What 'Succession' can teach regular people about money



Elissa Suh

Elissa Suh

Senior Editor & Disability Insurance Expert

Elissa Suh is a senior editor and disability insurance expert at Policygenius, where she also covers wills, trusts, and advance planning. Her work has appeared in MarketWatch, CNBC, PBS, Inverse, The Philadelphia Inquirer, and more.

Published August 23, 2019 | 3 min read

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The fictional characters at the center of the HBO series “Succession” represent a darkly satirical portrait of how wealth corrupts and extreme wealth corrupts absolutely. The Roy family is extremely rich and powerful — casually throwing out trays of lobster, buying five luxury condos at a time, calling in a favor from the president, running for president — the list goes on. But there are still relatable money lessons to be learned from a family that has been described as a combination of those in “King Lear” and “Arrested Development.”

“Succession” season two resumes roughly 48 hours after the events of season one. After suffering a stroke, family patriarch Logan stubbornly refused to step down from his Waystar Royco. His son Kendall, the logical successor, gathered a team of outside investors who made a formal offer to buy Waystar, the first step before launching a bid for a hostile takeover.

Hold or sell?

The lord of the manor is set on keeping his spoils, but season two begins with Logan flirting with the idea of accepting the offer. He would walk away with $10 billion after selling the company, which includes its television and print news division as well as a line of cruise ships and amusement parks.

Most people don’t have a $10 billion media conglomerate to sell. But they likely have some shares of stock. Even if you don’t buy and trade individual stocks, which can be risky and difficult to profit from, you might own some investments through a retirement account, like a Roth individual retirement account, and wondered how long you should hold onto these shares.

What should we consider when deciding whether to hold or sell stocks?

  • End goals. How long you hold a stock depends on how fast you need the money. If you’re saving for retirement, which is far away, you should probably hold.

  • Risk tolerance. Greater risk has greater reward and vice versa. If you're a seasoned investor or a younger one, you might be able to afford having a greater risk tolerance.

What should we think less about?

  • Public opinion. The staged coup in “Succession” is a public relations nightmare for the fictional characters and their company. If you own stock in a company going through some trying slip-ups, it’s not a certain loss: It can still bounce back.

Unless the company has poor financial bearings to begin with, which happens to be the case with Waystar. That’s why it needs to...

Skim the fat

Or “find the extraneous Danish, the surfeitous stationery” as said by Tom, Logan's son-in-law. His objective, to “snuffle out the waste”, at the Fox News-esque network stems from both a personal dislike of its exec as well as professional obligation — the company is in debt and needs to get in financial shape to survive.

To that end, Logan orders the gutting of a Buzzfeed-esque start-up acquired last season. (Kendall fires the staffers after discovering their plan to unionize.)

Non-billionaires can also benefit from trimming the excess from their budgets. Even cutting out a subscription service or two can help free up some discretionary income.

Keep your day job

Unless you have an emergency fund. Logan’s only daughter Shiv is secretly offered the role of successor to the company. She accepts and the momentous surprise gives her the confidence (or arrogance) to quit her job working on the campaign of a socialist presidential hopeful.

Rather than play it safe, or at least play both sides, she puts all her eggs into the family basket.

Lucky for her, she can always fall back on her trust fund if it doesn’t work out. But for those of us who can't don’t have the bank of mom and dad as an option, make sure to have at least three to six months of living expenses saved up. It'll come in handy if your dream job falls through.

Image: Kean Collection