Personal Finance 

Four Money Lessons from Nature

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Squirrel Chewing Nuts!When you get down to the core of money, it’s really just an abstraction of natural resources. You accept money for your labor because, ultimately, it can buy you the things you want. Food and shelter, at the core of Maslow’s hierarchy of needs, are just two of the things you can buy when you have money.

That’s why it’s not so much a leap to look towards nature for lessons about money. Is an acorn to a squirrel any different than a dollar to you or me? Nope. Animals deal with natural resources every single day, in such a simple and easy to understand way, so certainly there is something we can learn from our flora and fauna?

Save in Prosperity

A lot of animals hibernate in the winter. They fatten up while the eating is still good, during the summer and fall months, and then live off that fat during the leaner periods of the winter. Squirrels hide their nuts in secret caches, tapping them when the nuts are less plentiful. Bears load up on fat, carve ditches into hills, and sleep the winter away. Almost every animal is aware of when food will be less plentiful so they save up so they can survive during those periods.

We should be doing the same! Our lean periods aren’t quite as predicable as the seasons but they’re there. We’re in a lean period right now! You can’t set your watch to the cycles but no one ever thinks the good times will roll on forever, so we should save up when the saving is easiest in order to survive when money is less plentiful.

Work In Teams

Many animals live in groups, everything from a school of fish to a flock of geese to a pride of lions; animals congregate for protection. They work in teams to achieve a common goal, whether it’s on a hunt or protecting the young. They do this because many realize that going it alone is much harder than working in a team with others.

This applies to people as well, we are most effective when we learn to work in teams towards a common goal. There is only so much one person can do and by working well with others you have the potential to increase the effectiveness of the group. The total is greater the sum of its parts.

Waste Nothing

When a lion brings down a gazelle, it eats it. Then other animals pick at the remains. After the scavengers like hyenas and vultures are finished, insects and other smaller creatures finish it off until nothing is left except the bones. No usable bit of food is ever wasted.

Early human beings learned the importance using every bit and wasting nothing, something we, as a society have lost. Disposable products are available everywhere and only a fraction of recyclable products are actually recycled. Items that could be repaired are instead discarded because it doesn’t make financial sense to fix them, a replacement is just too cheap.


Finally, we all know that bird migrate towards the south for winter because food is more plentiful where it is warmer but they are not a lone. Some butterflies, many sea creatures, even elephants and buffalo will migrate from area to area in search of food. They intuitively recognize that they have to go elsewhere to find food… and they do.

In our current economic climate, a lot of people are finding themselves moving to another town for work. The lesson here is that if you are in need of work, don’t just look in your hometown. Look in other places, look online, but leave your comfort zone because there may not be any jobs there for you. With the internet, finding work outside your hometown is easier than ever. Take advantage of it.

Can you think of any other money lessons we can learn from nature?

(Photo: law_keven)

{ 9 comments, please add your thoughts now! }

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9 Responses to “Four Money Lessons from Nature”

  1. Safeway Sage says:

    I read an article years ago about the behavior of Grey squirrels. They dig many holes and only put a small number of nuts in each hole. They also dig many ‘false’ holes to throw off potential thieves.

    The squirrel’s behavior reminds me of the importance of a well diversified portfolio and alertness for unscrupulous people who would fleece money from unsuspecting investors.

    Go squirrels!

  2. I was reading an article about the Roberts brother from St. Louis recently. They don’t believe in full retirement, because the day the lion stops hunting, he dies.

    I do plan a full retirement (or perhaps I’ll refer to it as a full transition to fiction writing), but it’s an interesting concept.

  3. I think what sometimes makes it hard for us to appreciate survival in natural terms is that we’re largely insulated from turbulence by social safety nets, insurance, etc, and also because we often go years with economic expansions that seem normal after a time.

    It’s good to have built in protections, and expansions certainly feel better than recessions, but they should never blind us to the necessity and personal responsibility of keeping our own finances in order and preparing for that rainy day. Even with safety nets in place, we still have them.

  4. Chuck says:

    That’s interesting, in as much as there are examples from nature to reinforce the things we already know and believe. Is there anything from nature that can give us any new insights? That would be really interesting.

  5. Andrew says:

    The problem with wasting nothing is that by repairing a product when it’s not cost-effective to do so, we are wasting our time and money instead of wasting the item. So it’s a tradeoff. If it’s going to take me an hour to fix something, but I can buy a new one for $25, it’s worth it to me to buy a new one. Someone who earns more or less than I do would have a different breakeven point, but the concept is the same.

  6. eric says:

    I love Discovery Planet. 😀

  7. Great analogies!

    Lesson can be learned in unusual places . . .

  8. reiner says:

    Andrew, if we would all think like this and the products will all get to the landfill, sooner or later we will all pay in money and time because of getting sick. you remind me of people that eat junk food because it is cheaper and they do not have time, but sooner or later they will pay more time and money in the hospitals.

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