7 Things a Thanksgiving Turkey Teaches Us About Money

By Paul Michael on 24 November 2016 0 comments

It's that time of year again, and many of us will indulge in the traditional Thanksgiving turkey feast with all the trimmings. As you're prepping the bird, and basting it, you may not consider that the humble Thanksgiving turkey has a few lessons to teach us about money. But, there are a number of ways this tasty bird can give us insights into the economy, and our own financial situations.

1. Your Chances of Winning the Lottery Are Very Slim

According to the National Turkey Federation, 233.1 million turkeys were raised in the USA in 2015. Roughly 46 million of those are eaten at Thanksgiving, with another 22 million at Christmas. And as you may be aware, once a year (since 1947) the President pardons one of these turkeys destined for the dinner table. The simple math there is that, as a turkey, you have a roughly one in 233 million chance to win the turkey lottery, and live a long, happy life. The lottery humans often partake in has similar odds. Actually, they're a little worse. If you play the Powerball, the odds of winning the jackpot are approximately one in 292 million. Longer odds than the average turkey has of being spared. Remember that the next time you buy your ticket… your chances of winning are worse than being chosen as the turkey to be pardoned by the President.

2. You Can Lose Everything in an Instant

The Thanksgiving turkey is fed and housed from day one. Perhaps not in ideal conditions, but from the day it is born, it's given everything it needs to grow and become the plump turkey that most of us look forward to on Thanksgiving. Of course, for the turkey, it's not a happy ending. After months of daily feedings, just when it is at its biggest, the blade drops and it's all over.

This is much like the stock market, the housing crash, our careers, and many other aspects of our lives. All too often, our assets are steadily rising, and when we are at our most confident, the rug is pulled out from under us. Stocks crash. House prices plummet. Jobs are eliminated, and people are left with a bleak future when it was looking very rosy just the day before. And in the blink of an eye, our fortunes have reversed, and we're in serious trouble. Like the Thanksgiving turkey, we can very easily spend most of the year blissfully unaware that doom is just around the corner.

3. Keep a Close Eye on Things

You know the story. You put the juicy bird in the oven, forget about it for a few hours, and then realize it's been way too long. You go back to the oven, and pull out a turkey with all the tenderness of a piece of stale beef jerky. The same rule applies to money. Watch it…carefully. Or pay a professional to do it for you. Check in on your bank accounts daily. You want to look not only at the balances, and any bills coming out, but also for any unusual debits. Quite often, compromised bank accounts will be tested with very small charges; usually under one dollar. If they go unnoticed, a large amount will be taken at a later date. You also need to keep an eye on your stocks and bonds, your savings, and your other assets and liabilities.

4. Preparation Is a Must

A few days before Thanksgiving, if you're smart, you'll brine your turkey. It's a simple enough procedure, and involves soaking the turkey for at least 24 hours in a solution of broth, salt, herbs, spices, and ice water. This preparation ensures a moist, tasty turkey after all those hours in the oven or the fryer.

Just like the turkey, you need to prepare for the future. In the short term, look at your emergency fund. Is it enough? Do you even have one? Can you cut a few expenses out of your budget now to start building up that safety net? The more distant future, that requires preparation as well. What are you doing to plan for retirement? Do you have a 401K or IRA? Are you setting aside enough money now to grow? Preparing your finances for both short and long-term goals is something we all have to do.

5. When Supply Outpaces Demand, Prices Drop

You may think that the prices of turkeys go up in November, as this is the time most families want to buy one. Well, that couldn't be further from the truth. As the NYTimes illustrates, prices for turkeys nosedive in November by a staggering amount. In fact, a Thanksgiving turkey is about 20% cheaper than a turkey sold in January. Why is that? The simple answer is that supply during November is plentiful. Turkeys can be frozen and kept in storage for up to two years. This stockpile of turkeys flood the market in November, and when you have a glut of anything, the prices drop. Not only that, but customers expect to pay less for turkey during Thanksgiving, and many stores sell turkeys at a loss (known as a loss leader) to bring you into the store and shop for other goods that have a decent profit margin.

6. You Can't Grow Your Future on a Weak Foundation

Modern turkeys have been bred and modified to create the "perfect" Thanksgiving turkey. But sadly, what is good for us as consumers is not good for the turkeys. They grow way too quickly, and as they have been bred to have large breasts, their flimsy legs often get crippled under the weight. This rather depressing fact is just as gloomy for your finances. You need a solid foundation, with slow, steady growth to succeed. You cannot create a healthy financial future if you are being crippled by debt, or are looking into "get rich quick" schemes that never, ever work the way they say they will.

7. Know Your Limits

How many of us bite off way more than we can chew at Thanksgiving? We load up the plate with turkey and gravy, wash it down with a glass or two of wine or cider, and spend two hours in a food coma on the sofa. Overindulgence and the Thanksgiving turkey go hand in hand. And while recovering from that is simply a case of sleeping it off, when we overindulge with our money, the consequences are much greater. By refusing to acknowledge our limits, we can quickly and easily end up with serious debts. Gambling and other addictions can lead us into ruin. And the simple case of "my eyes being bigger than my belly" can lead to food shopping sprees that result in fridges and pantries full of food that will expire before we get the chance to use them. Like the Thanksgiving feast, we should all take caution with what we put onto our plates.

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