Can The Addams Family teach us how to be rich? As a kid, when I would watch reruns during the 1970s and 1980s of the 1960s TV series, The Addams Family, it was completely lost on me – until recently, in fact – that the Addams family was loaded. And I mean, like really rich, like Jeff Bezos rich. Granted, I should have figured that out. Whether on the classic TV series or in the movies that came later, or on Netflix’s excellent new series, Wednesday, Gomez and Morticia Addams never seemed to hold down a job, and they certainly seemed to make a good living. So I suppose I should have realized a long time ago that the Addamses were rich.
In fact, in 2007, Forbes estimated Gomez Addams’ wealth at $2 billion. And in 2008, Guinness World Records declared Mr. Addams as the fifth-richest TV character with a net worth of $8.2 billion. (That’s a little short-sighted, to not include Morticia Addams as being equally wealthy, however. If you watch The Addams Family, in some ways, the series, yes, definitely suggests that Gomez was the business owner in the household, as you would expect from a 1960s TV series, but watch enough episodes, and it becomes clear that Morticia was clearly a partner in Gomez’s business dealings. He leaned on her for advice, and she seems pretty involved in his empire.)
All of which begs the question: If you followed Gomez and Morticia Addams’ lead and channeled his business acumen and basically tried to emulate his success, could you, too, become a billionaire? Or at least a millionaire?
If you want to give it a try, here’s the path to riches, the Gomez and Morticia Addams way.
Today's "TV Lesson" Breakdown:
Diversify your investments
Yeah, it’s a boring piece of advice that you’ll hear repeatedly in personal finance articles. I’ve written half a gazillion articles over the course of my career suggesting that it’s important to diversify investments, because it is. And that’s exactly what Gomez and Morticia Addams does.
How did they diversify? In many ways...
Stocks. Gomez Addams invested in the stock market, as you would expect a billionaire to. Some of the companies he owned stock in, included Consolidated Fuzz, Consolidated Lint and National Dust. Those (fictional, at least back in the 1960s...) companies may not sound like they would be all that profitable, but my guess is that Gomez also had stock in vacuum cleaner and air filtration companies. He was no dummy.
The Addamses were business owners. Gomez and Morticia Addams were entrepreneurs, serial entrepreneurs who ran a number of companies – so if one went belly up, they had others they could depend on. And, of course, if they were all doing well, they had a lot of revenue streams flourishing at once.
Some of the many businesses owned by Gomez and Morticia that are mentioned on The Addams Family include their mango plantation in Brazil, Mangoes Incorporated, a crocodile farm in Mozambique called Crocodiles Unlimited, and Tapioca Limited, their tapioca mines at the top of Mount Everest. The Addamses also owned a company called Amalgamated Swamp and a buzzard farm. In the episode “Pugsley’s Allowance,” it was even suggested that Gomez and Morticia owned a shipping company and possibly a business that was in competition with NASA.
The Addamses, in short, were well-to-do and then some. And their companies were all over the world, mostly in Africa and Asia, according to “The Addams Policy” episode. But given that they had a Brazilian mango plantation, it's pretty safe to say that they had companies just about everywhere.
The mango plantation, which was mentioned in at least two episodes, was near a “charming colony of cannibals,” according to Morticia Addams (Carolyn Jones), who, along with Gomez, was trying to interest a Mr. Digby (Eddie Quillan).
When Mr. Digby mutters, “Cannibals,” Gomez reassures him, “Well, they’re really nice fellas once you get to know them. They keep inviting us over for lunch.”
“As dessert,” Gomez says.
Morticia doesn’t want Mr. Digby to worry, however, about the idea of working next to cannibalistic neighbors. “There’s a real opportunity there for a go-getter,” she says.
“Job of superintendent is wide open,” Gomez says.
“What happened to the last one? Dessert?” Mr. Digby asks.
“I don’t know for sure,” Gomez admits.
“He was such a sweet man,” Morticia says.
“Dessert,” Mr. Digby says, looking pained.
Gomez had an actual job. That's right. Gomez wasn't just a business owner and investor. He possessed a career separate from all of that. But it was a job in which he was his own boss and could work his own hours, if he even chose to. Gomez Addams, you see, was also an attorney, although he didn't have a prolific case load like Perry Mason or Ben Matlock. But what a TV spin-off that could have been -- Gomez Addams, Attorney-at-Law.
In the 1966 episode, “The Addams Policy,” Morticia boasts, “My husband hasn't lost a case in ten years. Or was that ten days?” In another episode, “The Addams Family in Court,” we learn that Gomez has never lost a case – but he has never won one either.
The Addamses were landlords. In the episode, “The New Neighbors Meet the Addams Family,” Gomez's and Morticia's tenants, Hubert and Amanda Peterson, quickly decide they want out of their one-year lease. They’re just too creeped out by their neighbors’ house, the gothic and spooky Addams place. So the Petersons (Peter Brooks, Cynthia Pepper) do everything they can to politely request that they get out of their lease. Becoming increasingly desperate as the Addams don’t seem to get the hint that they want to leave, Hubert makes up a seemingly clever lie.
“Well, I, I got a wire from my company,” Hubert says, “and I’m being transferred to Hong Kong.”
“Say no more. I understand, and I'll take care of it,” Gomez says.
The Petersons are very excited that they'll soon be able to break their lease and move out -- that is, until the next day when they learn that Gomez has purchased the company Hubert belongs to, and now the Petersons can “stay and be our neighbors forever.”
The Petersons don't take this news well. They promptly faint, falling into Lurch's arms.
Make sure your investments are in a growing industry
Oh, sure, you could argue that the scriptwriters gave the Addams family the businesses that they had because they sounded comical and along the lines of Gomez and Morticia would be interested in. That’s likely all true enough, but the fact is that at least some of their businesses were in industries that are thriving today and likely were back in the 1960s. For example:
- Mangos. The processed mango product market was $2.1 billion 2021 and is expected to be reach a value of $3.2 billion by 2028 and $4.4 billion by 2031, according to the company, Transparency Market Research. So laugh at Gomez and Morticia’s mangos if you want; they’re laughing all the way to the bank.
- Tapioca. The tapioca market, according to Data Bridge Market Research, was worth $3.96 billion in 2021 and is expected to be worth $6.61 billion by 2029. I had no idea until watching The Addams Family that you could mine tapioca, let alone on Mt. Everest. I always thought being a plant that you would grow tapioca or something. But I know The Addams Family wouldn’t steer me wrong.
- Crocodile farms. It’s a little harder to find reliable numbers on the crocodile industry. According to Wikipedia, in Louisiana, alligator farming is $60 to $70 million industry. Knowing the Addams family, however, they probably were breeding crocodiles to release in the wild rather than to eat them.
- Swampland. Hey, swamp is real estate, and last year, the media reported on a politician who spent $9 million on some Louisiana swampland. I’m guessing that the Addamses' Amalgamated Swamp did very well as a business, thank you.
- Buzzard farms. I have to admit that I don’t think any entrepreneur would do too well to invest in the buzzard business. But that’s why you diversify your investments, and who is to say that the world won’t someday be clamoring for buzzard burgers? If that happens, the Addams family is ready.
If you run a business, make sure you hire the right people.
In other words, you need employees who are smart, experienced and problem solvers. Gomez and Morticia try to do hire the right person when they look for jobs at their companies with Mr. Digby in mind. Gomez makes that clear enough when he and his wife try to sell Mr. Digby on the idea of running their tapioca mine.
“My tapioca mine is on the top of Mount Everest,” Gomez says.
“Now, the transportation is a bit tricky,” Morticia admits, “but once you get up there, it’s a veritable fairyland.”
“How do you get the tapioca down?” Mr. Digby asks.
“You’ve hit the problem right on the head, Digby,” Gomez says. “That’s why we need a new manager.”
Be Able to Spot Opportunities for Investment
When Mr. Digby decides he doesn’t want to work for any of Gomez and Morticia’s companies, Mr. Addams has an idea. “I’ll set him up in his own business," he says to his wife.
“An insurance company?”
“An excellent idea, my dear,” Gomez says.
And Gomez does actually come up with a pretty good idea for an insurance company, although it may not sound like it at first.
At least you could argue that the concept isn’t too shabby. Gomez creates the Digby Insurance Company. Morticia answers the first customer’s call, and we quickly get a sense of who the clientele is.
“We’d be happy to insure you,” Morticia tells the caller. “You’ve been turned down by 17 other insurance companies? And you’re only 96? Have someone wheel you over, and we’ll give you full coverage.”
In other words, the Digby Insurance Company will specialize in insuring high-risk people, which some companies do. True, in the case of the Digby Insurance Company, we’re talking extremely high-risk people. But get enough of them as clients, and, well, maybe it would pay off.
Know something about what you’re investing in
When Gomez creates the Digby Insurance Company, he is actually not doing it completely on a whim. In an earlier episode, we learn that Gomez has the controlling interest in the Henson Insurance Company (which Mr. Digby works for; this is his second appearance on the series). So Gomez actually does know something about insurance.
Have investment policies you follow.
When Gomez decides to set up Digby with an insurance company, he says, “I’ll capitalize with $500,000 and amortize the principal over a 10-year period.”
“Darling, what does that mean?” Morticia asks.
“Who knows? That’s the way I run all my enterprises,” Gomez says.
“Sometimes, simple faith is best,” Morticia says.
Now, while obviously it would have been better if Gomez understood what he was talking about – but we’ll assume that he was being flip and probably did know that he was just talking about taking out a half a million-dollar loan and paying it off in equal installments over 10 years. Still, whether Gomez was approaching his business in a wise way or not, there is something to be said for having a certain approach to making money rather than investing haphazardly and not having a plan.
Granted, you could also argue that Gomez is taking too big of a risk – half a million dollars in 1966 would be $4.5 million in today’s dollars. But he was a billionaire, and so we’ll assume Gomez knew what he was doing.
In fact, Gomez did occasionally offer some timeless business wisdom on the show. In the episode, “Pugsley’s Allowance,” he told Morticia, “My dear, the greatest asset in business is manpower.”
Most entrepreneurs today would agree. In this case, Gomez was talking about Pugsley and Wednesday, who he was paying to clean the Addams family attic, with, um, explosives.
“Very clever, darling,” Morticia says, as they listen to an explosion and some glass shattering.
“And very economical, too," she adds. "We’ll never again have to clean that Louis XIV chandelier.”
So the takeaway from all of this?
It’s good to be rich – and if you’re really, really rich, you, too, can afford to own a Louis XIV and then blow it up or furnish your home with décor of a mounted fish on the wall with legs sticking out. Just make sure you’re extremely wealthy if you’re going to live like the Addams family. If you’re truly rich and weird, you’re eccentric and lovable. If your family is middle class and weird, you’re just weird.
Where to watch The Addams Family (at the time of this writing): PlutoTV has the entire two seasons of The Addams Family. Given the impact the series (and the original New Yorker cartoons the show was based off of), it's hard to believe, but, yes, the show was only on on network television for two seasons.
Articles similar to this Addams Family article: Well, in this particular blog post, The TV Professor discusses how much money you would need to afford somebody like Lurch in your life. If you're looking for more financial lessons that you can pick up from a TV show, well, there are a lot in the personal finance section of this blog, but maybe you'd like to read about the money lessons you can pick up by watching Leave It to Beaver?