11 Personal Finance Lessons I Learned from Taylor Swift

Photo by Raphael Lovaski on Unsplash

These clues from her songs have never been solved before.

Taylor Swift may not be the most adored artist of all time, but she sure is one of the most successful — the woman knows how to make money and keep it. Have her songs being giving us secret personal finance lessons all this time?

I scoured through each of her albums (all 8 of them), and here are some Easter eggs that certainly were meant to give you financial advice — but we’ve simply been too busy linking them to her boyfriends instead:

1. This is Why We Can’t Have Nice Things

Album: Reputation (2017)

It was so nice throwing big parties
Jump into the pool from the balcony
Everyone swimming in a champagne sea
And there are no rules when you show up here
Bass beat rattling the chandelier
Feeling so Gatsby for that whole year

So why’d you have to rain on my parade?
I’m shaking my head
I’m locking the gates

This is why we can’t have nice things, darling
Because you break them
I had to take them away

Secret message: Budget within your means

This is Miss Taylor Swift’s way of letting us know how important it is to keep within our budget. If we get all fancy and start emulating Gatsby, she’s going to take our ‘nice things’ away from us. Though she does admit that it’s fun for a while to ‘live with no rules’, it is important that we don’t forget our roots — and our budget!

2. Mine

Album: Speak Now (2010)

Flash forward and we’re taking on the world together,
And there’s a drawer of my things at your place.
You learn my secrets and you figure out why I’m guarded,
You say we’ll never make my parents’ mistakes.

But we got bills to pay,
We got nothing figured out,
When it was hard to take,
Yes, yes, this is what I thought about.

Secret message: Have an emergency fund

Amidst the story of the careless man’s careful daughter finding true love, lies this gem of how even eternal love can’t overcome the stress of overdue bills.

Maybe one of them lost their jobs or had a medical emergency. In any case, they were unable to pay their bills.

What do you think Taylor Swift wants to hint here? Yes, you’re right! This song truly is about the importance of having a well-funded Emergency Fund (3–6 months of expenses), to rescue your happily ever after.

3. I Knew You Were Trouble

Album: Red (2012)

Cause I knew you were trouble when you walked in
So shame on me now
Flew me to places I’d never been
‘Til you put me down, oh
I knew you were trouble when you walked in
So shame on me now
Flew me to places I’d never been
Now I’m lying on the cold hard ground

Secret message: Avoid credit card debt

Do you know what’s more dangerous than a ‘player’ boyfriend? Credit card debt.

We know it’s going to be trouble down the road, but it is just so tempting to enjoy it while it lasts. It will fly you places and buy you things that you cannot afford, just to leave you lying on the cold, hard ground with the 40% apar and a credit score in the double digits.

Shame on you, says Taylor.

4. Treacherous

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Photo by Mads Schmidt Rasmussen on Unsplash

Album: Red (2012)

I can’t decide if it’s a choice
Getting swept away
I hear the sound of my own voice
Asking you to stay
And all we are is skin and bone
Trained to get along
Forever going with the flow
But you’re friction

This slope is treacherous
This path is reckless
This slope is treacherous
I, I, I like it

Secret message: Do not pick stocks

You know when you hear the frantic whispered advice of your friend, or the subreddit on Wall Street bets, about the next big multi-bagger. The next Amazon/Apple/Google. You know you want to put the $500 you have saved up, and dream of becoming a millionaire in a year or two. Well, you are as likely to win the lottery than that happening.

Well, Taylor Swift knows it is well nigh impossible to pick stocks and wants you to avoid that treacherous slope. She knows it is easy to be swept away, and she’s telling you that it’s a choice you must make not to.

5. Wonderland

Album: 1989 (2014)

Flashing lights and we
Took a wrong turn and we
Fell down a rabbit hole

You held on tight to me
‘Cause nothing’s as it seems
And spinning out of control

Didn’t they tell us don’t rush into things?
Didn’t you flash your green eyes at me?
Haven’t you heard what becomes of curious minds?

Didn’t it all seem new and exciting?
I felt your arms twisting around me
I should have slept with one eye open at night

Secret message: If you can’t afford to lose the money, do not invest in speculative assets

Taylor Swift has captured the feeling of falling in love with the next big speculative investment with such aplomb in this deluxe song. Whether it is Dutch tulips of the 17th century, the gold mines of Transvaal, or the cryptocurrencies of today, it all seems so new and exciting, doesn’t it? But didn’t someone say, fools rush in where angels fear to tread?

Am I saying that no one has made money from such investments? No. But many more people have lost money than they have gained. What makes you think you are one of the lucky handful?

If you have extra money that you can afford to lose, go ahead and play. If not, better listen to Miss Swift, and sleep with one eye open.

6. I Know Places

Album: 1989(2014)

Cause they got the cages, they got the boxes
And guns
They are the hunters, we are the foxes
And we run

Baby, I know places we won’t be found
And they’ll be chasing their tails tryin’ to track us down
Cause I, I know places we can hide
I know places, I know places

Secret message: Tax planning is important

What do they say about death and taxes? Ya, they are the only certainties in life. Except when they aren’t. Or at least, when taxes aren’t.

There are certainly places where the taxman can’t find you. I know — I am one of the dreaded tax persons. And Taylor knows it too.

These are called tax-exempt vehicles. No other decision will give you a greater return on your investment than to smartly structure your savings into one of these, and avoid the 30% or more going directly to Uncle Sam.

7. I Forgot That You Existed

Album: Lover (2019)

I forgot that you existed
And I thought that it would kill me, but it didn’t
And it was so nice
So peaceful and quiet
I forgot that you existed
It isn’t love, it isn’t hate, it’s just indifference

Secret message: Systematic investments are the way to go

The best investment strategies are the ones you set and forget. If you depend on your self-control and discipline to actually put aside your savings, it’s never going to happen. After all, most of us (80%) fail in achieving our elevated New Year’s resolutions by mid-February.

It may be difficult to let go of that control over your money, and if you’re as dramatic as Taylor Swift, you think that it will kill you. But, as she discovered, not only did she live through it, but also discovered the peace and quiet that comes from a system that requires no involvement from you.

So, set up a monthly standing instruction to automatically deduct your savings amount from your account and shift it to investment. Soon, you’ll forget that the money even existed, leaving you with a sizeable retirement nest-egg when it’s time.

8. Daylight

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Photo by Federico Respini on Unsplash

Album: Lover (2019)

Luck of the draw only draws the unlucky
And so I became the butt of the joke
I wounded the good and I trusted the wicked
Clearing the air, I breathed in the smoke
Maybe you ran with the wolves and refused to settle down
Maybe I’ve stormed out of every single room in this town
Threw out our cloaks and our daggers because it’s morning now
It’s brighter now, now

I don’t wanna look at anything else now that I saw you
I don’t wanna think of anything else now that I thought of you
I’ve been sleeping so long in a twenty year dark night
And now I see daylight

Secret message: Invest in low-cost index funds

So many of us have been struggling with multiple investment choices, not knowing which is right and which isn’t. And somehow it seems that we are the only unlucky ones.

But it’s morning now. And the bright daylight (and a lot of research) has shown that the only good way to invest in equity is through a low-cost broad-based index fund. If you don’t trust my word, here’s Warren Buffet telling you the same thing.

Once you have discovered this beautifully simple investment strategy, you aren’t going to think or look at anything else. It’s all clear as daylight now.

9. Stay, Stay, Stay

Album: Red (2012)

You took the time to memorize me:
My fears, my hopes, and dreams.
I just like hangin’ out with you all the time.
All those times that you didn’t leave;
It’s been occurring to me I’d like to hang out with you for my whole life.

And I’ll be loving you for quite some time.
No one else is gonna love me, when I get mad, mad, mad.
So I think that it’s best if we both stay.

Secret message: Buy and hold your investments

The best investments are the ones you never sell.

But even if you do, give your investments some time to grow. The stock market is volatile — but only in the short term. Over the long term, it is one of a handful of asset classes that will almost certainly give you a positive return after inflation.

So, be like Taylor Swift. Hang out with your investments for quite some time, and Stay.

10. Should’ve Said No

Album: Taylor Swift (2006)

You say that you’d take it all back, given one chance
It was a moment of weakness and you said, “Yes.”

You should’ve said “No”, you should’ve gone home
You should’ve thought twice ‘fore you let it all go
You should’ve known that word
‘Bout what you did with her’d
Get back to me.
And I should’ve been there in the back of your mind
I shouldn’t be asking myself, “Why?”
You shouldn’t be begging for forgiveness at my feet…
You should’ve said “No”, baby, and you might still have me

Secret message: Do not panic sell your investments during market crashes

This is what so many investors felt in the aftermath of the 2008 market bloodbath. It is natural to panic when everyone is exiting the market, predicting the collapse of the world order.

It is also the single worst thing you could do to your investments. Those who stayed through the crash, or even bought more during it, are the ones whom history has crowned winners.

You should have said no.

11. Mean

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Photo by Ashley Jurius on Unsplash

Album: Speak Now (2010)

You, with your switching sides
And your wildfire lies and your humiliation
You have pointed out my flaws again
As if I don’t already see them
I walk with my head down
Trying to block you out ’cause I’ll never impress you
I just wanna feel okay again

Secret message: Stay away from those who guilt you for your financial situation

And ending with my favorite personal finance advice.

Somehow personal finance has become a ‘my way or the highway’ cult, with no room for individual situations.

It doesn’t have to be. Every person who is in any sort of financial trouble knows what has gone wrong and what they need to do. They do not need someone breathing down their neck berating them for their missteps.

Personal finance, while important, can be fun too! Just like spelling (Sorry, the Swiftie in me couldn’t resist).

So, that’s my interpretation of Taylor Swift’s songs, and I think I’m right. For so many years, we have assumed that she only writes about her exes, whereas all this while, she has been a savvy businesswoman trying to teach us how to be rich!

I have put together a handy little Personal Finance Crash Course e-book, covering everything from budgeting and investing, to retirement and goal planning. Click here to check it out, and thank you!

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