Wednesday, April 2, 2014

If Money Grew On Trees...

Many parents like me have often expressed to their children that "money doesn't grow on trees." The point of this admonishment is obvious: money is not something one comes by naturally; rather, making money requires time and effort.

I've been thinking a lot about this old adage lately. What if money did grow on trees? Would that make money any less valuable or difficult to come by? Is there any relationship between money growing on trees and your health?

In the back of my house, I have two fruits trees: a grapefruit tree and a lemon tree. Both were planted by our gardener about seven years ago. The first tree has never so much as produced a single grapefruit. The other tree sprang a few lemons its first year and since then has meagerly grown an annual--wait for it--solo lemon. The problem is obvious. Neither the gardener nor I have properly nourished (trees like humans can't function properly without adequate nutrition) the soil around the trees to enable the trees to effectively grow fruits. True, the trees get a fair amount of rain and more than adequate sunshine.  But if even one component of what is needed to grow fruits is missing--you get no fruits.

Now let's imagine that money was like a fruit that grew on trees.  In order to harvest such money, effort would have to be expended to ensure that the tree was properly taken care of. First, the tree would need to be in the proper climate to grow.  It would need sufficient water and nutrients in its soil. Also, during a certain season (did you think it grew year round?--fruits don't), when the money was sufficiently ripe, it would need to be harvested. This would require physical work. If you let the money just fall to the ground, animals would grab it. If you didn't want to do the work or didn't know what to do, you would have to hire a gardener. That costs money as well.

On the other side of my house there is a loquat tree. (For the curious, the loquat is a species of flowering plant in the family Rosaceae, native to south-central China. It is a large evergreen shrub or small tree that grows yellow fruit.) The loquat is one of my wife's favorite fruits and for good reason. It is truly succulent.  Each year we try to take down as many loquats as possible. However, many are beyond our reach and many of those within reach are grabbed by unknown others (they just disappear). By the end of the season, animals have also joined in the feast by consuming those that fall to the ground. We could hire someone to pick the higher branches of the tree for us, but we calculated that it would be less expensive to simply go to a store and buy the loquats.

Also, if we had a money tree, it would need to be protected against infection. For example, a palm tree near my house recently died. It apparently died because of benign neglect. We recognized something was wrong two years ago when we called in the experts. One told us it was a fungal infection. Two others said it was malnourished. I believed the second two--it was less expensive to go that route than pay thousands for a fungal treatment. So I begged my gardener to feed it. He claimed he did and yet the other day, I noticed it was dead.  My gardener's response: an infection killed the tree and he is not responsible for infections. Ouch. Then without permission, he cut it down.  (Time for a new gardener?)

Now let's imagine if my recently departed palm tree was a money tree.  That's easy to imagine because it was.  This was a beautiful palm tree that I had paid a lot of money to have planted (and would have to pay even more to a new gardener now to replace). It also had great value to me aesthetically as it sat prominently in front of my house.  Despite its value, it still bit the dust. I had tried to do right by it, but let it down. My tree was gone; my money (tree) was lost.

One last fruit tree story.  A neighbor has an avocado (actually a fruit) and mango tree. Each year when the fruits are ripe for picking, she barters the fruits for things she needs. In other words, they have real financial value, similar to a farmer harvesting his own fruit trees for sale.

By the way, it would obviously make a big difference what denomination of money my tree would grow. If it was a mere $1, then a harvest of one hundred would yield an annual $100. That would definitely not justify the cost of growing the money. At $5, it would be $500.  Even at $100, it would only yield $10,000 if they were all harvestable.  But at that value, you would definitely need to employ very effective and costly security measures to keep others away so your expenses would further increase.  Obviously, the higher the denomination the better, but under $100 would still require a lot of trees with plenty of land (which can be expensive) to support them to make a good living.

So when I summed up the costs of successfully maintaining a fruit tree, let alone assuring that it gave a bountiful harvest each annual season, one thing was perfectly clear to me. Fruit trees are money trees and so money does grow on trees.

So the next time you hear or read that money doesn't grow on trees, perhaps you will remember the stories of my fruit and palm trees and realize that it really does. Parents would be wise to teach their children that even if money did grow on trees (which arguably it does), in order to fully realize its value would take much time, effort, and not the least of, money.  The lesson here is regardless if money does or does not grow on trees, in order to make money you have to invest (no pun intended) your time, effort, and even money in doing so.

The same can be said for your health and wellbeing. Like a healthy tree full of fruits, your body requires nurturing and conscious effort to stay healthy.  My palm tree met a premature death. My fruit trees don't live up to their potential. Try not to let the same happen to you by recognizing the value of planting the seeds of a healthy life and harvesting the fruits of your labors...(puns obviously intended.)

Otherwise, you may never live to realize the full bloom of your life.


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