When I was a kid, I loved reading moral stories, especially fables.
One example is the story of the ant and the grasshopper. I believe there is timeless wisdom from the story of that classic fable. While the story reminds us of the value of planning ahead, we too often neglect to prepare anyway.
Truth be told, financial lessons oftentimes result from unpleasant consequences.
Let me refresh the story to you. The ant and the grasshopper were very good friends. However, the two characters exhibited different outlook and priority in life.
The Grasshopper is a happy-go-lucky guy. He has no plans for the future and enjoys life by the moment. In summer, the Grasshopper is having a lot of fun playing, singing, and dancing in the sun.
The Ant passes by, bearing along great toil – an ear of corn that he was taking to the nest.
The Grasshopper laughs at all the Ant’s effort.
“Why gather food when there is such abundance all around? Why not come out and play with me?” says the Grasshopper.
“I am collecting food grains for the winter,” says the Ant, “and recommend you do the same.”
But he didn’t listen. So the Ant goes on its way and continues its toil.
When winter comes, though, the Grasshopper finds himself out of food while the Ant has plenty. He begins to starve and feels very weak. Then the Grasshopper realizes: It is best to prepare for days of need. He begs for food and the Ant helps him.
Lesson from the Ant and the Grasshopper.
The message is quite simple, yet always being taken for granted: it is important to plan ahead and prepare. The attitude of the ant is worth reflecting upon in order to gain valuable lesson in life. During summer season, the wind is warm and the flowers blossom. You can hear the bird singing and the weather is just perfect.
This is the ideal season for the ant to work hard and harvest food.
Some OFWs are like ants.
They know that it is not always summer. So instead of going to casino and spending his whole month’s salary in the bar, he saves money for himself and his family. During the acquisition period, he takes advantage of earning money while he is still young and able to work. He doesn’t want to beg unlike the grasshopper.
Just like the ant, I am sure you know how hard it is to search for food during winter or rainy season.
Because it’s flooded and cold outside, it’s better to stay indoors and enjoy the fruits of your labor.
In reality, time will come when it is winter or rainy season, which may represent illnesses, death of a loved one, unexpected repatriation, and other unforeseen emergencies. But because they are mentally and financially ready, they don’t worry much. As they will not be an OFW forever because they are getting old, they set goals and plan for retirement.
There are a number of events why OFWs must save: for a child’s college education, for the down payment on a house and lot, for buying a new car, for retirement, for emergencies, and many more.
The key is commitment and discipline.
Just like the ant, this kind of OFW works hard every day to collect grain for rainy season while the grasshopper is singing or lying on a leaf while in deep slumber.
To meet long-term saving goals, he sets aside even a small amount weekly or monthly until he has formed a good financial habit. With proper planning, he knows he will have the money when he needs it, and can avoid incurring unwanted debt.
Sad to say, many OFWs are like the grasshopper. They might not be lazy, but their minds are focused on the present pleasure rather than long-term planning.
The weather is not always perfect and they are aware a winter is coming. However, they continue to live like one-day millionaires and lavishly spend their hard-earned money. To them, saving and investing are boring topics.
When winter comes, oftentimes this OFW finds himself in trouble because he didn’t save money.
While he may not literally beg for grains or corn, because of related emergencies such as illness or death of loved ones, he would go to the Philippine embassy and other Filipino communities to seek for financial assistance.
This OFW has not learned what Warren Buffett once said, “Do not save what is left after spending, but spend what is left after saving.”
No wonder King Solomon reminds us to learn the lesson from the ants:
“Go to the ant, you 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, NIV).
Now, tell me what kind of OFW are you, a grasshopper or an ant?
Jun Amparo is a personal finance advocate and founder of Richly Blessed Today. He is an OFW currently working as a school counselor in an international school in Thailand. He is the author of “OMG! OFW’s Money is Gone: Practical Tips on How to Be Wise with Your Hard-earned Money.” To get a copy of his book, please visit his blog at Richly Blessed Today.