When It Comes to Debt, Are You Smarter Than an Octopus?

Stories are great teaching tools.  One of my favorite stories related to personal finance was told by Thomas S. Monson, president of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints, about a visit he made to a church school on the Island of Tonga.  As he peeked in one classroom he noticed that the students were paying unusually close attention to the lesson.  Intrigued, he stepped into the classroom to see what had captivated their attention.   

The teacher was showing the students a strange-appearing contraption made out of a round stone and large brightly-colored seashells.  The teacher explained that this was a maka-feke, or octopus lure.  He told the students how Tongan fishermen used maka-fekes to catch octopuses by gliding over a reef in their outrigger canoes while dangling a maka-feke in the water.  An octopus, attracted by the shiny object, would leave its safe hiding place to chase after the maka-feke and latch on to it.  Although a maka-feke does not have any hooks, and the octopus is free to let go at any time, it is so attracted to the maka-feke that it doesn’t release its grip even as it is pulled into the canoe and loses its freedom. 

Maka Feke Picture 2

President Monson goes on to explain that there are many maka-fekes in the world today trying to attract our attention and take away our freedom.  One maka-feke “can crush our self-esteem, ruin relationships, and leave us in desperate circumstances.  It is the maka-feke of excessive debt.”  President Monson adds “We live in a time when borrowing is easy.  We can purchase almost anything we could ever want just by using a credit card or obtaining a loan.”  He then warns “The day of reckoning will come if we have continually lived beyond our means.”

We laugh at the foolishness of the octopus that is tricked by the maka-feke and loses its freedom, but most of us have also given up a degree of our freedom in the pursuit of shiny objects.  We do this when we go into debt for things like cars, jewelry, or the latest technological gadgets.  The next time you are tempted to go into debt to buy a shiny object, remember the parable of the octopus and the maka-feke and resist the temptation.  After all, you are smarter than an octopus, aren’t you?

What types of shiny objects tempt you to go into debt?  What strategies have you found successful in helping you resist the temptation?  I have found having specific goals for my financial future is the best strategy to help me stick to my spending plan and avoid debt.  I would love to hear your experiences, struggles, and success stories as you fight against the immense cultural pressure to go into debt in the pursuit of shiny objects. 

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  2 comments for “When It Comes to Debt, Are You Smarter Than an Octopus?

  1. October 26, 2013 at 11:04 am

    My Grandfather passed down to me through my Dad wisdom about credit. He taught that those who understand debt collect interest, and those who don’t pay it. Like electricity, credit can be potentially constructive and destructive. Buying trinkets, baubles and shinny things is a gilded trap. So I agree if a person doesn’t understand debt they have two choices if they want to be safe. Either avoid it or take the time to understand it before you use it which means even if you understand it you would avoid it most of the time anyway until you find a way to collect interest or profits for yourself by its use.

    • Brent Esplin
      October 30, 2013 at 5:44 pm

      That is a great lesson to be passed down. I heard a similar story once that I think I will write about in my next post. It is a lesson we all need to remember.

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