I was struck during a recent government shutdown by how few of the affected families appeared to have a rainy-day or emergency fund. I couldn’t help but ask myself: Wouldn’t the instinctual impulse toward self-preservation we all share tend to prevent the average family from spending to the limit of their means? If these families were indeed living “paycheck to paycheck,” as they claimed, wouldn’t they be inclined to spend a certain amount less than their means limit, over a specific time-period, such as to accumulate sufficient funds to cover an income hiatus of at least three months (as our elders counsel us to do)? Or would such a scheme in the modern world simply prove to be too onerous for the average family, which must meet an array of monthly obligations (mortgage payments, SUV payments, Christmas-gift payments, cable payments, smartphone payments, credit-card payments, HELOC payments, etc.) in order to keep all their modern-day conveniences and necessities fully in their possession?
Even if this were the case, though, aren’t we all endowed with an innate hording impulse that, when circumstances warrant, more or less compels us toward a prudent (if excessive) stockpiling of certain things? Perhaps we don’t see manifestations of this impulse all that often, because of it requiring a trigger (threat) of some kind, as in the case of the Great Depression, wherein hunger served as a ubiquitous trigger. Nonetheless, this impulse, even if largely latent, is still part of nature’s strategy toward our preserving ourselves, is it not?
Perhaps the real problem here is that we all tend these days to be ensconced in our own little bubble, our own little patch of La La Land, wherein nothing of lasting harm can happen to us, because there will always be someone, or some thing – Captain America perhaps, or a guardian angel – who will appear in our darkest hour and make everything all right.