If you’re a parent, you probably know who Tinky Winky is.
He’s one of the infamous Teletubbies – those colorful little TV creatures who live in Teletubby Land, of course. You remember his friends Po, Dipsy and Laa-laa, don’t you?
I knew it would all come back to you. 🙂
Anyways… Tinky taught me a great deal about money – and I only just recently realized it.
First, a little background.
My youngest grew up loving Tinky Winky, and was constantly fascinated by his (her?) antics.
Being a good dad, I spent time with my little one watching the Teletubbies, and I’ll admit it wasn’t easy.
You see, I have 2 older children. They grew up with Sesame Street and Power Rangers.
They knew about quality.
(I mean, come on… How could Tinky Winky compete with the likes of Big Bird and Elmo?)
It’s laughable, I know…
Poor Tink never had a chance, at least not in my mind.
But as convinced as I was, my kid wasn’t having any of it.
As hard as I tried to get my little one interested in high-quality characters like Elmo and Big Bird, it was of no use. My little girl was hooked on Tinky Winky, and I couldn’t do anything about it.
What made things worse was that, as I grew more intolerant of the little purple dweeb, my little pumpkin enjoyed the show more and more.
How could she have been so misguided?
Eventually, I gave up. When I couldn’t tolerate Tink anymore, I just started reading “Atlas Shrugged” instead. That kept me busy until she was well out of the Teletubby stage and into Miley Cyrus.
So how does this have anything to do with money you ask?
It has everything to do with money. Everything.
Opinion vs. fact
In fact, it’s probably the most important lesson you could master when it comes to finance.
You see, what Tink taught me is that I don’t know everything. I shouldn’t be so sure of myself.
I was so convinced that the Teletubbies were the by-product of a bad acid trip and just worthless. But I was wrong.
I was absolutely sure that Tinky Winky was a lightweight, and not worth anyone’s time.
At the same time, my daughter (and millions of other Teletubby fanatics) came to a different conclusion.
You see, my opinion is just my opinion. The problem starts when I mistake my opinion for fact.
Avoiding financial ruin
I didn’t (and don’t) know everything. I have to check my conclusions from time to time — especially when I’m “sure” that I’m right.
This may seem like an obvious axiom of life but, if you’re like me, you forget. And when you forget, you run the risk of financial ruin.
People who are convinced they are doing the right thing often fail to re-examine their financial decisions. Instead, they plod ahead – even though the results of their actions may scream “STOP!”
It’s like an explorer who is convinced they’re trekking in the right direction. They might eventually realize that they were holding the map upside down, but it’s often too late.
A real life example
I recently had this experience with my budget at home.
I know about budgeting. More than that, I’m proud to say I don’t owe anyone in this world one red cent.
Not bad, huh?
You’d think that I’m a Budgeting Behemoth, right?
My wife recently started handling the books, and we are far better off as a result.
Because she is the person who is in charge of most of our spending.
For 20 years, I handled the money and the books. At the same time, we often disagreed over the best use of our funds.
Why couldn’t she just see things my way?
This has all changed now.
She comes up with ideas to save money I never thought of. And since she does the books, she sees first hand how spending impacts our ability to save and invest.
And yes, she makes very strong arguments for spending money sometimes that I never would have spent in the past. And I often end up agreeing.
We both “get it” now, and it’s a direct result of her taking charge of our bookkeeping. I never would have guessed this change would occur, but it did.
Imagine that… Something happening that I didn’t foresee. 🙂
There are plenty of other examples.
I talked to a couple only 2 weeks ago. They’ve owned life insurance on each other for the last 30 years. When they first bought it, they needed it. But now they don’t.
In fact, they haven’t needed life insurance for over seven years. But they never stopped to re-examine their financial decisions. They were “sure” they were doing the right thing. Unfortunately, “being sure” cost them more than $40, 000 in wasted life insurance premiums over the last seven years.
Of course, checking your financial behavior doesn’t stop with budgeting or insurance.
You don’t have to do this with a financial professional, and you don’t have to spend a red cent. You can find someone who is knowledgeable, and whom you trust, and just have an hour-long conversation.
The most important element is your ability to listen. Whoever you speak with, ask questions. Don’t go into that meeting sure that what you are doing is right. That defeats the entire purpose.
You don’t know how many times I get calls from couples “desperate” for help. Sometimes, rather than being open to doing things differently, at least one of them simply wants to convince me how smart they are. They want me to sign off on their financial life.
In other words, they don’t want to change their behavior, they simply want to change the results of their behavior. Even Tinky Winky can’t work that magic.
Think about your financial behavior. Which aspects are you most sure of?
Now… Go out and get a second opinion.