Ten Financial Lessons I Learned from my Dog

I’m a sucker for the canine in my life. Her name is Tivo, and she’s a Blue Heeler (Australian Cattle Dog) mix from the SPCA. I adopted her two years ago when I moved to a cattle ranch from the big city.

Since she’s the first dog I’ve ever had, I can honestly say I didn’t “get” the whole dog thing till I opened my heart and brought her into my life. Tivo has taught me many things since I brought her home. She’s taught me about sad puppy eyes, walking for joy, and unconditional love.

Along with all things doggish, Tivo has also imparted some important teachings. She’s a wise young herding dog, and through her actions and photographs I have gleaned some important financial lessons I would like to share with you.

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Here are ten financial lessons I have learned from my dog:

1. Earn passive Income:

My dog doesn’t work for a salary. She’s not an indentured employee of company ABC. Her time on the farm is not tightly coupled with income earned. Tivo has mastered the fine art of earning a living while sleeping, playing, and eating. She gets fed and walked regardless of how much time she spends herding cows. Tivo is brilliant. She’s figured out how to earn passive income. We should all figure out ways to decouple our income from time. Can you image earning money while sleeping or eating? Some people point to dividend-based investing as a means of passive income. Others live on royalty checks or interest income.

2. S$it happens. Start an emergency fund:

Some days the s$it hits the fan and no one will throw you a bone. When you’re down on your luck and covered in “it”, it’s best to have an emergency fund to get you by. Tivo has an emergency fund. She likes to bury bones and smelly things in the backyard for a rainy day. Her little buried collection kinda scares me, but in many ways I can understand why her emergency dig or fund is of importance. There may come a day when Tivo needs a bone and must rely on her emergency stash to get one. In our case, an emergency fund helps in times of illness, injury, or job loss. It’s good to have 3-6 months of living expenses put aside for a rainy day. I keep my emergency fund in an accessible high interest savings account. No bones about it.

3. Make a will:

Last year Tivo got kicked by an angry cow. She could have bit it, rolled over, and died. Luckily, she ran away howling with just a broken paw. If she had perished to doggie heaven she would have left us without a will. Why does a doggie need a will? Well, she’s got that emergency fund buried in the backyard! If she rolls over without entailing her fortune to someone, the government may just take a bite out of her assets. To protect your loved ones, be sure to keep a will. If you have children, a will can state guardianship in case you accidentally bark up the wrong tree.

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4. Get life insurance. Get disability insurance:

When Tivo broke her paw she couldn’t work on the farm for six weeks. This was a tough time. She got depressed, stopped working, and limped around with her tail between her legs for weeks. She’s lucky she healed quickly since she was off the job and didn’t have disability insurance to cover her tail. We’re lucky she wasn’t fatally injured since she also didn’t have life insurance to cover our tails. In real situations, those without disability insurance or life insurance leave themselves and their loved ones in financial uncertainty if injury or death occur. If you have dependents, consider getting Term Life insurance for their financial well-being, just in case you get kicked by a cow.

5. Pay off debt:

Debt is a biting pain in the butt which gnaws at you day and night. When I owe my doggie a treat, I am indebted to her. She howls until my debt is paid. Don’t let debt eat away at your emotional health and work you physically to the bone. Be sure to pay off all credit cards so you’re not running in circles at the end of the month.

6. Negotiate your salary:

When someone throws you a bone don’t be so quick to bite. Settling for your first job offer may leave you scratching. Getting compensated fairly may take a few tricks, but you’ll get a leg up on the competition if you negotiate with tact and some obedience. Companies exist by keeping their costs down, hence paying their employees as little as possible. When you get a job offer (congratulate yourself first), and then negotiate for a little bit more. My dog does this at dinner time. I give her a doggie bag, she sits pretty, and then wags her tail for dessert. When it comes to negotiating your salary, you’ll be glad you didn’t roll over.

7. Diversify your investment portfolio:

My dog has a highly diversified portfolio. She has managed to dig holes in the front yard, the back yard, and in various fields around the farm. Each hole contains a different investment in case a bull or bear comes after her. Whether the market rages upwards or slumps downwards, she’s got her nose to the ground by being market diversified. Be sure to invest your money across various industries, countries, and markets so you’re not digging yourself into a single hole.

8. Watch your fleas, er fees:

Like fleas, investment fees can eat you alive. Don’t get sold a raw deal by investing in funds with high management expense ratios (MERs), trailer fees, and loads. Be on guard for the smallest of fleas as every little bite can really sting. Tivo is a diligent flea watching dog.

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9. Go for a walk:

Walk like my dog. She’s an exceptional exerciser and spends endless hours running and loving it. Daily exercise is the key to investing in your health and your financial future. Without your health, you don’t have a leg to stand on. Keeping physically fit and healthy also keeps medical expenses down and insurance premiums low. You will live a longer happier life by investing in your heart and exercising it everyday.

10. The media is full of bull:

If it’s news, it’s noise. Keep your money invested for the long term and resist temptation to bet the farm on the latest media darling. Ignore news outlets telling tails of market meltdowns and financial fallout. The media need to churn out stories to sell copy. Bad news is big business. Keep your tail high and nose buried in real life, not newsworthy nonsense. The markets will always rise and fall. Sniff out the media bull like Tivo and learn to spot it a mile away.

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With wise financial lessons like these, how can I not be dog-gone for the canine in my life.

Your two cents:

  1. Leigh Ann Yandle-Perry March 5th, 2008

    Those are the most awesome ears I have ever seen on a Cattle Dog!! Great looking dog thanks for sharing.

  2. fox March 5th, 2008

    Thanks Leigh Ann! Her ears are indeed awesome. She’s not a pure ACD so I am clueless as to what breed put her ears on hyper drive. She’s pretty good with cattle though. ;)

  3. moneygardener March 5th, 2008

    Hey, I just discovered your blog and subscribed…

    Take Care.

    MG

  4. fox March 5th, 2008

    Oh wow! Thanks for subscribing moneygardener! I’ve followed your site for a while now. ;)

  5. Four Pillars March 8th, 2008

    What a fantastic post! I’m glad you entered it in the carnival.

    If MG is subscribing then I’m subscribing too! :)

    Mike

  6. fox March 8th, 2008

    Four Pillars (Mike): I’m happy you enjoyed this post! I’m also THRILLED to be found by fellow Canadian bloggers. I’ve been following many of you guys for a while now. Good luck with your Carnival hosting on Monday! :)

  7. PT March 8th, 2008

    Great post and pics. Thanks for sharing. I want a dog like that someday.

  8. fox March 9th, 2008

    PT: Blue Heelers are wonderful dogs. They needs lots of exercise though…

  9. Funny about Money March 9th, 2008

    What a clever and delightful approach! And Tivo is too cool to be real! I’m in love…

  10. fox March 10th, 2008

    Funny about Money: Thank you so much for your kind words. Tivo thanks you too! ;)

  11. Anne March 10th, 2008

    Awesomest. Post. Ever.

  12. guinness416 March 10th, 2008

    Hi via Four Pillars! Tivo is a real beaut, I hope you’ve told her about her moment of glory on the internets.

    (Have you seen this one? I love dog posts!)

  13. That’s so well written!
    great job.

  14. Kathy@brazoscowgirl March 20th, 2008

    You must read Hank the Cowdog, it is a wonderful series of adventures written originally for kids about Hank and his sidekick Drover. You will see much Hank in Tivo. Our beloved blue heeler died about 5 yrs ago, I miss JJ very much.

  15. Personal Finance April 11th, 2008

    Great job relating money to something fun. This will inspire me to do similar things at my personal finance blog thanks for the encouragement.

  16. apresenta April 14th, 2008

    great advice! you have a very wise dog!

  17. Ben at GetMortgageWise May 9th, 2008

    I just referenced one of your more recent posts in my http://www.getcreditwise.net blog and was delighted to find this post as well. Makes me really wish I had a dog, but living in the big city means you have to settle for a few fish and a plant. Maybe they can teach me something about finance as well? Love the post and the photos. Thanks for inspiring!

  18. dlm May 27th, 2009

    Love your doggie. Wonderful book by Dean Koontz about his golden etriever Trixie “Bliss to You” lessons in life. Never read anything else he wrote but the dog books are wonderful. Apparently he’s writing another one due out summer 2009 about Trixie and what she taught Dean and his wife Gerda. They have another dog now, Anna, who surprisingly turned out to be Trixie’s great niece (both dogs were Canine Helpers but became nonworking pets after an elbow injury in Trixie’s case and an attention distraction in Anna’s case). Pure love.

  19. Kelsey January 24th, 2012

    Thank you for putting finance in terms we can all understand.

    I enjoyed laughing at these tips while learning; usually I’m cringing and searching for a definition!

    I need to start paying attention to my Labrador more, there’s so much I could learn :)

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