Are You a Saver or a Hoarder? A Tale of Four Seas

Last week here in Utah we celebrated Pioneer Day, a commemoration of Brigham Young leading the first group of Mormon pioneers into the Salt Lake Valley.   On July 24, 1847, after a journey of more than 1,000 miles over the Great Plains and Rocky Mountains, the pioneer company paused on the foothills overlooking the valley.  Brigham Young, sick from Rocky Mountain Spotted Fever, sat up in the back of the wagon he was riding in and pronounced “This is the right place,” thus ending the arduous journey. 

The hardy pioneers immediately set out to explore their new home.  They found the northwest corner of the Salt Lake Valley covered with a large salty sea, the Great Salt Lake, which is far too salty to sustain life.  The Great Salt Lake is fed by a river flowing in from the South.  Following this river 40 miles led the pioneers to Utah Lake, a beautiful fresh water lake surrounded by lush vegetation and full of fish. 

The pioneers were struck by the fascinating physical similarities between their new home and the land of Israel, where the fresh waters of the Sea of Galilee and the briny waters of the Dead Sea are connected by the Jordan River, the river where Jesus was baptized by John the Baptist. The pioneers memorialized this interesting geographical connection by naming the river connecting Utah Lake and the Great Salt Lake the Jordan River.

What causes the dramatic difference between the life-sustaining fresh waters of the Sea of Galilee and Utah Lake and the stagnant, lifeless waters of the Dead Sea and the Great Salt Lake?   The difference lies in the two rivers named Jordan flowing out of each of the fresh water lakes.  Each lake saves enough of the water that enters it to meet its needs and sustain a full and abundant life, but they each let the excess pass through to nurture life downstream. 

The two dead seas, on the other hand, greedily hoard all the water they gather.  The two rivers Jordan die in The Dead Sea and The Great Salt Lake.  There are no outlets for the life-nurturing rivers to continue on helping the parched deserts below the dead seas “blossom as a rose”.  The result is stagnation and death for the two lakes that hold the rivers captive.    

In short, the two fresh water lakes are savers while the two dead seas are hoarders.  The morale:  Saving is necessary to lead a full and abundant life but hoarding leads to stagnation and the death of growth and happiness.

Here is a beautiful one minute video about the Dead Sea and the Sea of Galilee that illustrates this principle: 

Are you a saver or a hoarder?  How can you tell the difference?  Here are some guidelines:

  • Purpose: Savers save for a reason.  They might be saving for an emergency fund, travel, education, retirement, or to assist others but they always save for a purpose.  Hoarders, on the other hand, don’t have a particular reason for saving.  Wealth accumulation itself is the only purpose.   
  • Generous or Stingy? Savers are generous with their wealth.  They save what they need to create an abundant life and share the rest.  Hoarders are stingy and strive to keep everything for themselves.  
  • Happy or Miserable? Savers are generally happy.  Jean Chatzky reports the results of one survey in which “Nine out of ten savers say they’re ‘happy’ with their lives.”  Hoarders, in contrast, are miserable.  They not only don’t share their wealth, they don’t even allow themselves to enjoy it.      
  • Balance and Flexibility: Savers don’t go overboard.  They create a balance between saving, spending, and giving.  In addition, they are flexible.  When their situation changes they adapt their plans accordingly.  Hoarders go to the extreme.  They save as much as possible and lack balance and flexibility in their lives. 
  • Health or Illness? Saving is a positive, healthy character trait.  It considers the future along with the present when making financial decisions.  Hoarding, in its extreme form, is a mental illness.  It destroys happiness today without creating it in the future.      
  • Joy or Guilt? Savers use their accumulated wealth joyfully for the purpose they saved it for.  There is a time to save and a time to spend, and when it is time to spend savers do so without guilt.  Hoarders have a difficult time spending under any circumstances and feel guilty when doing so. 

As both a hoarder and a saver Ebenezer Scrooge provides an interesting case study.  To one degree or another all of us face the same battle Scrooge faced, which is why his story is so popular. 

Before the ghostly visits Scrooge was a hoarder.  The work of the ghosts transformed him into a saver.  With the help of the sprits he discovered the purpose for his wealth and started using it to help others.  He was transformed from stingy to generous.  The work of the spirits created a virtual Jordan River flowing out of Scrooge’s Dead Sea of accumulated wealth.  This changed him from an unhappy miser into a joyous giver.    

Although we can’t count on help from ghostly visitors we face the same choices Scrooge did:  Save or hoard?  Generous or stingy?  Happy or miserable?  Live-giving or stagnant?  The choice is yours to make. 

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