Monday, May 4, 2009

Ant Farm

Just over a week ago, we New Yorkers welcomed eighty-degree weather after a very long, cold winter.
As both green, leafy shoots and mini-shirt hemlines move upward, other movement was on the rise as well.

Gazing on the brick wall of my patio (clearly procrastinaing), I saw movement everywhere.
Ants, ants, ants- out and about- using the mortar between bricks as their thoroughfare, just as congested as the cabs on the city street beyond this wall.

Like the weekend sunbathers of Central Park, these leeeetle workers were savoring the warmth as well.
Well, sorta.
Ants don’t really ‘savor.’ Ants work. The benefit of warmth for an ant is the ability to hunt and gather far and wide, finally freed from their protective, tunneled colonies. And in true ant form, the little ones on my wall are are doing what they always do, working industriously to prepare for the hard times, even though the good times have just begun.
It’s safe to assume that unlike most of those New York sunbathers (and most Americans in general), these ants fared a little better during this past winter of our discontent.

Darn if those ants know how to plan ahead.

Thinking back to the fable of The Ant and the Grasshopper, the ant ultimately (spoilder alert!) shakes one of his wee six legs at the foolish violin-wielding grasshopper who chose to frolic all summer rather than plan ahead. Sir Ant promptly turns Mr. GH out to, well, die.

It’s less cut and dried in the children’s version, but we might as well be honest with our kids: save up or you will die. …In the cold. …With only your violin.

(In this new age of financial distress, “Save or Die” has a fresh, honest ring to it…I dare any of the financial companies to use that as a new slogan. Time to rebrand, guys!)

How many of us have become complacent in relying on the crutch of a credit card or a bonus to come to the rescue for basic needs (tuition, rent, groceries)? How many are seeing mounting expenses and decreasing income? How many financial firms came to the government with arms outstretched, palms up for bailout money after their frolic ended badly?

In the post-October 2008 world of, well, May 2009, the ant is more of a sage than a curmudgeon. His laser-focused dedication to view a Fourth of July potato chip crumb as a mid January nosh is likely hard to achieve for us mere humans, but I hope that the fable will enjoy a renaissance with consumers young and old, inspiring some to again pinch pennies, inching them to the safer end of the the Ant – Grasshopper Spectruum of Financial (In)Competence.

My financial genetic makeup leaves me in the middle of the spectruum (because my dad is on one end, my mother on the other).
I can't seem to keep the blinders of the ant on permanently- my eyes and wallet wonder from time to time- but thankfully I’ve instituted saving techniques that hide money away, allowing for a little budgetary capriousnes without fear that I’ll end up with only a violin.

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