Wednesday, May 3, 2017

Ants, Boys, and Summertime--The importance of young men's savings

Do you all remember the story of the grasshopper and the ants? One fine summer day, a grasshopper notices a troupe of ants slaving away at carrying food back to their hill. He laughs at the ants, wondering why they are so concerned with storing away food in the middle of summertime, when food can be found literally everywhere! Growing off bushes, falling off the paper plates of local picnickers, growing on tall golden stalks or even taller stout treesthe possibilities for food are endless! So why busy yourself with storing it away when you could so easily partake in a feast and then spend your lazy summer afternoons in song and dance? The grasshopper tries to reason in this way with those diligent, but seemingly miserly, ants. They counter his advice, however, with some of their own: summer is a time of abundance, but winter is coming where there will be no food. One must store up enough food to get safely through that season.



The grasshopper, of course, is too busy with his song and dance and instantly attainable pleasures to listen to the ants' warning. When the winter comes and he suddenly finds the food to be utterly lacking, he has nothing with which to sustain himself and suffers much hardship.

In much the same way, I wonder if we young men are a lot like the grasshopper. In this relatively abundant, carefree season of our lives, we don't have much financial burden. Are we content to concern ourselves with song and dance and pleasure and not to diligently strive to store as much away as possible for the "lean" season of starting our own families? How long will we be content to ride the coat tails of our family's provision before we get serious about providing for ourselves? When should our family make us get serious about providing for ourselves?

If you're anything like me, young men, the incredible feeling of having a sizable bank account for the first time is met with many temptations to spend it. There's so much fun out there to be had, and so many expensive grown-up toys to acquire!

It's not just the big purchases either that can nab us of our savings. How many "small purchase" habits are we getting into? That daily coffee or snack run, the habitual trip to the movies, our carefree attitude towards eating out (and eating out expensively, to satisfy our ravenous appetites), our (sometimes time consuming and expensive) hobbies--all of these can become serious leeches to our savings. Just a $5 coffee habit drains you of $1,825 dollars a year. That's more than what most of us pay for vehicle insurance! Whereas the one huge purchase of a new expensive toy might be compared to the breaking of the dam of our savings, it's the trickle of small purchases through that dam that is just as dangerous--if not more so, since they often go unchallenged.

I am, of course, not saying that we should become absolutely miserly and never spend money on fun. Well-earned entertainment or vacation is very beneficial and a worthwhile reprieve from the grind of work. And please, please spend some time and money connecting with your family and friends and building those relationships! My only contention is that fun should never become our primary motivation in spending our income, and it should never rob us of the opportunity--or more accurately, the necessary requirement--to start saving the majority of our paychecks.

I am worried that most of us young men are in for a freezing cold dose of reality when we start our own families. What's more, the bad spending habits we've formed in our carefree summertime won't be easily broken free of when we're independently funding ourselves. There is hope, however, in taking saving seriously right now. There is no more time to waste. If we commit to wisely stewarding our funds even during this season of relative abundance, we can lay a solid foundation to build our own family off of.

This is a Biblical principle, too, found often in the book of Proverbs. We are told in Proverbs 24:27 to "prepare your work outside and make it ready for yourself in the fields; afterwards, then, build your house". It's our job in this season before starting our own household to diligently lay up the necessary resources to build our own home (or buy our own home). What's more, Proverbs also draws us to consider the industrious ant:

Go to the ant, oh sluggard; consider its ways and be wise! It has no commander, no overseer or ruler, yet it stores its provisions in summer and gathers its food at harvest.
Proverbs 6:6-8

So who will we be like, young men? Will we indulge ourselves like the grasshopper in the pleasures of this summertime and let our chance to save up resources and wisely invest them pass right by? Or will we be diligent like that little ant and wisely steward and store away savings, preparing for when the days of summer run out? The choice is yours, but fair warning: this warm, pleasant summertime will fade faster than you realize. The cold, harsh reality of the expenses of the adult world loom imminently on the horizon, like a bleak winter storm. Will you be ready to meet this storm and not only survive, but thrive? 

Again, the choice is yours, but choose wisely. Like in how the parable of the grasshopper and the ants ends, there won't be any room in the anthill all winter long for a grasshopper who doesn't care to support itself.