The Ant And The Grasshopper: Planning For The Future
Greetings, Henry here, helping you get in touch with your inner ant. Usually my son Steve writes in this space, but I'll be filling his spot this week. He tells me that he's digging himself out from a under huge pile of work, though I suspect he may actually be digging himself out from under a huge pile of sand, at the beach. In any event, I'll be filling in this week with some thoughts about why many of us repeatedly fail to do the practical thing.
It struck me watching TV this morning that Aesop and Suze Orman, the financial planning guru, have something in common. Stories. Aesop wrote fables around 2600 years ago. Many of them we've all read. However, this story, "The Ant and the Grasshopper", brought to mind about how much it has in common with financial planning and saving for the future. These are the things I think about when I'm home alone.
The fable says that the grasshopper saw the ant toiling steadily, putting food away for Winter and made fun of him, as he sat back and enjoyed the sunshine.
According to Bartleby.com the story goes like this:
"Why bother about winter?" said the Grasshopper; "we have got plenty of food at present." But the Ant went on its way and continued its toil. When the winter came the Grasshopper had no food, and found itself dying of hunger, while it saw the ants distributing every day corn and grain from the stores they had collected in the summer. Then the Grasshopper knew:
It is best to prepare for the day of necessity.
It is an old tale and it seems as plain as a second coat of paint. You'd think we'd have all learned it long ago, so why does Suze Orman have to keep repeating its moral daily as if we have never heard it? Her continual message is how to maximize our investments, prepare for the future, and be financially secure no matter what life throws at us. It's surprising that this message is still needed. People have been giving this very advice for at least, well, 2600 years or so, so why haven't we all got it by now? I mean, the same practical, sensible message pitched for two and a half millennia hasn't sunk in yet? How dense are we?
In reality, it's not about being smart. Planning and saving money all comes down to what type of person we are. The whole dance is a repeat of the ant and the grasshopper. Aesop was talking about something Dr. Carl Jung called Personality type. Suze is like the ant of Aesop's tale. She lectures everyone on the necessity and value of saving and preparation for the future. Psychologically, she is a 'hand' person: a practical person who pays total attention to her five senses. She believes something when she can hold it in her hand. She only believes something if she can see it, hear it, feel it and so on. She is also likely a 'head' person, who tries very hard to do the logical thing. It is this emphasis on logic which keeps her on track and her practicality keeps her filling her storehouse and telling us to do the same. Like the ant, Suze is prepared.
The grasshopper is more of a sensing type. He's preoccupied with the world around him: the sights, sounds, smells and so forth. Sensing types use their senses to get around in the world. Many people today are more like the grasshopper than they think. Just like the grasshopper, we want to have fun, play, enjoy himself and not be distracted and bored by a stifling emphasis on doing the proper, practical thing. Naturally the day comes, for him (as for many of us) when he does not have enough.
Personality typing is not new invention. Neither is financial planning. It seems, that it is at least as old as Aesop and perhaps time itself. Unfortunately, it keeps getting a lot of us into trouble. Which is why... the story, as well as Suze Orman, are needed to remind us that we should learn how to save for the day when we may need it.