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Lessons From the Berry Patch

This past weekend, the family kicked off the summer season with a trip out to pick strawberries. The sun was shining, the kids were excited, and we all attacked the berries with our own style. While making sure the four kids didn’t get lost, I noticed how each of their habits told a different story about financial planning.

James, our toddler, picked and ate without discrimination. Ripe, unripe, red, green, he didn’t care, he ate everything. At 2, he lives purely in the moment. He does not plan; he does not even think ahead. He is complete and total consumption.

The 4- and 6-year-olds fared a little better. While they did walk down the rows with red faces and strawberry juice dripping from their chins, they did manage to show some self-control. They showed some temperance and for every two they ate, they managed to save two for later. At this age they realize that it will be to their benefit if they can save some strawberries for later.

My wife was able to go one step further. She not only saved every berry she picked (filling a bucket by herself), she also had the courage to think bigger. While the kids could only conceive thoughts of fresh berries, my wife was planning strawberry cheesecake, shortcake, jams, jellies, and more. She had plans to save the berries we picked, to invest some time and energy and make something so much more.

With your finances, failing to plan, think ahead, and save (as a toddler might) is a sure recipe for disaster. My toddler wound up with a tummy ache, but living without a financial plan leads to far worse consequences. Planning ahead and saving are crucial. However, like a caring mother planning summer desserts, the key to a great financial plan are the long-term investments that transform your savings into a substantial retirement fund, estate, or education fund that weren’t possible on your own.

Oh, and the baby, he happily ate whatever was put in his mouth without a care in the world.

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