January 4, 2013

Have It When You Need it

Candy_machine
At an event that I attended recently, I heard a young woman explain her philosophy on life. 

She said, her grandmother taught her: "Better to have it and not need it, than need it and not have it."

Thinking about it at the time, it seemed pretty wise--because you never want to be without something you really need. 

And good planning and survival skills say to always be prepared--you never know what happens. 

But then with the fiscal cliff and all the talk about social entitlements, I started to think about this some more. 

In a sense, as a society, we have come to think of social entitlements as something that we better have in case we need it--Unemployment Insurance, Medicare, Social Security, Medicaid and more. 

You never know when it's your turn to get laid off, sick, old, or needy. 

And isn't that what's it for--it's a safety net--these are like personal insurance and you never want to need the coverage and not have it. 

But as we should know by now, having it--doesn't come for free. 

So the question is how much social entitlements or insurance do you need--and part of the answer is how much can you afford. 

So is it really better to have it and not need it, than need it and not have it--if you can't afford what you're buying?  

In this case, our grandparents and parents having it and not really needing all of it--may mean that we and our children will not be able to have it when we do need it. 

To have social entitlements, we need to be able to pay into the system for it or borrow to finance it. 

Unfortunately, as a nation we have been doing more borrowing, because we have spent beyond our national means--we have even raided our very own social entitlement programs that we hold so dear, to pay for other things--maybe that's why they call it a trust fund, because you really do have to trust, almost blindly, that there will be something there, when it's your time to need it. 

It's great to have it, but if we are gluttons and don't responsibly plan for genuine needs--then as a nation, we really will be left needing and not having it when the time comes.

In short, spend all your money to soon, and tragically, there won't be any candy later. ;-)

(Source Photo: Andy Blumenthal)

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