A bit of ducking and diving, and you’ll Scrooge your way to a million

DuckTales (1990)

It turns you quite obsessive, the pursuit of money. Any single purchase I make, whether large or small, has me thinking about what impact it’ll have on my bank account – the fact that there might be a week, a day or even an hour when my numbers don’t go up, that’s the kind of thing that wakes me up in the middle of the night. I work far too hard bringing those numbers up, so to witness them going down, it doesn’t sit right with me at all. I’d say we went badly wrong when we invented money, because all it’s ever caused me is great concern and stress.

I hate spending money, and people tend to react with repulsion when I say that, especially women. It’s counterproductive in every sense of the word. I’m a frugal guy, perhaps far too frugal. And you know, when it comes down to it, I spend money on the things that you shouldn’t spend money on. Usually it’s alcohol or junk food, or video games I’ll never play. Not exactly the essentials in life. Well, the ‘essentials of life’  depends on your mindset, doesn’t it?

This year, I did a dangerous thing – I sat down and learned about money and finance. It was in this endeavour that I learned about the folly of keeping money in a current account to save it. You see, just having it rest in there may seem safe and untouchable, but it is actually costing you money.

Your bank balance is just rotting away in there, because as each day passes, the money in your account is actually worth less and less. Whatever meagre interest the bank give you, if anything, will never keep up with inflation. In fact, it’ll never keep up with any other kind of taxes, interest rates or levies that you may fall victim to.

It was at this point that I learned all about compound interest being the eighth wonder of the world. That was an Einstein quote, allegedly. So if you ever have any compunction about investing, or getting involved in anything really, there’s always some quote out there from Einstein that gives you all the assurance you need. As if Einstein himself was some kind of expert financial analyst.

Well, if a quote from him is to be believed, even he doesn’t quite understand the power of compound interest. He just tells us that those who do understand it, earn from it – but those who don’t understand it are doomed to pay it. I really don’t like to be duped into paying anything. Anytime I go to a restaurant with the missus, it’s not so bad. I know I’m already doomed to spend money, but that’s inevitable, and you have to accept it. That’s what we economists call a sunk cost. What can you do about it, except cry about it and have a drink?

To arm myself against the evil agents of compound interest, I decided to learn all about stocks, shares, options, bonds and ETFs. It was ETFs that I decided to get involved in, as they seemed to be a nice, safe way of dipping one’s toes in – and I so hate gambling.

If you’re giving me a low risk, fairly low reward method of making money, then great. I’d be all over that. I sunk a not insignificant amount of dosh on the ETFs, and let the weeks turn into months. I’m not totally oblivious, I know that they’re more like ten-year investments, but I’m too pernickety and fastidious for that. Well, months later, they’ve barely bloody moved.

That’s not much use, is it? Well, at least my investment portfolio, which sounds awfully grown up, can no longer fall prey to the banks. God, if I left my money with them, they’d only try to hit me with made-up charges, as if we didn’t bail them out of big trouble ten years ago. All I want is a bit more money than I can spend, that’s all.

Alright, that’s a big fat lie. What I really want is the same thing as Scrooge McDuck had: an enormous pool of money that he can jump into and swim around in every morning, or any other time he wants to feel the fibre of his own fabric. He’s not just a feeble moneyman, is he? I don’t know how he’s able to jump into a load of gold coins and not have it hurt him, even a tiny bit. I guess he just loves money that much.

And I can still get to his level, you know, Scrooge is a pretty old guy. Never mind nephews, like Donald Duck – he’s old enough to have grandnephews. And perhaps we wasn’t always rich? Although don’t they say you have to spend money to make money? Truth be told, I wasn’t sure what to believe, so I decided to watch some classic DuckTales for research.

There was a DuckTales cartoon in 1987, and I’ll point out that that’s the same year Wall Street came out. They also did a revival of the cartoon in 2007, and both of these iterations brought an accompanying video game. That meant, of course, a DuckTales game for your NES, which had a HD remaster twenty years later. I’m surprised they were able to do that reboot at all, actually. I would have thought Scrooge McDuck would be quite problematic nowadays. After all, we all know Scottish people are tight, but we can’t come right out and say it.

Still, I’m only jesting about Scotland because it’s a very nice place to visit. Anyway, Scrooge had a nice Scots accent actually, it certainly wasn’t impossible to understand. You will have seen Trainspotting of course, and struggled desperately. You may have even read the book, which is another challenge all over again. A word of advice if you visit Scotland, though: do not go to Greggs. That’s a place you must avoid at all costs, despite what the locals tell you. There’s plenty of boozers you can go to instead, naturally.

Glasgow has a million curry houses, while Edinburgh Castle and the Camera Obscura and House of Illusions are definitely worth a visit. Overall, it’s a lovely place to go, with wonderful people who understand a bit of craic. I highly recommend Scotland.

But old Scrooge himself doesn’t spend much time in Edinburgh, or Glasgow, or Dundee for that matter. He and his grand nephews, Huey, Dewey and Louie, take trips to all kinds of exotic locales around the world. Scrooge undertakes these trips in his capacity as – and I love this – an ‘adventure capitalist’.

The wily old duck is always thinking, you know, and that’s what top money getters do. Always thinking, always earning, always on the lookout for an edge, always a step ahead. He’s a canny canard, whose teachings every ambitious man ought to follow.

His wanderlust translates into the Capcom NES game, by giving you several levels to visit in whatever order you like. That will remind you of Mega Man at once, and this game was made at a time when Capcom were really in their 8-bit stride. Scrooge even has enough capital tucked away in his vault to pay a visit to the Moon, and the Moon Theme is probably one of the great tunes of this classic era. The melody has become almost more famous than the game itself.

And the actual game, for what it is, is okay. It’s almost a little bit like Metroidvania, which has become quite an overused genre of late. But it’s one of those platforming games where you’ll dip in and out of the individual levels, as you garner new abilities. Scrooge attacks enemies by bouncing off their heads, pogo-stick style with his cane. He’s got a pretty odd way of doing things. Classy, but odd.

The gameplay is not even that satisfying, to be honest with you, I wouldn’t have held DuckTales up as an all-time great cartoon, and the game is properly not one for the ages, either. Capcom had plenty of joy with Disney characters, of course, but they probably saved their best for the likes of Aladdin on SNES.

DuckTales has never threatened to be a classic, although I do love the idea of Scrooge as a character. I once read a fun study into how much money he likely has, and it was an entirely new number – his wealth is in the impossidillions. Well, if he’s got any kind of advice for me on the stock markets, or how to make my ETFs go from moribund to ferocious, then he’s free to let me know.

That won’t cost him a copper coin, that. I’d ask him about Bitcoin as well, but then I’ll have absolutely no idea what he says, and it won’t be because of his accent. But what if Scrooge steers me wrong, to protect his own investments? Forget him – I was more used to shooting ducks on NES anyway.

21 May 2021

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