It’s a glorious week for the Asian community. Heck, the world. On 12 Mar 2023, Malaysian-born Michelle Yeoh made history by becoming the first Asian to win the best actress Oscar at the 95th Academy Awards. She bagged the title for her effervescent portrayal of an immigrant business owner in the much-talked-about sci-fi flick, Everything Everywhere All At Once.
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Sentiments on Everything Everywhere All At Once hasn’t been divided. People who watched it tended to like it, even if they couldn’t articulate why. It’s weird, sweet, wild, and exactly what the title sounds like, everything was everywhere all at once. And here we are, almost a year after its release, still hanging on to every sublime detail in the film and trying to ascribe meaning to it.
So, that got us thinking. Between the nihilistic messages and existential questions, what were some money lessons that we could take away from the film? Well, here are 3 of them.
What if personal finance was one big multiverse adventure?
One of the standout features about Everything Everywhere All At Once is its depiction of multiverses. Characters in the film were able to catapult themselves into a different stream of consciousness to achieve things that they needed to in that moment. But they couldn’t do it at free will. The verse jumper had to use verse-jumping technology or do something completely bonkers to successfully jump verses. Bonkers like shoving a sharp object up one’s butt, or professing love to an enemy. That was the rule of the alpha-verse, i.e. the main universe in which rules are set and makes contact with other universes.
When Evelyn (Michelle Yeoh) tries verse-jumping herself, she involuntarily takes on skills from various universes. For instance, while trying to escape the IRS building with her husband, she assumes sick fighting skills from another universe in which she was a celebrated actress in China famous for her kung fu roles. And in another universe where everywhere has hotdogs for hands, she finds herself completely helpless.
Image: Giphy / A24
What if we took the same approach with our personal finance journey? And that is 1) learning exactly what it is you want and 2) being creative, like really creative, about what it takes to reach those goals.
Not grasping what you truly want from your life could lead to undersaving or oversaving. Sorry, did you say oversaving? Is there even such a thing? Actually, yes. But while the consequences of undersaving is having not enough money, oversaving isn’t about having too much of it. It’s about what you gave up to get there. The extra dollars in your account can’t guarantee happiness in your life if you missed out on important occasions events to save or earn extra money. If anything, the film is a worst-case scenario of both—a mum struggling to make ends meet while watching her daughter becoming distant.
Once we figure our goals out, how do we get creative to reach them?
Good question. Well, for starters, think of everything we know today as the alpha-verse. We’ve got rules, norms, processes for everything. But we’ve also got technologies that are we’ve yet to tap on to harness our true potential. What if we put down our Finance 101 guidebooks down for a second, let loose, and consider how our seemingly irrelevant life experiences could help us on this journey.
Say you’re a yoga practitioner. You teach classes and have a different lululemon matching set for everyday of the week. Great. But have you ever thought of bringing your meditative and mindfulness practices into your personal finance journey? Seriously, don’t scoff just yet, or at least not till you peek at the 56 million Google search results on the relationship between meditation and investing.
The message here is that flexibility and creativity is key in the volatile world of finance, more than we often like to think. In under a week, 3 US banks collapsed sending the crypto and tech world into even greater disarray. So, what transferable skills could we possibly activate to keep calm and carry on during a banking panic? Hm.
Nihilism doesn’t lead us to contentment
The MacGuffin at the centre of the Everything Everywhere All At Once multiverse was the “Everything Bagel”, a hilarious yet ominous representation of our desire to resign to a nihilistic belief that nothing matters. The film’s key antagonist Jobu Tupaki (Stephanie Tsu) says so herself.
Jobu: I got bored one day and I put everything on a bagel. Everything. All my hopes and dreams. My old report cards, every breed of dog, every last personal ad on Craigslist, sesame, poppy seed, salt, and it collapsed in on itself. Because you see, when you really put everything on a bagel, it becomes this…the truth.
Evelyn: What is the truth?
Jobu: Nothing matters.
Image: Giphy / A24
That hits hard. Mainly because nihilism is more pervasive than we think. For instance, you hear about a fit, healthy acquaintance who gets a heart attack during a morning run, and you think to yourself, “Ah, screw that diet and gym membership, what’s the point anyway?”
In Singapore, nihilism is in our everyday. What’s the point of applying for BTO when you’re on your 14th try? Or what’s the point in working when you won’t see a portion of your money until your 65?
Viewing everything as inherently worthless is not liberating, it’s dangerous. Soon enough, we’re set on an uncontrollable spiral down extreme pessimism and skepticism that condemns existence. It’s bleak, guys. We don’t want to go there.
And get this right, the film isn’t validating nihilism. In fact, it’s doing quite the opposite. While nihilism look like an enticing way out of an increasingly gloom-ridden world, we’ve encouraged to see things through Waymond’s eyes, quite literally. The wholesome googly eyes that Waymond puts on everything he can find are visually opposing the Everything Bagel (white outer, black centre vs black outer, white centre). And as we know it, Waymond’s approach to everything is kindness, love, and optimism. It is also the way that triumphs ultimately. Aww.
Find joy in the mundane, even taxes
Waymond: “So, even though you have broken my heart yet again, I wanted to say: In another life, I would have really liked just doing laundry and taxes with you”
This is one of those exchanges in a film that sticks with you, long after you’re left the cinema. Somewhat like:
“After all this time?”
I’m certain we all know where that’s from. Gah! I mean, nothing really beats the cozy warmth of love triumphing. And that is one of the major lessons from Everything Everywhere All At Once—the key to happiness is realising that there’s always something to love. Even when doing taxes.
Image: Giphy / A24
Now that we’re heading into tax season in Singapore, Waymond’s quote strangely resonates. But we’ll be honest, the ways in which we could make tax filing fun are few and far between. Nevertheless, the message still applies to your financial planning journey.
The road to financial freedom in Singapore is a gruelling one. And it doesn’t get easier as we simultaneously fan the flames of the FIRE movement, i.e. Financial Independence, Retire Early. In fact, a 2021 study by AXA Insurance Singapore discovered that millennials viewed financial freedom as a more important purpose in life than having a happy family.
If that finding resonates, then the ending of Everything Everywhere All At Once would seriously urge you to rethink your priorities. Watching Evelyn struggle to rekindle romance with her husband and reconnect with her daughter will make you question what truly is valuable to you. It’s not about the taxes, it’s who you’re doing it with.
And we’re leaving you with another sticky quote, just because.
Dierdre: It’s cold, unlovable b*****s like us that make the world go round.”
Evelyn: “You are not unlovable. There is always something to love. Even in a stupid, stupid universe where we have hot dogs for fingers, we get very good with our feet.”
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