Written by: Vijay Vaidyanathan
History teaches us the importance of this lesson. The richest man in ancient Rome, Marcus Licinius Crassus, amassed his fortune by owning the only fire brigade in town. When houses and buildings caught on fire, Crassus would dash over to the spot, find the owner, and make him an offer for putting out the fire, even as the property burned down in front of them. The owner would have two choices, either pay whatever extortionate price Crassus demanded, or sit there watching his house burn down to ashes and rubble; the longer they haggled over the price, the worse the fire damage to the building would get. So it would have been in your best interest to agree straight away to whatever Crassus demanded to put out the fire – and you could only do that if you had enough on the spot to cover the bill, there weren’t any credit cards back then.
If the building burned down, Crassus would make an offer for the land for pennies on the dollar of its actual worth, and since you had lost everything you owned, you needed money immediately just so you could find a place to stay that night and get something to eat. So people who got to this stage would have no choice but to swallow their pride and accept whatever Crassus offered for their land. After he got the land, he would build something else and flip the new property for a massive profit – making him the original real estate tycoon. Donald Trump, eat your heart out!
If the homeowners of ancient Rome had kept enough money set aside to pay for the services of the fire brigade, they would not have been put in the position of desperation of having to give up their houses and land for pretty much nothing. And it’s really not very smart of them to not have saved up. Since ancient people didn’t have modern equipment around the house, they had to light fires indoors for essential things every day, like cooking and heating. So the risk of fire danger was always really high – even if you were careful, your neighbour might not be careful and set his own house on fire, spreading over to yours. Knowing a cold-hearted predator like Crassus was the only person in town who had a fire brigade, you had to be trifling to not set money aside. Evidently, a lot of them didn’t save money for emergencies and bad circumstances, otherwise Crassus would never be remembered as one of the richest men in history.
Now obviously things are different today than they were in ancient Rome, fire brigades are public services and most people have their homes insured. But even if the threat of losing absolutely everything isn’t there today, you are still put in a very bad situation if you haven’t saved for a rainy day. You will still have to do all sorts of desperate things to raise money. You might have to take jobs that you really don’t like. Basically you will be put in an unpleasant situation because you didn’t take time to consider your future, and what’s so cold about it is that you never know when bad luck strikes and you find yourself stuck. It could happen at any moment.
So, once again, it’s so important to mind your spending habits and always target setting aside a decent percentage of your weekly or monthly income as savings. Your pile will stack up quicker than you think, with a little bit of thought and discipline!