you point out is to watch out for those blind spots. YES we all have them and the sooner we become aware of the the better. Mine is that I love to travel and if I splurge anywhere it is there so I have to watch myself! Thanks for these reminders. I’m looking forward to seeing what happens with HOC.

    • John says:

      Thanks Kathy! Glad to hear you’re liking it and if you’re enjoying it now then put your seat belt on for Season Two as it’s even better. Could not agree more, the sooner you recognize them the better.

  • Deacon Hayes says:

    What a great post John! My wife and I love House of Cards and just started watching the second season on Monday. We are trying to limit it to one episode at a time so that we don’t binge watch and then have to wait another year for the next season 🙂

    • John says:

      Thanks much Deacon! I think that’s what my wife wanted to do, but I couldn’t wait. 🙂 I think we’ll have to re-watch it at some point before next season.

  • NZ Muse says:

    Haha nice one. I’m kinda over Underwood’s political manuevering, don’t really care anymore but I am OBSESSED with Claire – she’s the reason I keep watching.

  • I had to click on this because I’m watching it right now. Hedging your bets is definitely important. I thought you were going to talk about the relationship between power and money as it’s represented on the show.
    The tact you took was better, and relevant to way more people.

  • We’re also OBSESSED with the show – I can’t ever make up my mind if I’m more like Frank or Claire 🙂
    But I love the Strategic Alliances in the show and real partnership between Frank and Claire. Spouses should be allies in the best sense, you cover each other’s tracks and when push comes to shove, well you both shove back 🙂 LOVE this post!

    • John says:

      “I can’t ever make up my mind if I’m more like Frank or Claire” – I know! That is an interesting question I think. They’re both so alike, but also very unique in their own ways but still have the same goal of putting themselves where they want at pretty much any cost.

      Thanks! 🙂

  • Ikonz says:

    Frank underwood is amazing and hedging his outcomes. He always seems to be looking 20 steps ahead, always looking to influence the outcome.

    It makes me wonder how much money Netflix is making from the production of a subscriotion-only series. A very innovative new TV format.

    • John says:

      I agree, he always does seem that way. It’s probably much of why he always seems to be getting what he wants. 😉

      I’ve wondered that myself and I’m sure they’re somehow making a solid chunk of cash from it.

  • I loved this idea. House of Cards is seriously amazing, and it was great seeing notions and themes from it adapted to personal finance. Knowing when to walk away (from debt) and blind spots were my favorites. I think the notion of blind spots in personal finance is something everyone should consider, as it’s much easier to overlook something in your budget than it would be if you were to deconstruct another person’s.

  • This is a great show!! I agree there is a lot to learn from business in this show. Just the ambition Frank Underwood shows in the show is inspiring to pursue.

  • I think I may be the only person on the face of the planet right now who hasn’t seen one episode of House of Cards. It’s such a popular show and everyone at work talks about it all the time. I’m missing out, evidently! It’s nice to see that there are underlying money lessons in the show.

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