Mrs Grey and the Uncommon Toad is one of many financial freedom fairy stories by Doug Weller. It tells the story of what happens when an average person has the chance to make uncommon returns on their gold.
Stories can be powerful for illustrating the lessons of financial freedom. In this series, in each financial freedom story, you will meet explore a familiar fairy tale world with remarkable characters and magic. There’s action, and drama, and love, and sometimes a happy ending. Enjoy each financial freedom story.
You can find more Financial Freedom Fairy Stories here.
Now, are you sitting comfortably? In that case, let’s begin…
Mrs Grey and the Uncommon Toad – Financial Freedom fairy stories
There once lived a woman called Mrs Grey, who was perfectly average.
Each morning she would wake in her average bed, go to the kitchen for an average breakfast, then take an average walk around the village.
She met people who were taller than her, and smaller.
She met people who were more beautiful than her, and uglier.
Some were thinner, some were fatter. Some had longer noses, some shorter.
Some were older, some were younger. Some were smarter, and some were stupider.
As usual, she stopped by the village duck pond, and watched the local ducks and geese. She found she enjoyed this as much as the average person, and when she had spent an average amount of time at the duck pond, she left.
When she arrived home, she walked into her average and house, put down her average shopping bags, and took a seat in an average chair.
She sighed, for she felt averagely good about her life.
“Good day, Madam,” said a strange, bubbling voice.
Mrs Grey looked around in surprise, but couldn’t see anybody else in the room. A voice from nowhere did not feel like an average occurrence, so she assumed she had imagined it.
“I said, good day, Madam” the gurgling voice repeated.
Mrs Grey looked down at her kitchen table. Squatting on the table was a green-skinned, warty toad. Unlike the many toads she had seen at the village duck pond, this one was wearing a top-hat and holding a cane.
The toad lifted the top hat, and bowed to her.
“Such fine weather we are having today, would you not agree?” he asked. “Allow me to introduce myself, I am an uncommon toad.”
Mrs Grey was dumb-struck. A toad finding its way on to her kitchen table was unusual enough. But a toad discussing the weather while wearing a top-hat and holding a cane, was even rarer.
“You are wondering why I am here, no doubt?” the uncommon toad asked, to which Mrs Grey nodded. “My business, Madam, is lily pads. And there is not a thing in this world I do not know about lily pads. Are you yourself an expert in lily pads?” asked the uncommon toad.
Mrs Grey shook her head.
“I thought not. I thought not. There are very few of us who truly know the ups and downs of the lily pad market.”
The uncommon toad pulled out a pocket watch and checked the time. He then looked around Mrs Grey’s average kitchen, with a frown on his face.
“I see, Madam, you are not rich.”
Mrs Grey at last found her voice.
“No, I am not rich. But neither am I poor. I am perfectly average, you see,” she confirmed.
The uncommon toad’s bulging eyes looked left and right, then took a hop towards Mrs Grey.
“In that case, Madam, I have a proposal for you. Because who, on earth, wants to be average?”
Mrs Grey’s face fell, because until that day, she had never questioned her average life.
The uncommon toad saw her distress and nodded, reassuringly.
“Fear not, Madam, I am here to help. We are, in fact, about to enter lily pad season at the village duck pond, and I happen to be best placed to make gold from it.”
“Gold from lily pads? Is that possible?” Mrs Grey asked, because she knew only an average amount about making gold, and an average amount about lily pads.
The uncommon toad’s wide face spread into a wider grin.
“Let me explain,” he said. “Each year, lily pads grow all over the village’s duck pond. You may have seen this for yourself.”
Mrs Grey nodded, for she had seen the lily pads covering the village pond in previous years.
“What you may not fully understand is that some lily pads grow small, whilst other grow large. And the larger the lily pad, the more valuable it is.”
“Valuable to whom?” Mrs Grey asked.
The uncommon toad has a momentary look of irritation at her lack of understanding.
“To other toads, of course,” he snapped.
“I see,” Mrs Grey replied. Then, not wishing to further irritate the uncommon toad, she added. “That makes sense.”
The uncommon toad regained his professional composure.
“My proposition for you, Madam, is this: For a very small amount of gold, I will pick the lily pads which will grow largest this year. I will buy these lily pads, on your behalf, for only a small amount of gold. And when it comes time to sell, you will be rich.”
Mrs Grey thought she understood. “You mean, we buy low, and sell high?,” she asked.
The uncommon toad was astounded.
“Madam, I had no idea you were such an expert in such matters,” he said.
Mrs Grey blushed.
“Oh no, I think even the average person knows that to profit from gold at the end, you should have more of it at end, than at the beginning,” she explained.
“I see,” the uncommon toad replied. He checked his pocket watch again. “Now, I am running short of time, so may I ask, how much of your gold would you like me to invest in lily pads this year?”
Mrs Grey was not sure. After all, she normally kept her average amount of gold underneath her average mattress. But the idea that she might become rich had suddenly become very tempting.
“Your offer is generous,” Mrs Grey said. “But may I ask, how you can be sure you will pick the lily pads which will grow to become the largest? Are you just guessing?”
The uncommon toad looked deeply offended.
“Madam, I am an expert and I will follow a strategy, of course..I have been watching the lily pads since I was a tadpole. Before we met, you knew nothing of lily pads, but my family have been involved in the lily pad trade for many years.”
“I see,” said Mrs Grey.
The uncommon toad scratched at the largest wart on his face, satisfied that Mrs Grey now understood.
“Now, Madam, how much of your gold would you like me to invest in lily pads this year?”
Mrs Grey was not still not sure.
“Your offer is generous,” Mrs Grey said. “But may I ask, what would happen if you chose the smallest lily pads instead of the biggest ones?”
The uncommon toad scowled.
“How dare you,” he said. “It is my job to choose the largest, and I would never dream of choosing the smallest. But, since you asked so nicely, if I were to choose you the smallest lily pads, then I am afraid you would lose all your gold.”
Mrs Grey frowned. This did not sound good.
“And what about the gold I paid to you? Surely, you would at least return that gold to me.”
The uncommon toad shook his head, sorrowfully.
“No, Madam. I am afraid I would keep the gold you paid me. Because it is a very small amount of gold, and because I have a family of more than one thousand tadpoles to look after, I would keep that gold.”
Mrs Grey frowned again.
The uncommon toad hopped to the edge of the table, so he was as close to Mrs Grey as he could get.
“So, how much of your gold would you like me to invest in lily pads this year?” he asked.
“One last question,” Mrs Grey said.
At this, the uncommon toad almost fell off the table in frustration.
“One last question,” he muttered, impatiently.
“If I chose just an average lily pad, would it make me gold, or lose me gold?” Mrs Grey asked.
The uncommon toad seemed delighted with this question.
“Madam, over time, the average lily pad will alway grow bigger. It is the main reason for my confidence in the lily pad market. If you bought only average sized lily pads you would almost certain of an average sized return on your gold. But, of course, nobody know which lily pad will grow to be the average.”
Mrs Grey relaxed at the uncommon toad’s explanation.
“In that case,” she said, with an averagedly happy voice, “I know what I shall do…”
* * *
Several months passed, and Mrs Grey woke up in her average bed, went to the kitchen to eat an average breakfast, then went for her average walk around the village.
When she arrived at the village duck pond, she decided to take a look at the water. As happened every year, the duck pond was now full of lily pads. Some were tiny, and others huge.
With an average smile, she nodded at what she saw. As she turned to leave the duck pond, she heard a bubbling voice call to her.
She turned to see the uncommon toad squatting on top of a fence post. He was waving his top-hat towards her.
“Is it not a marvellous sight to see so many huge lily pads?” the uncommon toad asked Mrs Grey. “I imagine you now regret your decision to not use me to pick your lily pads. If you had, you might now be rich.”
“Might I?” Mrs Grey asked.
“Of course, Madam. The average lily pad is now worth far more today that it was worth several months ago.”
“Is it?” Mrs Grey asked. “And how about your choice of lily pads? Are they also worth far more than several months ago?”
The uncommon toad swallowed, a big lump travelling down his green neck.
“Ah, yes, well. That is an interesting question. Very interesting indeed.” He pulled out his pocket watch. “But, is that the time. I really must be making haste.”
The uncommon toad turned to go, but Mrs Grey reached out her hand and grabbed him. She pulled his scaly body to her eye level.
“Come now, tell me how big your choice of lily pads.” Mrs Grey gently squeezed the uncommon toad’s bulging belly.
“I followed my strategy, “ the uncommon toad said. “My idea was to choose all the lily pads around the edges of the duck pond. Last year, that is where the smallest lily pads grew, so I reasoned that this year those lily pads would grow biggest. It was a brilliant idea.”
“And did your strategy succeed?” Mrs Grey asked.
The uncommon toad swallowed.
“A little bad luck. This year, once again, the lily pads on the outer edges were the smallest.”
“I am sorry,” Mrs Grey said. “You must have lost a great deal of gold.”
The uncommon toad’s eyes narrowed, guiltily.
“Not at all, Mrs Grey. You see, I did not personally invest any of my gold in lily pads. No, no, no. Instead, I have kept all the payments made to me by others. I had a very successful year,” the uncommon toad explained.
“So you make gold no matter what happens to any of your investors?” Mrs Grey asked, astonished.
“Precisely,” the uncommon toad replied.
“It sounds to me, that your real strategy is simply to make yourself gold, no matter what happens.”
The uncommon toad eyes widened in offence.
“How dare you, Madam. I am an expert in choosing lily pads. And, at least, I had a strategy, even if it was a bad strategy. Eventually, my investors will earn gold. They simply need to pay me more next year.”
“How are you so certain they will make gold?” Mrs Grey asked.
“Because the average lily pad continues to sell for a great deal of gold. As it has done throughout my life. If you lose gold one year, you have a good chance to make gold in the following year.”
Mrs Grey smiled.
“That is exactly what I thought,” she said. “And that is why I did not choose any particular lily pad. After all, I only know the average amount about lily pads.”
“So you made no gold this year either,” said the uncommon toad, triumphantly.
Mrs Grey continued.
“Rather than pick certain lily pads, I bought a small amount of every single lily pad on the duck pond.”
“A small amount of every lily pad?” the uncommon toad exclaimed. “But then, if a lily pad grew large, you would only make a small gain.”
“But if a lily pad grew small, I also only make a small loss,” Mrs Grey replied.
The uncommon toad scratched at his mole.
“With a small slice of each lily pad, you would make the average gain,” he spluttered.
“Each year, every year, I will make the average gain from my share of all the lily pads. And, I won’t be paying you any gold for guessing the size of lily pads,” Mrs Grey confirmed.
“Guessing!” the uncommon toad’s voice boomed out. “Guessing!!!” His eyes looked like they were about to pop out of their sockets. “But Madam, I beat the average every five years. How could that be described as guessing?”
“You are right,” Mrs Grey said. “It is worse than guessing. Your strategies are, on average, bad decisions, and you take gold from good people in the process. Most people would be far better taking the average return from the lily pads.”
The uncommon toad was incredulous.
“But who in the world would only want to be average?” he demanded to know.
“I do,” Mrs Grey said, proudly. “Averagely rich, that is.”
She placed the uncommon toad down by the duck-pond, and watched as he swam through the lily pads towards his vast family of tadpoles.
Then, Mrs Grey took a perfectly average walk home.
Mrs Grey and the Uncommon Toad – Financial Freedom fairy stories – Coda
What’s so wrong with average? The financial moral of this story is that getting an average return can be much better than trying to achieve outsized gains when you are investing.
There are a couple of key reasons for this:
First, there are far lower fees if you simply buy the whole market from a low cost index tracker fund, rather than pay the fees that stock-pickers will charge.
Second, the stock pickers are generally no better than the market, and often worse. In fact, a previous study suggested stock pickers miss the average performance of an index four times out of five, just like our Uncommon Toad.
The Uncommon Toad doesn’t think he is doing anything wrong, and he believes his strategies will beat the market, whether for lily pads or stocks, share, and bonds.
Mrs Grey was proud to be average, if it meant doing just as well or better than the Uncommon Toad. For many to achieve Financial Freedom, they only need to get average returns on the market, based on history. Be more like Mrs Grey, and be suspicious of any Uncommon Toads who cross your path.
Want to read more Financial Freedom Fairy Stories?
These Financial Freedom fairy stories are written to teach lessons about mastering your money in a fun way. Sometimes, reading dry financial advice can be a little dull, or too complicated at first glance. These fairy stories aim to refresh the parts that other types of money advice miss.
You can read more Financial Freedom fairy stories here. Why not start with The Young Man with Red Hair – financial freedom fairy stories?
And while you’re here – why not learn more about the building blocks of financial freedom?
You could also read why Medium thinks Financial Freedom is not a fairy tale.