What Tinky Winky Taught Me About Money

What Tinky Winky Taught Me About MoneyIf 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 was absolutely sure that I was the best person at home to handle our budget. I’ve been doing it for decades. I own a successful small business, I’m a CFP, and I have a degree in accounting.

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?

Wrong.

My wife recently started handling the books, and we are far better off as a result.

Why?

Because she is the person who is in charge of most of our spending.

Duh.

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.

Re-evaluate everything

Of course, checking your financial behavior doesn’t stop with budgeting or insurance.

You should examine everything. Your investments, budget, and insurance policies (especially if you are retired), how you are dealing with your debt, and both estate planning and retirement planning.

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.

6 Responses to “What Tinky Winky Taught Me About Money”

  1. Anonymous

    I actually went through this almost exactly a year ago. My wife is likewise the one that spends the money on a daily basis. We had always “made decisions together”, but for my part that mostly was the bigger decisions and the real-world implementation came down to her being extremely frugal and me spending money out from under her budget because I didn’t foresee the consequences. Needless to say, it caused more problems than was necessary.

    So one day a year ago I just gave up my debit card for our main account and put it in a safe. Shocked her a bit. It was a little strange at first, but it turned out to be one of the best financial decisions I’ve ever made. We still make our decisions together, but I respect her abilities and let her manage the daily cashflow without interference, largely keeping to “here’s the end result I’d like” and it just magically happens. She doesn’t keep secrets or spend money like crazy, and we now have more money left over at the end of the month to save. I actually have more “slush money” available now than before, all with the same pay AND an extra car payment.

    It’s amazing what you can accomplish when you are willing to think outside the box.

  2. Anonymous

    This post reminded me of two of the more frustrating/important parts of budgeting for me.

    First, worry about what you can control. But you can control more than you think – you just need to ask “is there a better (or different) way”? If you cannot think of a way to control something, don’t stress. Just make the best of it.

    And second, your priorities and what is valuable to you (and worth putting into your budget) change over time. Reevaluate your budget – that auto-renew subscription to Teen People magazine is probably not worth it anymore if you’re 30 – maybe it’s worth the time to cancel.

  3. Anonymous

    The policy was term – and the premium was over $6k a year!

    Perhaps they could have sold the term policy – this is something I didn’t consider.

    I’ll look into this….Thanks!

  4. Anonymous

    Were those term of whole life policies? $40k over 7 years seems to indicate the latter – in which case the mistake was made 30 years ago, not the last 7.

    Since their probability of dying has gone up, but their premiums set 30 years ago, the policies probably had a positive expected value. I wonder if they could have sold them to some investor somehow?

  5. Anonymous

    Ah, yes. The age-old question: What is Tinky-Winky’s gender?

    I guess your friends had “whole” life insurance? Yikes.

    I recently read that most true-life millionaires read an average of one new (non-fiction) book every month. I’m guessing that would greatly contribute to their knowledge base and keep them from remaining stagnate in their thoughts and thinking that they already “know it all” and that’s what, you know, made them millionaires.

    I personally think Tele-tubbies sucks brain cells out through the screen while you’re watching. At least, that was our excuse when we caught ourselves staring at the screen along with our children. 🙂

Leave a Reply