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What Tiger King can teach you about personal finance

I’m sure most of us by now have binge watched Tiger King on Netflix – something about becoming an armchair detective, particularly when there’s not much else going on in lockdown, really appeals. Judging by all the memes and online discussions I’ve seen, I’m not alone in thinking this.

But what does debating whether Carole Baskin killed her husband or not have to do with personal finance you may ask. You’ll be forgiven for thinking very little at all, but in this post I’m going to argue that there are some key lessons we can all learn about our own finances from the documentary.

Before I dive straight into the financial lessons, here’s a quick overview of the plot in case you need a reminder or if you’ve managed to avoid getting sucked into the endless Netflix cycle – if this is you, please tell me your secret!

Beware there’s spoilers ahead

Tiger King follows the story of Joe Exotic, a zoo owner, and his dramatic and bitter rivalry with Carole Baskin, who wants his zoo shut down. This all escalates pretty seriously to the point where Joe is now actually in prison for trying to have Carole killed.

The subplot, although arguably the part that really grabbed the audience’s attention, looks into the disappearance of Carole’s second husband, Don Lewis, who hasn’t been seen for over 20 years. Joe has very publicly accused Carole of murdering him for his money, which she strongly denies.

New developments

Since the documentary aired, the Sheriff investigating Don Lewis’ disappearance has openly said his Will is “100 percent a forgery.” Chad Chronister claims two experts have deemed it to be 100 percent a forgery. However, due to the length of time passed they are not able to take legal action over the Will, but Chad was very clear that the investigation into the disappearance is very much still open.

There is also an issue with his children and his ex-wife, who claim they were cut out of the Will in favour of Carole Baskin. While ex-spouses are regularly removed from Wills, it is much less common to completely cut out children.

And this isn’t the only new development, earlier this month a judge ruled Joe Exotic’s zoo should be handed over to Carole Baskin as part of a ruling in a $1 million (roughly £800,000) trademark dispute.

So, this is all very interesting but I still don’t get how this relates to my personal finances at all?

Again, I can’t blame you for thinking this. But, disputes and problems occur over even the smallest sums. What may appear to have little value to a stranger, a favourite necklace or a treasured picture and frame perhaps, could have great significance to those close to you. It may not get as heated as this particular case and realistically is unlikely to attract the attention of Netflix, but this doesn’t stop it being incredibly painful for all involved if affairs aren’t handled properly.

Here are three lessons we can all learn to avoiding falling into the Tiger King traps.

1. Keep it clear and ordered

Where possible try and keep all your affairs as clear and organised as possible and avoid overcomplicating things for the sake of it.  There are many different ways of doing this. Some like to have a locked filing cabinet where all their important documents are kept. However, as so much is online now this may start to become a thing of the past.

This raises the question of how you can store online documents in a way that is not only clear and easy for you and your next of kin to locate and access, but also secure from hackers and cyber threats.

Some law firms and financial advisers now offer a ‘portal service’ where you can safely store all your passwords, digital assets and documents. These can be really helpful because all your information is kept securely in one place that you, or if the worst happens, your beneficiaries can access.

While everyone should be taking steps to do this, it is particularly important if you are the one in the household that takes the lead on financial matters as your family may find it harder to handle these without you.

2. Write a Will and keep it updated

I speak about Wills far too much on this blog, but that’s because so many people neglect them, and they really are the only way to ensure your assets are distributed how you wish.  This case also highlights the need to take proper legal advice and execute it properly.

Make sure you, your lawyer and your executers have a copy of your Will, which is kept in a safe but accessible location, so it is easy to access. This should help avoid any doubts about its accuracy and prevent forgery attempts – don’t be too scared about forgery as this is very uncommon!

You must also update your Will regularly, definitely after any major life event (think marriage, divorce, having children etc.), but some lawyers recommend reviewing it annually. This should prevent children or new partners being cut out accidentally.  

If you want to know more about Wills check out this post

3. Talk about money and your plans

Money is a bigger taboo than sex, religion or politics in the UK, according to YouGov research commissioned by Lloyds Bank. Half of UK adults believe that talking about personal money matters is taboo in everyday conversation; higher than sex (42 percent), religion (26 percent) or politics (14 percent).

But, speaking openly about money can avoid a lot of arguments and confusion. Professor Tanya Byron, consultant clinical psychologist and Relate Patron, explained: “talking openly about money can help us take shared responsibility, strengthen our relationships, and protect our mental wellbeing.”

I think we should all speak more about money in general, but it is particularly important to discuss your plans and wishes with those closest to you. If you are open about what you hope to spend your money on and who you intend to leave it to when you’re gone, you and your loved ones are much less likely to encounter any nasty surprises down the line.

If you found this post interesting, please like it and share across social media or send it to your friends. I’d also love to hear your thoughts and experiences, especially about what you consider the most important financial lessons to be, so please do leave a comment!

By The Twenty Percent

Hi I'm Katie and I use my blog to help young people take control of their personal finances.

36 replies on “What Tiger King can teach you about personal finance”

This is such a good post and a great plan to link it to the talking point that is Tiger King. It’s so important we talk about money and make plans, we cannot just wing it! Btw I totally think Carol Baskin did it 😂

This is a very clever and informative post. Relating it to something most have been obsessed with is genius!

I lost my Mum almost 2 years ago and it has certainly changed my priorities and view on money and the future. For example she had life insurance we didn’t know about. She’d planned so well for her retirement but didn’t have a paper trail for any of it x

Such an interesting perspective! I was enthralled with the Tiger King whirlwind but never would have looked at it with a financial perspective. These are really great tips, thanks for sharing

I know I seem to be in the minority, but I’ve not watched any of this Tiger King thing, I didn’t even really know what it was about until this post.

The financial tips are spot on though.

This is a fantastic post! I love Netflix docu-series, and I was lucky enough to watch “Tiger King,” before the craze started. I absolutely loved it, but I also like stories that are completely nuts (“Abducted in Plain Sight” is also a nutso one if you haven’t seen it yet). Anyway, I absolutely love that you use it as a way to teach responsible financial planning and will prep. Sadly both of my parents have passed away. I’m so grateful my mom put her assets in a trust, it’s made everything so so much easier. I know too many people whose parents didn’t plan ahead and left them with a bureaucratic nightmare to deal with when they passed away unexpectedly. It’s not something people want to talk about (along with $ as you mention above), but it’s so so important. Awesome post!

This is so interesting and I love that you’ve tied all these helpful tips into a blog about Tiger King! Super important too, I’ve not even considered writing a Will yet but I definitely should. Thanks for sharing! 😊

I love this so much! I walked away from watching Tiger King thinking I can’t believe this is someone’s life but you were able to turn it into a financial learning experience. Amazing!
Good advice too! Staying on top of things like keeping wills up to date is so important but often overlooked.

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