Presvytera Maria Antokas is a former banker who now teaches Economics and Finance. She and her husband, Fr. Dimitrios Antokas, are currently serving St. George Greek Orthodox Church in Bethesda, Maryland. Presvytera Maria is also co-founder of CapitalWise, LLC, which is a financial coaching service for adults who need help organizing and understanding their personal finances. The company just published their first workbook entitled, Don't Call It a Budget - Personal Money Planning in the Age of Stuff Overload, which may be purchased at Amazon.com and BarnesandNoble.com.
I had a staring contest the other day with a squirrel that was blocking the path to my driveway as I walked to my car.
It was a curious stand-off. First, I thought I was looking at a little stone garden statue whose creator caught a perfect image of a squirrel stomping on a half-eaten acorn wedged in its tiny paws. But that didn’t add up. No, it was real. And because I have a fear of all furry things from the rodent family, I waited for it to make the first move.
It seemed like an eternity before it broke into that frantic dance they do and skadoodled. I let out a long exhale and continued quickly to my car.
Safely locked in, I thought about that close encounter and wondered why on Earth those crazy animals exist. As God’s creatures, I realize they have a right to share this planet, but why? Other than making messes and sneaking around, do they do anything else? Can they teach us something about survival?
Being the personal finance enthusiast that I am, I wondered if squirrels could show us how their survival skills can make us be better financial managers.
Money Matters 101
As I waited in traffic, I came up with the following:
- Squirrels are the ultimate savers! This is an obvious one. In preparing for winter, squirrels gather 3,000-10,000 acorns and beechnut, dig holes, then bury them. They don’t eat them right away. So when food is scarce, they just take out their savings of acorns to get them through rough times. They know when they have to spend and they know why they have to save.
What other lesson do we learn from this other than the importance of savings? Squirrels sometimes forget where they saved their food stashes! That’s when they start doing their frantic dances.
Here’s what they don’t do—they don’t keep good records. Avoid becoming frantic like the squirrel, and make sure you maintain good records.
- Squirrels are very adaptable! They can live anywhere. Wherever they go, they thrive. Squirrels are alert, inquisitive, and aggressive—all qualities we all need to succeed. They are hard-working animals who are resourceful. There’s always a plan B. Think about it. Even when they forget where they stashed their food, they will look around for their fall-back hiding places. And if they can’t find any of those, they eat what’s around like flowers, berries, and little bird eggs. In other words, squirrels don’t put all their acorns in one hole.
- Squirrels are always prepared! Not only do they save, but squirrels are always on the lookout for scams. They do not trust other squirrels when it comes to food. In fact, squirrels spend a lot of time setting up phony stashes in plain sight of other squirrels to trick the ones who they think are after their acorns. In other words, they protect themselves against crooked squirrels. They understand the importance of safekeeping and insurance. Squirrels go out of their way to secure their acorns. If a thieving squirrel goes after their hard-earned supply, they would be spending a lot of time digging into a fake hole and coming up empty pawed.
So there you have it. Even squirrels can teach us a few things about three very importance aspects of personal finance. Save for the rough times, have a Plan B, and watch your back!
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