Are you an ant or a grasshopper?

The ant and the grasshopper is a story by Aesop, (620–560 BC), a slave and story-teller who lived in Ancient Greece. Most Baby Boomers would be familiar with this story. It involves a colony of ants and a grasshopper. The ants are depicted as very industrious and constantly going about their work of collecting and storing food. The grasshopper just wants to jump and play all summer. He is usually seen with a fiddle and dancing. The grasshopper thinks the ants are foolish since they are working and slaving in the warm summer sun when they could be frolicking and enjoying the great weather. The ants are looking to the future. They are thinking about the cold winter that is only months away. The grasshopper’s only care is for today. He is thinking short-term.

Inevitably the winter comes. The grasshopper is ill prepared. He has stored no food nor can he find any on the cold frozen ground. He goes to the ants for food. They scorn his solicitations and advise him that next time (if he survives) instead of playing; he should be working and saving up. This story reminds me of the situation that many baby boomers now face with retirement benefits. There are many of us who have spent, spent, spent and never saved enough to have a decent retirement. Now when others are retiring we will need to continue to work. This may not be a big problem unless you do not have the health to continue to work.

I often wish I had been more like the ant when I was younger. I realized somewhat late in life the value of saving. Today, I try to balance more between saving and spending. It is really a question of balance. Perhaps the ants would enjoy life more and be more generous if they could take a few days off to play each summer. The grasshopper should learn to balance his desire for fun with some thought about his future. The Greeks got it right a few thousand years ago when they said: “All things in moderation.” We need to balance living for the short-term with living for the long-term. One saying I like is “spend your time as though you were going to die tomorrow, but spend your money as though you were going to live forever.” In other words, use time for the short-term but save your money for the long-term.” Savings is a form of deferring our standard of living for the future. Many people live only for today and spend as much as they can each day. When the future comes or a rainy day they have nothing to fall back on.

Do you balance the short-term with the long-term needs of life? Do you put money aside for a rainy day? Do you have a good financial plan? Are you thinking about saving for the future? If not, when do you plan to start? What keeps you from putting money away? Are you living too much for today?

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