You may have heard of the fable of the ant and the grasshopper. What if there were a couple more animals in the story? Which one would represent you?
April is Financial Literacy Month. One of the most important first steps in understanding money is being honest about your relationship with money. Many children are taught about saving vs spending through the fable of "The Ant and the Grasshopper." Let's use those two animals as a starting point and add a couple more. Let's take a look:
Industrious, responsible, prepared. The ant knows where it is going and why. Every day comes with specific tasks, including finding and storing food for the colony. In warmer seasons, the ant and its colony will find and enjoy food everywhere and grow their numbers. In winter, the ant can pull from the colony's reserves to survive when times are tough. Financially speaking, this is someone who has a plan, sticks to it, and is always ready for good or bad news. It takes a lot of discipline, and hustling all day doesn't leave much room for fun.
The grasshopper is having the time of its life. Get while the getting's good! Leaping through a spring or summer breeze from perch to perch, chirping through the night... what a life. Jumping through nature without a care in the world. Life is all fun and games, right up until it isn't. When winter comes, the cold air feels punishing, and nature is not providing food so freely. The good times are great, but the bad times are horrible. Grasshoppers know all about extreme ups and downs. Financially, this is someone who parties hard on payday and enjoys all the latest toys, but would not be able to help themselves or anyone else in an emergency.
The squirrel is is doing something, but don't expect it to remember. Kind of like the ant, the squirrel is always on the lookout for food and stashing it away. Kind of like the grasshopper, the squirrel is also hopping around and getting into hijinks. Squirrels are always planting nuts to dig up later, but sometimes they forget what and where they planted. This can lead to happy accidents, as squirrels can find their buried treasure when they least expect it. Financially, squirrels save up for a rainy day in a way they don't have to think about. Maybe it's a piggy bank where all their change goes, or maybe it's an automatic deposit from their paycheck. Either way, squirrels are kind of, sort of prepared for trouble. Just give them a minute.
The turtle is doing its own thing. If things get dicey, turtles have a perfectly good shell for retreating and waiting until the coast is clear. They move slowly on land, cruise through water, and enjoy sitting in the sun. They take their time and can outrace a rabbit when motivated. They are most vulnerable starting out, when they hatch from an egg on the beach and stumble toward the ocean, but once they get their bearings they can travel thousands of miles over the course of their lives. Financially, the turtle plays the ultimate long game, making the other animals look like amateurs. The turtle does not need to be as busy as the ant, lively as the grasshopper, nor random as the squirrel. Anyone who wants to argue for their system will end up talking to a shell.
Which Animal Are You?
Any of these sound familiar? Maybe a combination would make more sense. You could turn any animal into a metaphor for saving, spending, and investing. There are money personalities beyond "save like an ant and live" and "spend like a grasshopper and die," is the point. Most importantly, people can adopt new habits and point themselves toward new goals as they learn new information. Remember, April is Financial Literacy Month. Check out some of the blog posts and booklists below, as well as links to financial education sites for you and your family.
Reading & Resources
Ask CFPB - Clear, impartial answers to hundreds of financial questions by the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau