February 24, 2012

Enabling the Unemployed Squirrel

Every year we decorate our front porch with cornstalks around Halloween and Thanksgiving time.  The stalks are provided by my father-in-law who is a farmer, and they come complete with corn still attached.  When it is time to take down the decorative cornstalks, we detach the corn and save it to feed the squirrels and other critters in our back yard during the winter.  This year I kind of forgot about the corn, until only a few weeks ago when I noticed that something had been getting into the stash that I had on a shelf in the garage.  I finally screwed my homemade feeders to the rail on the deck and stuck a couple ears of corn up there.  My young children, as well as the daycare kids, love watching the squirrels feed on the corn.  As I glanced out the kitchen window and watched this squirrel eat, my mind went adrift and I thought about a blog post that I read last week on Financial Samurai.

Sam wrote a piece which contemplated about whether or not it is alright to collect unemployment insurance if you have passive income.  The article was intriguing and he pretty much concluded that, YES, you should collect unemployment even if you have a sizeable passive income.  Whether you agree or disagree is irrelevant for this post.  You may argue that in the comments section over at his post if you want.

Why was I reminded of that post by watching this squirrel eat corn that I had provided for it?  Squirrels are known for saving and hiding food for the winter.  Even their name has been turned into a verb.  Squirrelling is defined as saving money or something of value in a safe place.  There is even a personal finance blog within the Yakezie network called Squirrelers.com.  By nature, we know that this squirrel has saved and hidden enough food to get it through the winter.

I likened the fact that this squirrel is taking free food to the idea of collecting unemployment.  To this squirrel, I am the government.  I provide the food, free of charge and require very little effort by the squirrel.  Even though the squirrel has plenty of food hidden away somewhere, it still comes to take what is there for the taking.  If this squirrel doesn’t take this corn, something else will.

Isn’t this the same as collecting unemployment?  The money is there for the taking.  If you don’t take it, somebody else will.  The government provides the money (sort of), with very little effort required by the beneficiary.  Does it matter whether you have substantial savings, or a good passive income?  The safety net is there for those who are unemployed.  Unemployed is unemployed, regardless of other life circumstances.

This squirrel is probably going to take this surplus of corn and hide it somewhere for future use.  Just the same, people should probably take unemployment money even if they don’t currently need the money.  Take a life lesson from a squirrel.  Hide, or save your unemployment money for future use.  You just never know what life is going to throw at you.  I’m not even 100% sure I agree with myself on this one.  Since reading Sam’s post and then comparing it to this squirrel, I may have changed my mind on this issue.

Readers:  What is your take?  Would you collect unemployment money if you didn’t currently need it to live on?

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