As the world mourns the one-year anniversary of the pop icon's death, Physician on FIRE reminds us of an often-overlooked part of Prince's legacy: the financial advice contained in his lyrics. Yes, amid the Diamonds and Pearls are pearls of financial wisdom.
I was working on a bathroom remodel in the basement one day not so long ago, listening to Hawaii’s New Music Alternative Star 101.9 via the magic of the internet, when the eerily majestic “Purple Rain” came on.
I knew something was amiss. This station’s idea of a throwback classic is spinning a tune from Sublime's 1996 self-titled album, and they never play pop music from the eighties. When the DJs came back on, they shared the news. Prince died.
Celebrity deaths don’t normally affect me much. At least the news doesn’t ever put a lump in my throat or make my eyes all glossy. But as the afternoon slot on the alt rock station became a Prince tribute, I got that lump with each classic hit they played. When my wife came home, I shared the news with her, stopping short as I found it strangely difficult to speak.
What can I say? I grew up with his songs, he was a musical genius, and apparently I’m kind of a sensitive guy.
The Top 5 Money Lessons from Prince:
1. Raspberry Beret (reached #2 in 1985)
“She wore a raspberry beret.” What kind of raspberry beret? “The kind you find in a secondhand store.” Good for her. What else did she wear? “If it was warm, she wasn’t wearing much more.” My kind of girl! The lesson to be gleaned here is that secondhand can be sexy. Designer outfits don’t make the girl, it’s what’s underneath that matters. Quoting Prince’s #1 hit Kiss from 1986, “You don’t have to be rich to be my girl”.
Where did Prince meet this lovely lass in the thrift store hat? He “was working part time in a five-and-dime”. Good for him. I doubt Mr. McGee paid him much more than minimum wage. Later in the song, Prince takes her on his bike (he was surely referring to a motorcycle, but I like to think it might have been a Schwinn or a Huffy) and they hook up in a barn “down by old man Johnson’s farm”. Can you just smell the hay? Yeah, that’s hot.
2. Thieves in the Temple (reached #6 in 1990)
“They don’t care where they kick / Just as long as they hurt you / There are thieves in the temple tonight.” When you have a good salary, you have a target on your back.
I’m not talking about ninjas shimmying up your castle’s corner tower. I’m talking about men and women in suits with a nice smile and a firm handshake. They may be commissioned salesman disguised as financial planners, or a distant relative asking for a “loan” for a business venture that’s pretty much a sure thing. Just say no. Protect yourself; there are thieves in the temple tonight.
3. Money Don’t Matter 2 Night (reached #23 in 1992)
“He never had respect for money it’s true / That’s why he never wins / That’s why he never has Enough" Respect your money. If you don’t you’ll never have enough. Prince had been preaching fiscal responsibility since 1992, when Dave Ramsey published his first book.
“Look here’s a cool investment / They’re tellin’ him he just can’t lose / So he goes off and tries to find a partner / but all he finds are users” Apparently Prince’s subject hasn’t heard of index funds. And so he gets used. Maybe one of these deals starts to look promising, but as the song goes “Just when u think u’ve got more than enough / That’s when it all up and flies away.” Brilliant!
4. Alphabet St. (reached #8 in 1998)
The lyrics here aren’t particularly inspiring, but I’ll borrow the line “Put the right letters together and make a better day”, and run with it.
Put the right letters together. How about IRA? LTCG. HELOC, S&P, and USD. VTSAX and VEMAX, whatcha think about that?
Without some basic knowledge, the world of personal finance can be a world of baffling acronyms, and you’ll have a tough time knowing who or what to believe. You don’t want to face a financial SNAFU, do you?
5. Little Red Corvette (reached #6 in 1983)
Even Mr. Lovesexy himself couldn’t keep up with this little red love machine, with her “pocket full of horses” and all. This song is all about a young woman living life in the fast lane.
What advice does The Artist have for her? “baby, you’re much too fast”. “Babe, you’ve got to slow down / Little Red Corvette / ‘Cause if you don’t / You’re gonna run your body right into the ground.”
Granted, her issues may have been described more in physical than financial terms, but we all know the young hotshot who is running his or her life right into the ground. The corvette metaphor completes the picture. Listen to Prince. If “you’re movin’ much too fast”, “you gotta slow down (got to slooooow down).”
Oh, and lastly “You need to find a love that’s gonna last”. Almost nothing sets you back more dramatically than a love that doesn’t last.
As Prince told us in the Arms of Orion, “In the heart of a sleepless moon, I’ll be with U 4ever.”
Glad to hear it. Thank U, Prince.