Financial wisdom is not limited to Wall Street Gurus or banking bureaucrats, in fact, even an unassuming ant can teach us about preparing for the future.
As humans, complexity, impulsivity, or sheer distraction cloud our financial decisions, but when we look at the natural world, we see a masterclass in preparation and foresight delivered by one of the smallest creatures: the ant.
An ant's industrious nature isn't just a phenomenon; it's a directive passed down through millennia and understood by observers from the beginning. Its behavior is even encapsulated in ancient texts that remain relevant today. Proverbs 6:6-8 in the English Standard Version articulates this beautifully:
"Go to the ant, O sluggard; consider her ways, and be wise. Without having any chief, officer, or ruler, she prepares her bread in summer and gathers her food in harvest."
This passage underscores the ant's instinctual wisdom—diligently working when resources are plentiful, anticipating times when they may not be. Such foresight offers us a straightforward lesson in financial prudence and resilience.
A Timeless Financial Advisor
When we think of financial guidance, vast tomes of economic theory or the sage advice of investing veterans might come to mind. Rarely do we imagine an age-old biblical text—like Proverbs—to be a treasure trove of financial advice. But its wisdom is astonishingly relevant, especially in the realm of savings and preparation for the future.
With its rich tapestry of life lessons, the Book of Proverbs guides moral and practical living. It touches upon various facets of life, from relationships to work ethics, and, yes, even to financial prudence. While it doesn't specifically address 401(k)s or stock portfolios, its underlying principles speak to the core values that should drive such decisions—values like foresight, diligence, and restraint.
Our tiny teacher, the ant, is highlighted for its work ethic and preparation. It works tirelessly without being overseen or directed, not for immediate gratification but for a future need. The ant doesn't require a supervisor or a blueprint; it simply understands the cyclical nature of life—times of abundance followed by times of scarcity. And so, it prepares.
In a sense, the ant's behavior offers a profound lesson in the face of economic volatility.
Today, the world's economies face unprecedented challenges—from global pandemics to geo-political tensions, technological disruptions, and environmental crises. In 2022, for example, the United States and really much of the world saw inflation increase almost fourfold. There were layoffs. The stock market jumped up and down.
In such an economic environment, "preparing one's bread in summer" means setting aside savings and wisely investing when times are good to cushion against potential downturns.
As the ant gathers food in anticipation of winter, so should we bolster our financial resources, aware of the unpredictability of tomorrow.
Despite its simplicity, the ant's methodical approach mirrors the best strategies financial planners advise today: save diligently, spend wisely, and always be prepared.
Behind the ant's industrious image lies a complex web of instincts and behaviors.
Ants are survivalists. These insects have been around for eons. Their survival is rooted in their instinct to store food, that is to say, that ants anticipate. They recognize when food sources are abundant and capitalize on these periods, storing food in their colonies for leaner times.
Their complex social structure, where different ants have specialized roles, ensures that there's always a workforce dedicated to gathering and storing. It's not just about today for the ant—it's about ensuring the colony thrives tomorrow.
In the grand tapestry of life, humans, despite our advanced cognition, often fall prey to shortsightedness. We can be swayed by instant gratification, choosing the present comfort over future stability.
But just as ants prepare for the unpredictable—a sudden change in climate, the appearance of a predator, or a scarcity of food—we, too, live in an unpredictable world. Job losses, medical emergencies, economic recessions, and a myriad of other unforeseen circumstances can strike without warning. But if we emulate the ant's forward-thinking behavior, we can forestall at least some of the inherent unpredictability of life and arm ourselves against future uncertainties.
The instinct of the ant, while innate, offers us a blueprint for action. It's about adopting a proactive mindset and building money habits that help us prepare for the future.
Prioritize Savings—Just as ants gather food during periods of abundance, set aside a portion of your income, treating savings as a non-negotiable expense, automating it as much as possible.
Diversify Resources—Ants gather a variety of foods to ensure a balanced diet for the colony. Similarly, diversify your investments to minimize risks.
Plan for the Long-term—Ants prepare for seasons ahead, not just the coming days. Frame your financial plans with a long-term vision, considering retirement, estate planning, and future financial goals.
Adaptability—If ants encounter an obstacle, he finds another way. In finance, if one strategy isn't working, reevaluate and adapt.
If the ant of Proverbs has inspired you, think about how you can apply its behavior to your financial situation. What new habits will you need to create? Which ones will you need to change?